The Herald Bulletin

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Sports

September 11, 2012

Ken de la Bastide: Gordon a favorite in the Chase

Now that Jeff Gordon drove his way into the NASCAR Chase for the championship with a determined run at Richmond last weekend, he has to be considered one of the favorites for the title.

Gordon didn’t record a second victory this year to earn a wild card slot for the Chase, but over the past four races, the Dupont Chevrolet team was at the top of its game.

Throw out a 28th place finish at Michigan International Speedway four races ago and Gordon has been peaking at the right time. He scored a third place finish at Bristol and followed that up with back-to-back runner-up performances.

Gordon is looking for his fifth NASCAR title and is likely to be contending for the championship against one of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

All four Hendrick teams made the Chase field with Kasey Kahne securing a wild card position along with Gordon based on his two wins during the year.

Gordon and Kahne join six-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. from the Hendricks stable in the Chase field.

Earnhardt leads all Chase drivers with 18 top-ten finishes during the regular season followed by Johnson with 17 and Matt Kenseth with 16.

Johnson with three wins, really should have had a fourth victory when an engine went sour while leading with five laps remaining at Michigan.

He has to be considered in the running for another championship along with Denny Hamlin, who won two of the four races leading up to the Chase for Joe Gibbs Racing. Another contender has to be Tony Stewart, who slipped somewhat during the previous four races with finishes of 32, 27 and 22nd before a fourth place showing at Richmond.

The Chase opens at Chicagoland Speedway where Stewart won last year to start his march to the championship. He has the best average finish among the title contenders at Chicagoland at 8.7 followed by Gordon and Johnson, both averaging a tenth place finish.

I believe the sleeper in the Chase field is Brad Keselowski, driving for Penske Motorsports. Keselowski has three wins and has finished in the top ten over the past four races.

It will be interesting to see if there is a surprise winner out of the box at Chicagoland this weekend.

In other racing news: The IZOD IndyCar Series will crown a new champion in California this Saturday. Will Power is hoping not to lose the championship for the third consecutive year in the final race of the season, but Ryan Hunter-Reay is breathing down his neck, only 17 points back.

Power has never fared well on the oval tracks and the California race has to be a concern for the Penske driver.

I really don’t expect either Power or Hunter-Reay to win on Saturday, my guess is that either Scott Dixon or Dario Franchitti will finish the year with a victory.

There are two nights of racing at Anderson Speedway this weekend. The Champion Racing Association Street Stocks make their final appearance on Saturday for a 75-lap event with racing starting at 8 p.m.

Sunday marks the 65th anniversary of the track with outlaw figure-8 racing, front wheel drive figure-8 racing in two divisions and fireworks. Racing starts at 6 p.m.

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