The new-look Chase has gone through its first ever elimination as the field in the Challenger Round has been whittled down from 16 drivers to 12 (and I did correctly predict the four drivers to be eliminated). Now we are in what is called the Contender Round as 12 drivers still have their hopes of a Sprint Cup championship alive. The three tracks these drivers will have to endure are Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and a track that is sure to shake things up, and particularly so as a elimination race, Talladega Superspeedway. Who will make it to the Eliminator Round and who will be eliminated? Here are my predictions.
1. Jimmie Johnson (projected Kansas winner)
Johnson has not won since winning three out of four from the Coke 600 until Michigan, nor has he led that many laps since. Therefore, the guy is due. And not only that, he is always strong when the Cup Series heads to Kansas City. Look for him to clinch his Eliminator berth first.
2. Brad Keselowski (projected Charlotte winner)
There is nobody hotter right in the Sprint Cup Series than Bad Brad, so hot in fact that I would be relatively surprised should he not win this round. He's not the best at Charlotte but he has won there before and with how strong he has been at virtually every track of late, he'll clinch his spot in the next round.
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Joey Logano
5. Jeff Gordon
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
8. Kyle Busch
Busch definitely stepped up his game in the Challenger Round and I think added confidence will help propel Rowdy through once again.
The following will be eliminated:
9. Denny Hamlin
The guy who I thought could have been a sleeper to win the title just hasn't looked all that sharp of late. Hence why he had to rally at Dover following a disastrous race at Loudon in which Hamlin was scolded by crew chief Darian Grubb and Hamlin criticized his team and crew. Drivers are going to have to step up their game this round and I just don't think
10. Carl Edwards
The hopes for Cousin Carl to win a title in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing will end as the reasons why Edwards is leaving for Joe Gibbs Racing, his inability to compete for a title and inconsistency in running up front, will leave him eliminated.
11. Ryan Newman
Newman ran reasonably well in the past three races but he hasn't shown enough speed to compete up front, and that is just not going to get it done to survive and advance.
12. Kasey Kahne
It certainly was not easy by any stretch for Kahne to advance past the Challenger Round as he was the last drive to clinch his spot. He didn't look impressive by any stretch so he may have to rely on getting in by winning at one of his top tracks, Charlotte Motor Speedway. That said, I don't see it.