|Kenseth has the wins to challenge Johnson|
The second half of the year really breaks down into two parts, the races remaining prior to The Chase and then The Chase itself. Someone needs to get very hot to challenge Johnson. Chasing (sorry) Johnson is a handful of wannabes, including:
Matt Kenseth. He may currently only be fourth in points, but Kenseth has just as many wins at Johnson and when The Chase gets underway, that’s what really counts. What he hasn’t had is consistency. If Joe Gibbs/Toyota can come up with that magic ingredient, Kenseth may be hard to be beat; Jimmie Johnson or no Jimmie Johnson.
Brad Keselowski. Might be a surprise to some people, but I still think Keselowski will be right in the middle of it come November. After getting off to a good start, the defending Cup champion ran afoul of NASCAR’s rule book and free speech police. He's fallen to ninth in points without a victory. But don’t count him out. The Penske Fords have shown renewed speed and Bad Brad has plenty of time to get himself in position for The Chase.
Kyle Busch. Capable of getting hot and giving Johnson a run for The Chase. But if the JGR cars do catch fire, his biggest challenge will be teammate Kenseth.
Kevin Harvick. One win so far gives him some valuable bonus points for The Chase and he’s been strong at times, but not enough to challenge Johnson. Still a lame duck, no matter what anyone says.
Carl Edwards. Easy to overlook the No. 99. Edwards won the second race of the year at Phoenix, but hasn’t won since. Really hasn’t even been in competition very often. But if Roush/Yates can come up with the horsepower to go with its reliability, Edwards can still challenge for title.
Kasey Kahne. Thought this was gonna be Kasey’s year. Hasn’t been so far. Keep thinking that when he finally breaks through, he’ll go on a run.
Clint Bowyer. Second in the standings, but without an all-important win and bonus points for The Chase. May finish second again without really contending.
Greg Biffle. As usual, Biffle has looked unbeatable at times this year, but seldom for an entire race, let alone a series of races. Still, he has more potential than most to get hot and go on a run.
Tony Stewart. He hasn’t made his summer run this year and Stewart-Haas Racing doesn’t seem to have what it takes. But Stewart has a win and has been there a couple of times before.
Martin Truex. A winner with bonus points, but hasn’t shown the consistency needed to challenge for the top spot. Still, last year Bowyer showed Michael Waltrip Racing was Chase worthy. This year it might be Truex.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. After holding second place in the standings much of the year, he’s slipped in recent weeks. Seems to be headed in the wrong direction.
Jeff Gordon. He’s within shouting distance, but his string of bad luck now dates back several years. You’ve got to wonder if retirement will be the only thing to end the string.
Kurt Busch. Fast, fast, fast at times and probably deserves a victory. Busch is also a former champion. But he’s still Kurt Busch.