Well, it's finally here. The Chase for the Nextel Cup, NASCAR's version of a playoff system. To help you prepare for the 10 week showdown, Rusty's going to give you a run down of each of the 12 drivers in the Chase, this week. Included in that ranking will be the Rusty's Power Ranking, my own personal index of who's got the best shot to win the title.
Today we look at the #2 position, Tony Stewart.
Tony Stewart - Tony Stewart has been one of the best stories to emerge out of the 2009 season. Smoke took a big gamble by leaving Joe Gibbs, the #20 car, and his long time crew chief Tony Zippadelli last year to form Stewart Hass Racing. A lot of so called experts, including HHR's own Rusty predicted the newly formed team would struggle. Fortunately for Smoke fans, they have proven us all wrong. Tony has spent all year in the top 10 in points. He grabbed the top spot after Dover, and has held on throughout the summer. He's only 2nd to Martin, now because the points realignment gives Martin the advantage with 1 more win than Tony. Since winning at Watkin's Glen in early August, Tony hasn't finished in the top 10 and has only led 2 laps. However, as I said with Johnson, I attribute this to experimentation for the Chase rather than struggling with the racecar.
So, looking forward to the Chase, the prospects for Tony's 3rd championship look good. Tony's not found victory lane at only 2 of the 10 Chase tracks, California and Texas. Among the other 8, he's had 12 wins, 63 top 5's, and 96 top 10's in his career. Impressive numbers to say the least. The Chase also includes a track, Lowe's Motor Speedway, where Tony's already found victory lane this year. Among the other 7 Chase tracks where NASCAR's already visited this year, Tony's had 5 top 5's, led 84 laps, and only finished outside the top 10 once, a 23rd at Talladega. Clearly, when you look at the numbers, Tony's one of the favorites to win it all. I still contend this is Jimmie's championship to lose, but one bad race for the #48 and Smoke will be pouncing, and potentially pouncing for his 3rd title.
Position before Richmond: 1
Rusty's Power Ranking: 2
Tomorrow: #1 Mark Martin