Friday, August 13, 2010

Sprint Cup 2010: Race 23 -- Motor City Encore

Qualifying and practice for this weekend’s Michigan Sprint Cup race shows a mixed bag of results especially for those who are attempting to secure their chances for making the chase. Kasey Kahne, whose season has been dogged with a series of nasty crashes, sits on the pole. He must gain at least 133 points in four races hoping some other drivers will fall flat to allow him to succeed.

Clint Bowyer fell out of the all-important top 12 last week by only 10 points. To help his prospects for success Sunday, he starts 3rd, but for Mark Martin tenuously holding on to the 12th spot, his starting spot of (ironically) 12th would generally be helpful, were it not for Bowyer’s powerful success. The top 12 features six drivers in the top 12 and two drivers hoping to make the show.

1. Kasey Kahne, #9, Ford
2. Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevy
3. Clint Bowyer, #33, Chevy
4. Tony Stewart, #14, Chevy
5. Juan Montoya, #42, Chevy
6. Greg Biffle, #16, Ford
7. Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford
8. Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevy
9. Martin Truex, Jr., #56, Toyota
10. Paul Menard, #98, Ford
11. Jeff Burton, #31, Chevy
12. Mark Martin, #5, Chevy

The remaining top 12 drivers start as follows: 13—Kurt Busch, #2, Dodge; 18—Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota; 24—Carl Edwards, #99, Ford; 33—Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota; 36—Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevy.

Of those with a remote chance of making the chase: Ryan Newman starts 17th while Jamie McMurray starts 19th. If anyone still is holding out hope for Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is actually 23 points ahead of Kahne in 16th in the standings, his qualifying position puts him down with the parking lot attendants in 38th position. This was supposed to be the “no excuses” year for most popular driver whose career appears more headed to resemble the likes of Michael Waltrip’s or Kyle Petty’s than a true championship contender. No one expects him to pick up where his dad left off but given the way his career was surging forward in 2004, what’s happened since then is puzzling.

Meanwhile, the parking lot attendants will be clogging traffic early in the race with refuse-to-compete rides in 15th (Landon Cassill), 21st (Max Papis), 22nd (Joe Nemechek), and 43rd (McDowell). Four teams did not qualify, all of whom would have headed for the parking lot. Robby Gordon has two entries, the 07 car he’ll drive while P.J. Jones will drive the #7. We’ll see if they are going to attempt to race. There are also some driver shuffles. With David Stremme leaving the troubled #26 operation, Patrick Carpentier fills in. Tony Raines will drive the #34 car without ExtenZe sponsorship. ExtenZe announced its intention to go on “hiatus” from Sprint Cup sponsorship. While the team intends to complete races unsponsored, this leaves rookie-of-the-year candidate Kevin Conway without a ride though insisting they will continue to support him in the future.

Continuing its link to NASCAR’s historic roots, the “legendary” Wood Brothers are competing this week with Bill Elliott piloting the famous #21 Ford from 30th position.

Weather could be an issue Sunday. The forecast calls for temperatures in the low-mid 80’s with a 40% chance of thunderstorms dropping to 30% for most of the afternoon through sunset.

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