NASCAR mid-season grades and Chase predictions.
With only a handful of races until the Chase for the Sprint Cup, we thought we’d give you our thoughts on drivers’ performances so far.
By Cody Broder TRST Senior NASCAR Analyst and Brian8556utube
Check out Brian on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/brian8556
1 Matt Kenseth
Brian: A+, 1 pole, 1win, 9 top 5’s and 13 top 10’s.
Cody: A+, a worst finish of 22nd, and has completed all but one lap the entire season. That’s big time.
2 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Brian: A+, 0 poles, 1win, 7 top 5’s and 13 top 10’s.
Cody: A+, Could be even more of a threat now that he has that win under his belt. One of Junior’s bestseasons.
3 Greg Biffle
Brian: A, 2 poles, 1win, 8 top 5’s and 10 top 10’s.
Cody: B+, Started offstrong, but looks to be losing some consistency as we move toward the Chase.
4 Jimmie Johnson
Brian: A+, 1 pole, 2wins, 9 top 5’s and 13 top 10’s
Cody: A+, The 48 team looks to be back in championship form after last season’s defeat.
5 Denny Hamlin
Brian: A, 1 pole, 2wins, 8 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s.
Cody: B+, A very streaky season for Hamlin. Has done well to position himself for the Chase.
6 Kevin Harvick
Brian: B+, 0 poles, 0wins, 3 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s.
Cody: B, For whatever reason, I feel like Harvick is just lurking, ready to rail off a few wins at some point. Very quiet to this point though.
7 Tony Stewart
Brian: A+, 0 poles, 3wins, 8 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s.
Cody: A, Stewart is more of a second half driver. It leaves me to wonder whether roles have reversed this year or he will continue his winning ways throughout the second half. Could be scary for the competition if that’s the case.
8 Martin Truex Jr.
Brian: B, 1 pole, 0wins, 4 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s.
Cody: B-, Hasn’t been able to make the most of his chances. Could have a win or two by now. Good season for Truex, but has to take advantage of opportunities if he wants to winthe grand prize.
9 Clint Bowyer
Brian: A-, 0 poles, 1win, 3 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s.
Cody: A, Considering it’s his first year with this team, very impressive. If he can find that swagger and consistency he had before his win, he could be a threat.
10 Brad Keselowski
Brian: A, 0 poles, 3wins, 5 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s.
Cody: A-, Has finished 8th or worse 13 times this season. Needs to run better more consistently. I expected more from him this season, but he could flourish in the second half.
11 Carl Edwards
Brian: C+, 1 spot aheadof Wild Card, 1 pole, 0 wins, 2 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s.
Cody: C, At least he’sin position to possibly still make the Chase… but wow. Who would have thought Edwards would only have two top 5’s? If he wins a race, that could get things moving.
12 Kasey Kahne
Brian: A-, Has 1st WildCard Spot, 2 poles, 2 wins, 5 top 5’s and 10 top 10’s.
Cody: A, Has had fastcars all season, but overdrove them early, shown by his 4 finishes of 29th orworse in the first 6 races. Now that he’s comfortable with the organization, huge threat moving forward.
13 Kyle Busch
Brian: B, Has 2nd WildCard Spot, 1 pole, 1 win, 5 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s.
Cody: B, Not a great season for Kyle, but his phenomenal driving in the races he has not had issues has saved him a wildcard spot to this point.
14 Ryan Newman
Brian: B-, 1 spotoutside of Wild Card, 0 poles, 1 win, 3 top 5’s and 5 top 10’s.
Cody: B, In a contract year, Newman has done alright. I think this is about what everyone expected out of him. He’s a serviceable driver. I don’t think a championship driver though.
15 Paul Menard
Cody: B, A very quiet season for Menard, but he has stayed out of trouble for the most part. Better than what I was expecting from him. 13 finishes from the 10-20 range, with 4 top 10’s sprinkled in.
16 Joey Logano
Brian: C, 3 spotsoutside of Wild Card, 1 pole, 1 win, 2 top 5’s and 7 top 10’s.
Cody: B, For being a third-car in a team other than Hendrick Motorsports, a 16th position is very good. Significantly improved from last year, Logano is showing consistency, while continuing to showcase his talent in the Nationwide series.
17 Jeff Gordon
Cody: D-, In second year with crew chief Alan Gustafson, Gordon was expected to be a title contender.Has had top 10 cars every week, just not the finishes to back them up, and that’s what is required. A lost season for Gordon.
24 AJ Allmendinger
Cody: D, With the latest scandal, Allmendinger puts a damper on an already-dreadful season. The disappointment can be seen by looking at stats. 3 top 10’s. Considering this car was in victory lane multiple times last year, that’s embarrassing.
25 Kurt Busch
Cody: B+, Highest in points of all lower-tier teams, and missed a race due to suspension. Also note that this is a team that had one (1) top 15 finish all of last season. Well done Kurt Busch.
Brian’s prediction for Sprint Cup Chase:
1. Tony Stewart
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Greg Biffle
10. Kyle Busch
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Martin Truex Jr.
Yes, I think Tony Stewart will edge Jimmie Johnson for back-to-back Sprint Cup Titles and to keep Jimmie Johnson away from his 7th Sprint Cup Title.
1. Kasey Kahne
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Tony Stewart
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Kyle Busch
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Greg Biffle
12. Martin Truex Jr.
How’s that for a bold prediction: A Hendrick showdown. 3 drivers battle for another championship for Mr. H. The longtime combination of Kenny Francis and Kasey Kahne pays off in their first year at HMS, as they become more lethal as the season progresses, overcoming the gap left by being a wildcard entering the Chase, and starting the new reign of Kasey Kahne.