Three-man Chase scramble is on between Kenseth, Johnson and Busch

A Baker's Dozen has quickly been whittled to three in the NASCAR Chase for the Championship.

Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch?

One of those three drivers will win the 2013 cup title, short of Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulling an Eddie Murphy stunt and sticking a banana in the tailpipe of the Sprint Cup leaders.

To rinse and repeat, it would be really cool if NASCAR's favorite son was in the hunt for a NASCAR title. The heavens would part, blessing NASCAR with a better attendance at the tracks and better TV ratings.

But Junior botched his best chance to be part of the competitive scrum at Dover last week when he couldn't catch up to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, who won despite having two fresh set of tires to Junior's four.

That brings us to NASCAR's not-so-favorite son, Johnson, who was bombarded by Twitter hate with gems like "When are you going to pay DALE JR back for helping you win?? Sunday was the perfect time to do it..."

We can't print the response from @jimmiejohnson, but let's just say it goes against the "boring, too vanilla" stereotype that has been perpetuated for years.

"It doesn't matter, " Johnson said during the post-race press conference, using colorful language to add he offends fans regardless of what he does.

Johnson and Kenseth share the same bad rap — two guys who are simply too nice for the demographic of NASCAR fans who love to see cars burn up in a pile every week after some driver does something stupid.

Johnson and Kenseth are guilty of an even-keel personality, in and out of the car, which obviously fuels the hate. I suggest everyone turn to professional wrestling if they love wild shenanigans or resign themselves to seeing two of the classiest guys in the sport each contend for multiple championships.

That leaves Busch. He's never been accused of an "even-keel" personality, hence the nickname "Rowdy." He is the true wild card in the Chase, the spoiler who sits only eight points behind Kenseth and four behind Johnson.

Busch has enough ability and gumption to make Kenseth and Johnson nervous. Better yet, he has learned to deal with most of the anger-management issues inside the car that have led to his wild-child reputation.

The rest of the field is really out of it, with Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon rounding out the top five, 39 points behind Kenseth. In practical terms, that's almost one race worth of points, meaning either of those guys would need to win some races while the three contenders would all need to have something catastrophic happen in the final seven races.

Barring some wild wreck at Talladega on Oct. 20 — always in play given super-speedway dynamics — that's extremely unlikely.

It brings us back to the Big Three.

Here's a fun fact to ponder: Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have combined to win 16 of 29 Sprint Cup races this season.

The Big Three it is.

Earnhardt is 57 points out, and just like the rest of us, is merely a spectator.

Blame that on Johnson if you must. But be prepared for a robust rebuttal on Twitter.

Hamlin copes with crash fallout



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