And, yes, "meanwhile" means exactly what you think it does. Which is that they're still racing.
Yesterday was the next-to-last race of the season in Phoenix ("What? There's still another one?" you're saying), and I have to say, after years of tinkering and wire-jiggling, NASCAR has finally gotten the Chase thing right.
It actually operates like a true playoff system, and that has energized a largely stagnant enterprise. If you watched the closing laps on Sunday and weren't riveted by the battle for the last final-four spot between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, you just don't like sports.
And then there was the finish, when Matt Kenseth, who looked as if he was going to win and secure a spot in the final four, got turned sideways by young Alex Bowman on the start of the first overtime green-white-checker. That sent Logano, who was trying to stay ahead of both Busch and a fast-closing Kevin Harvick, into the lead, with Busch second. And that's how they finished.
It was the second time in the Chase that Logano has won an elimination race to stay alive. And by finishing second, Busch will get a chance to defend his title in Homestead next week.
Fate or destiny or some other magical thinking would seem to dictate this is Logano's year, considering he's already saved his season twice. But Busch was actually the luckier man yesterday. Had Kenseth not crashed, he likely would have missed the final cut in a tiebreaker with Logano. Passing Logano wasn't going to get him in; Harvick had to get around Logano, too. And as the laps ran down, it didn't look like Harvick quite had the car to do it.
And so it's Logano, Busch, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, who's going for his seventh title. Part me is inclined to go with J.J. Part of me, like last year, is inclined to go with Busch, because if you're betting on someone to win one particular race, Rowdy is your guy. He's simply the best wheel man out there with everything on the line.
In the end, though, I'll go with J.J. Winning at Martinsville to open the Round of 8 gave him and crew chief Chad Knaus essentially three weeks to plan for Homestead. You've gotta like their chances.