How would fans react to a Chase without Dale Jr., Johnson, and Keselowski?


Regardless of what happens in next weekend’s Contender Round finale at Talladega Superspeedway, there will be good stories among the remaining eight competitors in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Whoever they may be.

But how many people won’t bother to see these stories develop if three of the Chase’s biggest names – Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson – all fail to make the cut at ‘Dega and fall out of the championship picture?

The diehards will stick around. But one could argue this new Chase wasn’t crafted for them.

No, this new Chase was made for the mainstream – or rather, a return to it after the sport’s white-hot run in the early 2000s fizzled out.

But in order to get Mr. and Mrs. Casual Fan to be interested, you need hooks. You need star power. NASCAR certainly has that. It’s largely how it became America’s No. 1 motorsport in the first place.

Keselowski, Earnhardt, and Johnson represents a major portion of the star power in this year’s Chase. But all three of them have suffered through two sub-par races in the Contender Round, and all three of them are now in the soup.

They are occupying the bottom three spots of the Chase Grid: Keselowski in 10th, 19 points behind eighth-place Kasey Kahne; Johnson in 11th, 26 points back; and Earnhardt in 12th, also 26 points arrears.

Only a victory in the GEICO 500 at ‘Dega may be enough to save them. And if they can’t get one, they’ll likely be done.

In turn, their elimination may have an adverse effect on the Chase’s standing on the American sports scene, which is currently crowded with the NFL, college football, post-season baseball, and hockey. Oh yeah, the NBA’s around the corner, too.

Take Keselowski, Earnhardt, and Johnson out of the Chase and there’s probably one driver left with a strong link to the mainstream.

Jeff Gordon’s “Drive For Five” has become a compelling story again thanks to his renaissance this year. But even if he advances to the Eliminator Round, that story may not be enough on its own to draw a sizable amount of attention beyond the base and counter fans of Keselowski, Earnhardt and Johnson possibly tuning out en masse.

(Side note: This is where Tony Stewart and his army of fans would be a big help. But Stewart did not make the Chase, and to be blunt, he has more important things to worry about right now. Danica Patrick? That would be surefire, but while she’s improved in 2014, she’s not Chase material yet.)

And if the fans of Kes, JJ and Jr. ultimately do tune out because their drivers moved out instead of moved on, it could wind up being a loss for those fans if they truly appreciate the overall sport as well. Again, good stories will still be found no matter what.

For instance, take Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, the two drivers that have advanced to the Eliminator Round via wins: Logano, the boy that’s grown up into a world-beater with Team Penske, and Harvick, the wily veteran seeking his first title after leaving the lone Sprint Cup team he’d ever known.

Or what about Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth possibly entering the Eliminator Round with no wins? Considering the emphasis that the new Chase has put on victories, wouldn’t that be interesting?

Still, the negative impact of Keselowski, Earnhardt and Johnson all being eliminated would not be denied. Time will tell if such a situation comes to pass.

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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SMX develops “Leader Lights”
Power Rankings after Detroit
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Results and points after Detroit
Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points