Friday, July 22, 2011

The 1-2 punch

The Sprint Cuppers have the week off before they head to Indianapolis next week. Here's a look at some things about teammates Ryan Newman's and Tony Stewart's 1-2 finish at New Hampshire last week.

It was the first time that the drivers who started first and second finished first and second since the June 2006 race at Pocono.
It was the first time that teammates started 1-2 and finished 1-2 since the 1989 Daytona 500 when Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader did it for Hendrick Motorsports.
It was also the first time that the teammate who started first finished first, and the teammate who started second finished second since April 7, 1957, when Fireball Roberts won and Paul Goldsmith was second at North Wilkesboro.

There are seven races left in the race for the Chase to the Championship, and obviously, Newman is almost certain to make it. With a coveted victory and an eighth-place spot in the standings, he's in good shape. Stewart helped himself with the second-place finish, but is still 11th in points (he's actually tied for 10th with Denny Hamlin, but Hamlin has a win) and without a victory. However, he does have some tracks where he has been successful coming up on the schedule, including Indianapolis, Pocono and the road course at Watkins Glen. Stewart's bound to get a win at one of those places.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took another hit in the points standings with a 15th-place finish due to a penalty when his pit crew didn't corral a tire properly during a pit stop. Junior is now just seven points ahead of the 11th-place Stewart and doesn't have a win to fallback on like 13th place David Ragan does, who would be in the Chase if it started this weekend. And for those of you snoring at home, Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won in over three years and 111 races.
Another driver to watch if he gets another win is Brad Keselowski. He's 23rd in points, but has one win. If he gets into the top 20 in points he would be eligible for one of the final two Chase spots. A second victory would likely accomplish that feat.
There have been 13 different winners in 19 races this season. If that trend continues the race for those two wild-card spots to reach the Chase could be wild. And there will likely be a lot more gambling on fuel and tire strategies to gain track position for drivers in the top 20 who need a victory.

Not a bad week in the picks department here last week. My five were Kyle Busch (blown tire put him in 36th), Kurt Busch (10th), Stewart, Jimmie Johnson (5th) and Newman.
Until next time

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