How often can we say that both during the regular season and at the start of the Chase, the best driver is the same guy? Usually, not very often, because with two separate seasons in essence, the Chase drivers know the final 10 events are what determine the best of the best.
But it is not very often that through 26 races, and then two Chase events, that the same driver is the one that is dominant.
At the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, there was no question that the dominant car was the one that won the week prior, and based on wins through the regular season, was the car to beat. Matt Kenseth has become a different driver since he came over to the Gibbs organization. He now has seven wins on the year, by far the most he's ever experienced in his career, and is dominating the standings.
It has become clear that now, Kenseth is clearly the driver to beat for anyone that wants to win the championship. At this point, especially with the tracks that are coming up, it will be increasingly difficult to do so.
What has also become clear is that the Chase Pool has again swapped. All but one writer had mediocre runs, with that strong finish leading to a new leader at the top. Here's the standings after the Sylvania 300:
Michael Hirshbein (2085) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2079) Brad Keselowski finished 11th (1)
Rob Tiongson (2078) Jeff Gordon finished 15th (2)
Kelly Crandall (2073) Clint Bowyer finished 17th (1)
Misan Akuya (2071) Ryan Newman finished 16th (1)
Patti Rodisch (2069) Joey Logano finished 14th (0)
Dustin Parks (2069) Ryan Newman finished 16th (0)
Rob Blount (2066) Kurt Busch finished 13th (1)
James Broomhead (2066) Clint Bowyer finished 17th (2)
Ryan O'Hara (2062) Jeff Gordon finished 15th (0)
Billy Fellin (2060) Kurt Busch finished 13th (1)
Kara Martin (2050) Kasey Kahne finished 37th (1)
Christopher Leone (2000) NO PICK SENT (0)
Next Race: Thus far through the first two Chase races, Joe Gibbs Racing has simply been outright dominant. Specifically, the No. 20 car has never been more dominant. It has been years since that car was so strong, dating back to the Tony Stewart days, specifically in his early years.
Someone other than the 20 team may win this Chase, but in order to do so they need to make monster gains.
What better opportunity to get that gain than at a track that is literally a monster, both on equipment and driving. The third race in the Chase keeps NASCAR up north, but has them visiting the country's first state. It's the "Monster Mile" at Dover, Delaware.
Writers, don't let Miles intimidate you, but submit your picks for the AAA 400 in by Thursday, September 26, at 10 p.m. ET.