Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship Round 2014: Who fell short

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In any playoff elimination format, there are always going to be those that came oh, so close, yet fell short of making it to the championship round.

In many instances, it’s heartbreaking, particularly for certain teams that had so much incentive and drive to accomplish something special this season, such as Jeff Gordon’s “Drive For Five” and Carl Edwards’ bid to leave Roush Fenway Racing in his final season with the organization as a champion.

Sadly, that’s part of what happened Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, as Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Edwards all ultimately ended up being eliminated.

Here’s a breakdown of those four drivers who fell short of both advancement and a chance for the championship:

JEFF GORDON

For the 13th consecutive season, Gordon’s drive for a fifth championship — the so-called Drive For Five — came up short.

Even though he finished runner-up to Harvick in the race, Gordon missed advancing to Homestead by one single point as Newman’s move on Larson knocked Gordon out.

While obviously disappointed, Gordon took things in stride.

“We have a lot to hold our heads up high about,” Gordon said. “The way raced this race, this whole Chase and the whole season, we raced hard, we raced together as a team.”

But Gordon also didn’t pass up the opportunity to surreptitiously blast Keselowski again for last week’s run-in at Texas.

“But I hope we taught somebody (veiled reference to Keselowski) you can race clean, still go out there and give it your best and you don’t have to wreck people to make it in the Chase or to win the championship, Gordon said.

“This makes last week hurt that much more, but we did everything we could. Second just wasn’t good enough. Harvick was in another zip code. There was nobody that was going to get him today.

“We did a great job finishing second. I’m not happy about it, but at the same time, I’m really proud of what we’ve done this year and we’re going to try and win Homestead and end the season on a positive note.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI

Bad Brad is now Sad Brad. Keselowski failed to advance to the championship round, missing the cutoff by eight points, and also missing the chance to compete for his second championship in three seasons.

“We were just a little bit short,” Keselowski said somberly. “Kevin (Harvick) was really, really strong all day long. We just weren’t strong enough to win. We were strong enough to finish second or third, and wound up fourth. We have a lot to be proud of, just not enough.

“It doesn’t really feel good, but at the end of the day, we won six races and that’s a lot to be proud of. We’re going to wind up solidly in the top five or six points, so that’s an effort to be proud of, as well.”

MATT KENSETH

Kenseth was hoping to become the second driver to reach the championship round without having won a single race this season.

But in the end, the same guy who won a series-high seven races last season, remains winless and missed advancing to the championship round by a mere three points.

He pointed to last week’s race at Texas as being more of a reason why he fell short than his third-place finish in Sunday’s race.

“The last half of last week’s race was just disastrous,” Kenseth said. “I can’t say I’m surprised (he came up short Sunday). I’m pleasantly surprised in the way we ran today. These guys never gave up.

“We’re still going to go to Homestead and try to win the race. I was surprised we were out by one point last week, and we performed real good this week, but that just wasn’t enough.”

Can he still get that elusive first win of the season at Homestead, where he has won before?

“The performance just hasn’t been that good this year,” Kenseth said. “… We’re definitely a championship caliber team, we’re looking forward to go try and go win Homestead and get ready for next year and hopefully run (in 2015) like we did last year (2013).”

CARL EDWARDS

Edwards seemed like he was never in Sunday’s race from the opening green flag.

Sure, he managed to get up close to the top 10 a couple of times, but with the poor practices and qualifying effort he had on Friday and Saturday, it was just a matter of too little, too late for Edwards.

“We tried every trick that we could,” Edwards said. “We just didn’t have a lot of speed all weekend. The car actually drove pretty decently at the end, so I thought Jimmy (crew chief Jimmy Fennig) did a great job with it. We just didn’t have enough speed, so that’s how it goes.”

Edwards ultimately missed advancing to the championship race by a fairly hefty 15 points.

In falling short, it ended his hopes for a Cinderella-like story that would have culminated in his first career Cup championship in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing.

“These guys dug deep and worked hard,” Edwards said. “I’ve never been a part of something like this where everybody just doesn’t give up. This means the world.”

Edwards had so wanted to leave RFR with a going-away title, but it was not to be. He’ll try yet again for a championship next season with his new home, Joe Gibbs Racing.

“We made it awfully far, so I’m very proud of everybody,” Edwards said. “We’ll just go to Homestead and try to get another win. Hopefully, Joey (Logano) can get the win and bring Ford a championship.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage