I know we still have a week to go prior to the chase starting but I figured I'd give everyone a head start on their thoughts as to who was the real contenders for the cup and who were just in the chase and along for the ride. Oh, I realize my thought will probably piss some off but then I wouldn't be Mikeyfan if I didn't upset some.
Kyle Bush - Contender - Kyle will start the chase off in the points lead. Kyle has been strong all season and there is no reason to expect that he will slow down during the chase. Of course there are those from a certain "NATION" that are hoping he falls on his face but with JGR equipment and his momentum I just don't see it happening.
Carl Edwards - Contender - Carl like Kyle has a lot of momentum coming into the chase and with 3 of the races being on the cookie cutter tracks that he seems to excel at he has a very good chance to win this.
Jimmy Johnson - Contender - Current Sprint Cup Champion, started this season on the slow side but his team has picked it up since Daytona in July. Look for Jimmy to have some very Strong Runs and be a contender all they way through Miami.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Pretender - Since Dales win at Michigan his highest finish has been 11th and in these races he really hasn't been a contender the latter part of the race. Rick Hendrick gave the "Nation" what he promised. A win for Junior, now its time to concentrate on his Champions and push for another title.
Jeff Burton - Pretender - Jeff is Mr. Consistency but when it comes to crunch time I just don't think he has it in him to go all out for it and the heck with the other drivers. Jeff reminds me a lot of Mark Martin, good driver but just can't make himself move that driver in front of hime to get those extra points need to win a championship.
Greg Biffle - Pretender - Jack Roush will be putting all of his efforts behind his best chance to win a championship and that will be Carl Edwards. Greg just will do what he can to make a good showing but I don't believe the support, outside of his team, will be there.
Kevin Harvick - Wild Card - Kevin is a driver that could be a Pretender or a Contender. The first couple of races will tell it all for Kevin. However, he has the best chance of the RCR cars to win it all this year.
Tony Stewart - Wild Card - Tony is my second and last Wild Card in the chase - It will all depend on where his head is at, Will it be on this season or next years new team. It will also depend on JGR, Will they give him equipment to win? Tony has the fire and like Kevin I believe the first couple of races will decide if he is a Contender or Pretender.
Matt Kenseth - Contender - Although Matt is behind Gregg Biffle, this will be Jack's second choice to push for another championship. A couple of reasons for this. One Matt is a better overall driver and Two, Jack is going to want to show Matt that he is a major force in his shop. Matt will be a free agent after next season and rumor has it Matt is not happy and will leave after next season. So Jack is going to give it his all to try to keep Matt after next season.
Jeff Gordon - Contender - This may shock a lot of folks, Those who know me on the auto boards know I'm not a big Jeff Gordon Fan, However, I have learned that you don't count Jeff out. Sure he has had a subpar season for Jeff and a lot of his fans are jumping ship or questioning his desire or Crew Chief, but to count him out in the chase would be saying you don't know anything about NASCAR. Jeff is a champion with a Champions heart and until he is totally out of it, he will have a chance to win it all, if you know what I mean.
Denny Hamlin - Contender - This is a hot head who has the talent to catch fire. He has the driving ability to take off like Kyle did earlier this year and have a run of 10 top 7 runs and win this thing.
Clint Bowyer - Pretender - Clint will be satisfied with making the chase. He got his only win last year in the chase and could get another this year, but it will be too little too late.
David Regan - Pretender - Yes he has been driving well the last few weeks, and yes he is looking good, but he has a couple of things going against him. One - he will be satisfied that he made the chase, this is more than this team expected, Two - Jack will be concentrating on his top 2 drivers, Carl and Matt
Kasey Kane - Pretender - If Kasey makes the chase, I think he will end up around 7th or 8th in the final standings but I don't believe he will be a contender. Too inconsistent.