Chase kickoff at Loudon is Jeff Gordon's to lose

9/12/2007 - NASCAR

Hey y'all! What's up? It's just me, your friendly neighborhood eliminator. And let me tell you, I am feeling pretty good.

Why in such a good mood, you may ask?

Well, maybe you should just mind your own business.

I mean, I'm excited for this time of the year. That's right, Wednesday is Video Games Day, and the next day is International Chocolate Day!

And also, it's time for the Chase for the Nextel Cup. But the other two are perfectly good holidays worthy of celebration. How can you say no to video games and chocolate? You can't.

Seriously, the Race to the Chase lacked the excitement of past years, but now we're into the Chase, complete with superstars, four-time champions, young guns and drivers who are getting the boot from their teams. There's a guy who can do a backflip, there are competing home-improvement drivers, a pair of brothers and even a guy still looking for his first Cup Series win. We're all pumped.

Ten races in the Chase, 10 winners, and they'll kick things off in Loudon, N.H. Which begs a question worthy of groans: Who will be loud in Loudon? That's right, it's a pun.

[Crickets ... tumbleweed blows through the room.]

It's time to throw down, Eliminator-style!

This has been the year of the Chevrolet so far. Nine of the 12 cars in the Chase drive Chevys. Chevrolet also has dominated on the intermediate tracks. In fact, the manufacturer has won every race this year on tracks ranging between 0.75 and 1.54 miles. New Hampshire International Speedway is just over a mile in length, so count on seeing a Chevy in Victory Lane come Sunday.

That takes out the 30 drivers on the current entry list who won't ride the bow tie on Sunday. Only 19 are left.

Whether you like looking for successful performance at the track or for drivers with momentum coming in, this factoid is for you. The past six New Hampshire winners finished in the top 15 in their last Richmond race. Let's take this a little deeper: The past three -- and four of the past five -- New Hampshire winners were among the top-5 in their previous Richmond race.

And where were the Nextel Cup boys last week? That's right, at the action track itself, Richmond. We'll take out those drivers who didn't finish in the top 15 last week, 10 of them in all, and we have just nine left.

To look for a Loudon winner, go back to the race earlier in the season to see who could make some noise (reference earlier pun). Over the past five years, the winner of the second New Hampshire race finished no worse than seventh in the race earlier in the season. Four of those five winners were in the top-5, and two of them won the earlier race. That takes out five of the remaining nine drivers, so we have our final four.

Let's quickly get rid of a couple drivers. The Phoenix track is similar to New Hampshire, and the past four winners of the fall New Hampshire race had strong runs at Phoenix, all finishing in the top 15. Martin Truex Jr. didn't do that, so we're down to three, and we'll be down to two when I tell you that a driver hasn't won three straight Nextel Cup races since 2004. Jimmie Johnson might be hot, but history isn't on his side, so we have our final two.

Denny Hamlin may have won here in the spring, but here's a note that works against him. All of Hamlin's Cup wins have taken place in a short span on the calendar, from June 11 to July 23. The leaves have started to change in New England, and the calendar reads September, so we'll take out Hamlin and be down to just one.

So your winner, getting his Chase off to a nice start, is Jeff Gordon.

Sorry about the puns, but I secretly love them.

Eliminator breakdown

  1. Chevrolet has won every race on a track ranging 0.75-1.54 miles this season (30 drivers eliminated, 19 remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: A.J. Allmendinger, John Andretti, Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Kurt Busch,
    Carl Edwards, David Gilliland, Robby Gordon, Sam Hornish Jr., Dale Jarrett, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Kevin Lepage, Jeremy Mayfield, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, David Ragan, David Reutimann, Scott Riggs,
    Elliott Sadler, Boris Said, Ken Schrader, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, Brian Vickers, Kenny Wallace, Michael Waltrip

  2. The past six New Hampshire winners finished in the top 15 in their previous Richmond race (10 drivers eliminated, nine remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Jeff Burton, Ward Burton, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Green, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines, Regan Smith

  3. The past five winners of the second New Hampshire race finished in the top seven in the first New Hampshire race (five drivers eliminated, four remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Johnny Sauter, Tony Stewart,
    J.J. Yeley.

  4. The past four winners of the fall New Hampshire race finished in the top 15 in their previous Phoenix race (one driver eliminated, three remaining).
    Driver eliminated: Martin Truex Jr.

  5. Nobody has won three straight NNCS races since 2004 (one driver eliminated, two remaining).
    Driver eliminated: Jimmie Johnson.

  6. Denny Hamlin hasn't won a race not held in June or July (one driver eliminated, one remaining).
    Driver eliminated: Jimmie Johnson.

    And your winner is: Jeff Gordon.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.