09 October 2015

2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup Predictions: Contender Round

There you have it as the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup field has now been cut to 12 from 16 following the first elimination race. The drivers on the outside looking in now are Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer. By the time we wrap up action at Talladega in a few weeks, which four will join them? Here are my predictions.

1. Kyle Busch (projected Charlotte winner)

2. Matt Kenseth (projected Kansas winner)

3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (projected Talladega winner)

4. Kevin Harvick

5. Denny Hamlin

6. Carl Edwards

7. Joey Logano

8. Brad Keselowski

9. Kurt Busch
Busch continued to show the inconsistency in the Challenger Round that he has shown all season long as he started with a strong third place finish after leading 37 laps but then he followed with a 19th and a 17th place finish at Loudon and Dover respectively. You still don't know what you are getting from him from week to week so I think that may just be the difference between surviving and getting eliminated.

10. Jeff Gordon
Contrary to my predictions three weeks ago, Gordon survived the first elimination and he did so with three solid, workingman-like finishes of 14th, seventh and 12th. However, that is not going to get it done for Gordon to advance to the Eliminator Round. I'm still not sold that Gordon can generate the kind of speed and finish the way he needs to to stay alive.

11. Martin Truex, Jr.
This has been the finest season of Truex's career and a major improvement from what was arguably the worst season of his career. But over the past few months, Truex's performance has taken a step backwards and while he was fine during the first three Chase races, including leading 39 laps at Chicago, but I'm not confident that he will avoid the elimination this time again.

12. Ryan Newman
Are we going to see Newman pull the same sort of consistency that propels him into the championship? Even after a pretty solid troika of races (4th at Chicagoland, 10th at New Hampshire, 19th at Dover), I think the luck will run out for Rocket Ryan.

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