Alan Cavanna previews the weekend racing schedule with New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosting the Camping World Truck Series and the Sprint Cup Series, and Kentucky Speedway hosting the Nationwide Series
Alan Cavanna chats with Brad Keselowski in Victory Lane about his daring move to take the lead and what it means to punch his ticket to the Contender Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Bobby Labonte and Alan Cavanna teardown the top stories, including the fight, from Richmond and look ahead to the weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Alan Cavanna evaluates the success of Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth during the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and how a similar performance will be needed to be champion in 2014.
Alan Cavanna and Chris Rice look to history and Chicagoland Speedway’s racing surface as keys to winning the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Panel of experts debate that and more as the roundtable returns RELATED: Play Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota 1. OK folks, the field of 16 for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has been determined. Looking at this year's roster, is there a favorite in the field? Alan Cavanna : I filled out my Chase Grid (like I hope you have, print a blank one out here) -- and started with my champion, Jeff Gordon . Huge year, fast speed, and the sense that the driver from the late '90s is back. Brad Norman: I'm not so sure there is a "favorite," but there's definitely a group of "favorites." That would be the Team Penske duo and the three heavyweights at Hendrick Motorsports – sorry, Kasey Kahne . Throw in Kevin Harvick , if he gets the pit-road problems cleaned up with a new over-the-wall crew. I can't imagine a scenario in which the final four drivers at Homestead don't come from that group. Kenny Bruce: For the first time in, well, a long time, I don't think you can assume that Jimmie Johnson is a clear-cut favorite. The No. 48 team started the season slower than many expected, caught fire at mid-season but has been "average" (for them) recently. Cavanna : OK fellas, I'm the only one going out on a limb with a solid pick. C'mon now. Norman: True, Alan . If forced to pick one, I'd go with top-seeded Brad Keselowski . He's back to form, he's got a great strategist in Paul Wolfe calling the shots and the Team Penske cars have been phenomenal on those intermediate-type ovals. Of which there are five in the postseason. Bruce: I'll lean toward Alan on the Gordon pick, but I've got to give props to 2012 champ Keselowski as well. The No. 2 team has been pretty stout of late, and that momentum's got to be worth something. Cavanna : I understand though. The four drivers in the Championship Round aren't necessarily the four "best." They're the three winners, and the most consistent. A great driver will be left out of the championship race at Homestead. Norman: One thing that's most interesting about Keselowski is that Joey Logano is one of his biggest challengers. They share a garage, share info. After Logano won at Bristol and Keselowski finished second, Bad Brad was asked about how those two will continue to share info during the Chase -- and it was a topic the 2012 champion was reluctant to discuss. Bruce: I think it's interesting that Gordon and Keselowski probably feel as if they have something to prove. Keselowski for not making the Chase last year and Gordon for not winning a title in the Chase-era. And I'm not sure how much you can compare 2013 to this season, but Mr. Kenseth reeled off back-to-back wins to open the Chase a year ago, I believe. Cavanna : You beat me to it, Kenny. Ten weeks from now we'll all look like fools when Matt Kenseth is hoisting the Sprint Cup trophy. Bruce: My biggest concern with the entire JGR group is their win total this year. Three teams, two combined wins. That probably won't cut it in the Chase. Norman: For Gordon, I imagine what he's feeling is just like what a veteran may feel at any job. You see these upstarts come in and win races, you don't perform as well and perhaps you wonder if you can still hang. That's a wonderful motivator. Mr. Gordon (hey, respect your elders) can most certainly still hang. 2. Speaking of JGR, Kenseth is one of three drivers in the Chase without a win this year and two drivers, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger , are making their first appearance in the "playoff." How do we expect these guys on the bottom half of the board to fare? Norman: Certainly, you expect more from Kenseth than you do Almirola or Allmendinger because of his pedigree, his team, his equipment ... all that stuff. I'm not sure Kenseth can get to Homestead still in contention for the championship, but there's no reason he shouldn't be in the Eliminator Round. Of all the guys on the bottom of the board, I think he's clearly got the best chance. Cavanna : I'm not totally worried about