Fast and steady will win Chase
Fast and steady will win this race. That represents the near-unanimous take on this year's Chase from Cup-racing's top-12 drivers, who were all in New York City on Thursday to kick off NASCAR's postseason. Several took great care in driving home the point that 10 error-free races are more important than individual wins.
I was a bit surprised to hear this, since Jeff Gordon said almost the exact same thing to me last September, then went on to lose the championship to Jimmie Johnson by 77 points despite winning twice and posting an average Chase finish of 5.1. The problem for Gordon was that Johnson matched him by posting an average finish of 5.0 and winning four races. (Johnson had started the Chase leading Gordon by 20 points based on their regular season win totals.)
So if the strategy was such a dud last year, why would anyone try to do anything other than win every race possible this time around? "If one or two guys have no errors, then it comes down to pure performance," said Carl Edwards. "Jimmie won four in a row last year. That doesn't happen very often. If you told me that I could finish fifth in every race, or I could win four and just take my chances in the other six, I would be a fool not to take the fifth-place offer."
We shall see. Based on the regular-season results, there seem to be several drivers in this field capable of getting very, very hot. I understand the point Edwards is making -- not only did every driver echo it, but also past editions of the Chase have been won using that very strategy -- but this year, with the 18 wins divided among three drivers, it seems like an especially risky plan.
HOW TO DRIVE
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Kasey Kahne talks about what he expects this weekend at New Hampshire: "We really haven't had too many cars capable of winning at Loudon, but we've usually been good enough to run in the top 10. It's a track that has very long corners so it's going to be important that we get our Budweiser Dodge to roll really well through the center of the them. The straight-aways are long for just a one-mile track and the turns are extremely flat, so having good brakes that will last you to the end is important if you want to run well."
18: Combined wins for Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, the most of any three-driver combination in the history of the Chase
87.2: Percentage of laps led this season by the 12 drivers in the Chase (6,534 out of 7,492)
NEW HAMPSHIRE MEMORIES
September 17, 2000: Jeff Burton leads all 300 laps en route to victory in the Dura Lube 300 Sponsored by Kmart. The win is Burton's fourth at New Hampshire in the last eight years. He hasn't won at the track since.