Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sprint Cup 2010: Race 35 -- Phoenix: Next to Last to Determine Who Will Be First?

Denny Hamlin – 17th
Jimmie Johnson – 21st (-33)
Kevin Harvick – 29th (-59)

Two races to go and the top three qualify in order of their standings but deep in the pack. Who’s to say how to divine the tea leaves for what this means, but the obvious is none of them qualified like champs and all of them have lots of metal to run through to get up front where they can go all out in their drive for the trophy next week at Homestead, Florida. The fifty nine point spread means anything is possible for which one of the three will finish as the 2010 champ. Each team will throw all its resources in to make their top guy the big winner.

All three drivers put in top ten efforts in practice with Denny Hamlin 4th best, Harvick 5th, and Johnson 7th. This would suggest all three teams are very race ready for tomorrow afternoon’s competition.

Of other note, pole sitter Carl Edwards also was fastest in practice while Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran second fastest. Who wouldn’t like to see Junior have a strong finish to add a little bit of triumph to an embarrassing poor two year stretch with Hendricks?

Much focus has been on the fate of Richard Petty Racing’s entries. They had some bragging rights in qualifying with A.J. Allmendinger qualifying 2nd. Aric Almirola finishing the year for the #9 Budweiser team pulls in 9th spot with Paul Menard in 18th and Elliott Sadler in 23rd. All four Roush-Fenway Fords qualified 15th or better with Matt Kenseth in 15th, David Ragan in 12th, and Greg Biffle 4th behind their pole sitter, Carl Edwards.

Other stories of note, Kurt Busch qualified 3rd looking to have some highlight from a horrible chase drive. While Denny Hamlin languishes in 17th, other Toyota drivers and teammates faired better. David Reutimann starts 6th, Kyle Busch 7th, Joey Logano 10th, Martin Truex 11th, ad Marcos Ambrose 13th.

Fans watching the championship chase play out will be noticing how the top three teams work their way through the field and employ track position to secure their most beneficial track position. Every potential chance to lead a lap is so important now. Five points can make a much more noticeable difference with what’s at stake now. Crew chiefs and pit crews must appreciate there is zero room for miscues. A performance like the one the 48 team crew put in last week in Texas will eliminate a team from further consideration.

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