Making case for Kahne
to qualify for Chase

Aug 22, 2006 4:47 AM

With three races to go in the Race for the Chase before the NASCAR version of the playoffs begin, it might be appropriate to discuss a few of the candidates chances based on the three remaining tracks.

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After Michigan, Mark Martin is fourth in points, only 138 ahead of the eleventh place driver Kasey Kahne. In turn, Kahne is just 49 out of tenth and the final spot to qualify for the Chase.

Kahne has four wins has been phenomenal on all cookie cutter tracks. Of the three tracks remaining before judgment day, only California fits Kahne’s profile of excellence. This week’s event at Bristol will surely knock a few drivers around. The Chase finale at Richmond will do the same. Both race at higher speeds than any other short track in NASCAR.

Kahne has done all he can to cool his emotions and have everyone in the series think he’s an all around nice guy. He never says anything out of line, always plays it cool and rarely does anything to offend anyone. It’s amazing he might be the only driver on the track with no rifts with any driver.

Dale Earnhardt Jr, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, and Denny Hamlin will have no trouble punting Kahne into the Bristol wall for position, but in the same situation the other way around, I can’t see Kahne doing it.

In a football analogy, Kahne reminds me of the way Franco Harris handled Jim Brown. Quite simply, he doesn’t want to get dirty and take a hit. The way Brown told it, t Harris would rather go out of bounds than get extra yardage and take a lick. In Kahne’s case, he’d rather get passed than bang fenders for position.

This is the one facet of Kahne’s driving that needs some work. It’s hard to teach toughness, so maybe Ray Evernham should take Kahne to a weekend demolition derby somewhere during the off-season. Let him figure out his best way to let the car bump, grind and do the tough talking for him.

I’d really love to see Kahne make it. He deserves it based on his fantastic season, but he has to do better at places like Bristol starting this week. The lone positive is that his best finish was tenth in the spring race.

I honestly don’t believe Kahne can make enough out of what will be a surely be a great California race to salvage the errors he’ll likely make at Bristol and Richmond. I can see Greg Biffle making up much more ground over the same three races. Biffle is about as good as it gets on all three tracks combined over the last three seasons.

Biffle has 140 points to make up just to pass Kahne. He’s a long shot to make the chase, but I would take 4-1 odds that he’ll pass Kahne in points before the playoffs begin.

So who’s the odd man out if Kahne makes the Chase? Junior? Fa-getaboutit!

Junior has a seventh place wrapped up this week at Bristol, a car that just ran last week at Michigan. That’s good enough for a sixth in two weeks at California, and a Richmond savvy that has carried him to three wins in his career, including the spring race this year.

If we gave Junior a seventh, sixth and a fourth at Richmond, he’d have accumulated about 456 points. That may be the most points by anyone, other than Biffle, over that stretch. Junior would then have 3,357 points.

Denny Hamlin? Possible, but 12, 11, and 13 is just about what the kid does every week. He’s a machine, unfazed by anything and not intimidated by anyone on any track. If Hamlin were to run that down the stretch, he’d have an additional 381 to give him a total of 3,301 points. That should make it.

Jeff Burton? He was just running good for too long, but that 42 last week at Michigan was a back breaker. He’ll do well on all three tracks, especially in his home state of Virginia at Richmond. Lets give him 13 at Bristol, 8 at California, and 6 at Richmond for 421 points and an overall 3,337.

Kyle Busch? Yes, he may be the best candidate of all to fall out of the top 10. He’s young and may be a bit too high strung, which could get him in some real trouble. He’s had trouble at Bristol in the past. This year he finished eighth, a career best. At California, he should be find, but he should have done well last week at Michigan and finished 39. At Richmond, you can virtually give him a top 5. We’ll give him 33 at Bristol, 4 at California, and a win at Richmond for 414 points and 3,336 overall. That’s just behind Burton and ahead of Hamlin. He makes the chase.

We’ll assume that Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Mark Martin make the chase. This means that Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards. Biffle and Kahne are the only drivers with a mathematical shot of getting in.

We like Kurt Busch this week to compete with Biffle for the win. Busch won the spring race at Bristol, No. 15 in his career. Five wins have come at Bristol in 11 career starts.