The Bubble Boys step up to make the chase

by Dave Yaeck
September 4, 2004

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With just two races to go in the Race to the Chase, there are five drivers that have the task of knocking off one of the top ten to make the Chase for the Championship. These teams are bearing down for a fight to get the chance at the Cup.

Coming into the Pop Secret 500 Ryan Newman, driver of the #12 AllTel Dodge, stands in 10th place but holds a slim 26 point difference to the eleventh place driver of Kasey Kahne. In fact the span between 10th and the 15th place driver of Jamie McMurray is just a mere 45 points.

California has been good for some of these five and not good for others. Kahne was strong here in May. After picking up his third pole of the season, he led 77 laps and was third with one lap to go and ran out of fuel and finished 13th. Martin started 26th but fought his way back to an 11th place finish. Mayfield started 20th and led one lap and finished 14th. Jarrett could not get it going from his 31st starting position and finished 24th, and McMurray started 12th and finished 15th.

During qualifying on Friday, Mayfield led the pack of bubble boys qualifying second, followed by his teammate Kahne in the fifth position then Martin in 11th, McMurray in 23rd and Jarrett in 25th.

Mark Martin, driver of the #6 Viagra Ford, stands in 12th place only 35 points behind Newman. He is reserved in his comments about his chances for the chase and wants to let the car do the talking. “I don’t know, you have to check with me after this race,” Martin said. “Whether or not we get a chance to run for it is yet to be seen, but I’m just privileged to be in the seat.”

Jamie McMurray feels that it’s going to be consistency that will put them in the top ten for the last ten races. “We’re a fast enough team to get into the top 10,” McMurray said. “I think we’re as good or better as the other teams trying to get there. You've just got to hope you don’t have any bad luck or DNF’s in these next two races.”

Dale Jarrett, is just taking it one race at a time. “It’s not impossible,” Jarrett said of the team’s chances of making it into the top 10 in the point standings. “We’ve just got to have two good races. We’ll concentrate on California this week and if we can have a good race this weekend then we will have a chance going into Richmond in two weeks.”

When the points system was announced at the beginning of the year, some drivers were for it, some were against it, and some were in a wait and see pattern. Jeremy Mayfield was skeptical at the beginning of the season but with being where his is now, he thinks it’s pretty cool. “I had mixed feelings about it at the beginning but we got going here, I think it’s pretty cool,” Mayfield said. “I think that it’s going to be a great show the last ten races and our goal is to get in there. If we get in there we have nothing to lose.  We are going to throw a hell of a show the last ten races.” Kahne shared the same feelings as his teammate. “It’s been pretty interesting and a lot of fun this year,” Kahne said. “I think everybody’s enjoying it and it’s good for NEXTEL.  We’ll see where it leads to next year but so far it’s been awesome.”

With Kasey Kahne as a rookie, it puts a whole new twist to the game as if he could reach the top ten for the chase; he has the potential of being the first rookie ever to win the NEXTEL Cup Championship. “I haven’t really thought about it,” Kahne said. “If it ever happened, it would be crazy; it would be unbelievable for that to ever happen.”

With the excitement of the Race to the Chase, the question will be if the racing will be any different as it has been this year. Mayfield doesn’t think so but expect the unexpected. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Mayfield said. “This is NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing and it’s such a hard sport to have everything go right on Sunday or a Saturday night or whatever.”

“Anything can happen, and that’s why it’s not over till it’s over.” Mayfield said.

And that statement sums it up. Speculation is the only thing we can do until the checkers drop next weekend in Richmond. After that the top ten is set for the Chase for the Championship.

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