the winless drivers just yet. The consistency we've seen from drivers like Kenseth and Ryan Newman should carry them forward for a round or two, even without wins. Bruce: You're spot on Brad. Given Kenseth's consistency, I expect him to advance beyond the first round, probably the second. Gets tougher after that, though. Newman has been consistent all year, Greg Biffle more so of late. I think Aric and AJ test the waters and see what it's like. But advancing would be a surprise. A nice one, but a surprise just the same. Cavanna : I hate to say I have little faith in the 47 team (Allmendinger) moving on. But, Aric Almirola is riding into the Chase with two straight top-10 finishes. If he gets three more, that will put him in the next round. Norman: I do think we're going to see a "surprise" driver advance, though. I'd pick Allmendinger, if forced to give a name. He's gotten better at intermediates. More than that, though, I can foresee a scenario in which a guy more favored to advance wrecks at Chicago, and then has a couple of gambles fail as he tries to get back in it over the next two weeks. Cavanna : Brad, I like your thinking for a roundtable rookie. I think the sport and fans are in for a big surprise. It's easy to think of the better drivers and assume they all advance. But one glance at any NCAA Tournament tells you that never happens. There's always an upset or three. Bruce: The thing about it is if a driver advances beyond the first round (Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover), Talladega looms as the cutoff race for the Contender Round and as we know, anything can happen there. How cool would it be, Alan , to see the 43 battling for a title? OK, battling for a spot in the next round? A lot of history there. Cavanna : It's a long shot, but the 43 will certainly be a chic pick for advancing to the top-12. Norman: I am the Kyle Larson of the roundtable, Alan . Cavanna : You're a dry wiper? 3. Now that we've determined who will win, who will advance and who can go ahead and start taking the yellow ID markings off their cars ... which teams on the outside are most likely to pick up a win during the final 10 races? Norman: It was rare to see that happen with frequency when there were 12 (or 13) drivers in the postseason. Now with 16? I think it'll be even more rare. The biggest contender to me, the roundtable rookie, is ... Kyle Larson. Maybe at Charlotte. Heck, he could win any of them. Bruce: I don't think it was that rare ... but the folks that won were often guys you thought would have been in the Chase to begin with most of the time. Tony Stewart , Jamie McMurray , Biffle, Denny Hamlin , Gordon. But you make a good point about the numbers decreasing the likelihood. Cavanna : Prior to the start of the season I picked Austin Dillon to win a race, with Talladega in mind. I'll stick with that. Clint Bowyer showed some promise at Richmond Saturday night, but I worry that may be the team's best performance of the season. Norman: To be fair, it happened three times last year. And if you look at who won those races, two of those guys are in the Chase field this year – Keselowski and Hamlin. And McMurray was the other, winning at Talladega which is a wild card. So if anyone outside the Chase field wins, I think it could portend a big 2015 season. Larson, Bowyer, Dillon ... what about Stewart? Cavanna : I think a lot of people are overlooking what a win by a non-Chaser does to the championship run. Every time that bell rings, it's one less automatic spot for a guy going after a championship. Bruce: Bowyer is tough at New Hampshire, so maybe it's better late than never for him and the MWR team, Alan . But I wouldn't be surprised if one of the rookies, Dillon or Larson, gets a win now that there's no Chase pressure. Norman: Alan , you make a good point about the championship run. Can you imagine in any round, if somehow a non-Chaser wins two in a row? Bruce: Your comments reminded me of something, guys. If a non-Chase driver wins a race in the Chase, does he get one of those yellow "winner" stickers to go above his window? For that matter, does anyone? Cavanna : Everyone likes rewards, Kenny. I hope the stickers remain. Norman: Everyone's a winner here, Kenny. Cavanna : Even Brad Norman's Chase beard. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Alan Cavanna brings you up to speed with the latest from the Charlotte testing session and the changes at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Alan Cavanna is joined by a panel of NASCAR.com analysts including Marty Snider, Chris Rice, Bobby Labonte, and Brad Parrott all of whom give you their picks for the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Alan Cavanna takes a look at the spotlight being placed on Clint Bowyer again at Richmond International Raceway, but this time for a different reason.
Alan Cavanna previews Jeff Gordon's title hopes and looks at who's in and who's out of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.