Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chasing the Chase

There are nine races remaining in the Chase for the Championship to see who will be the 12 contenders for the Sprint Cup Championship for the final 10 races of the season. The last two spots go to the drivers with the most wins who are in the top 20 in points.

Here's a quick breakdown of who's sitting comfortable or who's squirming in their chair when it comes to getting one of those final 12 spots.

Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.
They each have at least one win this season. Barring multiple disasters for each of these guys in the final nine races, they are going to make it. Even though Johnson is sixth, he is 30 points ahead of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who does not have a win. Which brings us to ...

Dale Earnhardt Jr. He hasn't had a win forever (that's 94 races and counting for those of you snoring at home). But still at seventh in the standings, he's got a 36-point lead over 10th place Ryan Newman. So, whether Junior gets that elusive win or not, he's probably going to make it.
Denny Hamlin. Yes, he's 11th in points, but he's got one win and as the Sprint Cup heads to Kentucky for the first time, the next driver in the top 20 in points with one win David Ragan at 62 points back. Of course, that could all change if a winless driver in 2011 picks up a victory. Hamlin is gaining momentum and he's generally been great at Pocono, which is Aug. 7 on the pre-Chase schedule. Let's just say he's probably in.

Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart sit in 9th, 10th and 12th place. But the big deal here is that none of them have a win this season.
Stewart is particularly strong on the two road courses and restrictor plate courses. But he didn't win at either of those places that last two weeks. Stewart is only four points behind teammate and employee Newman, so he could still make it in without a win. But a victory would bring him a lot of security.
Newman and Bowyer have been consistent this season, but like Stewart, they each badly need a victory for some insurance.
That brings us to David Ragan. If the Chase was to start this weekend, he would be in because of his Daytona victory and his 17th place in the point standings.
Next there is the Brad Keselowski factor. He's got a win, but is not in the top 20. However, he sits just 11 points out of 20th, so he still has a chance.

These guys are in the top 20 points heading to Kentucky, but realistically, the only way they can make it will be through the wild-card.
They are Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano, who's 20th in points. Also, Marcos Ambrose is 21st in points and with one road race remaining, you can bet that Ambrose, Montoya and even Stewart, are focused on winning there.

So nine races to go, and a lot of Chasing remaining.

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