Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 25 -- Drivers Looking for One More Last Chance for Chase Glory

Rain could be a factor tonight as the Sprint Cup race in Atlanta’s start has been moved up 20 minutes to 7:30 pm which means little more than the fans will have consumed fewer hot dogs, funnel cakes, and beers and viewers at home will have to endure less ESPN hype and hoopla – here’s hoping weather doesn’t mess up a pivotal race – the next to last before the Chase begins.

Kasey Kahne in the #4 Red Bull Toyota sits on the poll in what is probably too little too late for his chase chances but Kahne whose talent won him a spot in 2012 next year is obvious enough for Rick Hendrick to recruit him to join two multiple champs and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the sport’s most successful and elite team. More significant is Clint Bowyer in the #33 Richard Childress Chevrolet. He’s outside looking in for the last spot on points in the Chase field. With Tony Stewart starting 20th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting 29th, Bowyer is in excellent position to improve his chase chances.

The top starters line up as follows:
  1. Kasey Kahne, #4, Toyota
  2. Clint Bowyer, #33, Chevrolet
  3. Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota
  4. Brian Vickers, #83, Toyota
  5. Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevrolet
  6. Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford
  7. Carl Edwards, #99, Ford
  8. Martin Truex, Jr., #56, Toyota
  9. Ryan Newman, #39, Chevrolet
  10. Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge
  11. A.J. Allmendinger, #43, Ford
  12. Juan Montoya, #42, Chevrolet
  13. Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota
  14. Brad Keselowski, #2, Dodge
  15. Greg Biffle, #16, Ford

Atlanta is the fastest non-restrictor plate race but often comes down to pit strategy and fuel mileage where smarts not speed is often the determining factor in winning. It’s desperation time for drivers attempting to make the chase and panic city for those just barely hanging on. Brad Keselowski is the hottest driver in the series and is surely locked in for the first wild card seed, but could create a panic for Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart if he also moves into the top 10 in points well with in his reach. Keselowski trails Stewart by 21 points and Earnhardt Jr. by 39 – a little wider margin. Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer, with no wins, is one point behind Keselowski. Denny Hamlin, 13th in points overall, most likely has too much ground to make up to enter the field on points but holds the 2nd wild card berth. His position would be threatened if Paul Menard gets a second win or David Ragan, 21st in points, enters the top 20 and gets a second win. Regan is three points behind Menard and five behind Mark Martin if the #6 team is to get in position to be seeded.

There are also way too many junk entries in the field, drivers who will be gone by the first pit stop who should be at home watching the race on television and have no business polluting NASCAR’s top series. Stay tuned for the full damage report when the Chase begins so fans can see just how much drivers like Mike Skinner and Joe Nemechek are robbing the sport in the Brian France era.

No comments: