Friday, September 9, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 26 -- Select Few Drivers Go Nuts Over Chase Possibilities

It all comes down to Richmond…..

The starting line up is set as the final positions for the Sprint Cup Chase will be determined when the checkered flag drops at the end of tomorrow night’s Wonderful Pistachios at Richmond International Speedway.

The Chase competition works out as follows. Currently, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in 9th with 753 points and Tony Stewart in 10th with 751 points. They are in the top 10 based on points but have no wins for the season. Denny Hamlin is the second wild card entry and would fall out if another driver in the top 20 with one win could win tomorrow night and gain two victories. Hamlin is only 11 points ahead of A.J. Allmendinger and 12 ahead of Clint Bowyer If either of those drivers would win and amass enough points to go ahead of Hamlin, Hamlin is out.

Dale Earnhardt would have to lose 25 points to Brad Keselowski or Tony Stewart would have to lose 23 points for Brad Keselowski to gain a top 10 berth and then be eligible for Chase bonus points for his 3 wins. Should Keselowski accomplish this, Paul Menard inor Marcos Ambrose could take the second Wild Card berth assuming they maintain enough points to stay in the top 20. Ambrose is currently in 21st place and would not qualify seven points behind Menard. Following this scenario, David Ragan is in 23rd twenty points behind Menard but if he won and made up the 20 points gap separating him from Menard, he still has a chance.

If the Chase lineup changes tomorrow, the most likely scenario would be Brad Keselowski moving into the top 10 in points opening up the second wild card slot. Beyond nailing down the open Chase berths, teams that have already wrapped up their spot, will seek to maximize their seeding since the initial standings are based on total wins

Here’s the current Chase lineup.
  1. Kyle Busch – 4 wins
  2. Jeff Gordon – 3 wins
  3. Kevin Harvick – 3 wins
  4. Matt Kenseth – 2 wins
  5. Jimmie Johnson – 1 win
  6. Carl Edwards – 1 win
  7. Kurt Busch – 1 win
  8. Ryan Newman – 1 win
  9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 0 wins
  10. Tony Stewart – 0 wins

Wild Cards:
  1. Brad Keselowski – 3 wins
  2. Denny Hamlin – 1 win

The starting lineup features some interesting qualifiers, all of whom have won before and are neither in the Chase nor have any wins to show for 2011. While the Chase possibilities are articulated above, the joy to play spoiler and qualify for next May’s All Star race is a worthy consolation.

  1. David Reutimann, #00, Toyota (0 wins)
  2. Jamie McMurray, #1, Chevrolet (0 wins)
  3. Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet (1 win, Chase contender)
  4. Mark Martin, #5, Chevrolet (0 wins)
  5. Clint Bowyer, #33, Chevrolet (0 wins, slight chance for Chase)
  6. Jeff Burton, #31, Chevrolet (0 wins)
  7. Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet (3 wins, Chase contender)
  8. Carl Edwards, #99, Ford, (1 win, Chase contender)
  9. A.J. Allmendinger, #43, Ford (0 wins, slight chance for Chase)
  10. Juan Pablo Montoya, #42, Chevrolet (0 wins)
  11. Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge (1 win, Chase contender)
  12. Kasey Kahne, #4, Toyota (0 wins)
  13. Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota (4 wins, top seed in Chase)
  14. Greg Biffle, #16, Ford (0 wins)
  15. Paul Menard, #27, Chevrolet (1 win, slight chance for Wild Card)

To make his advance on the top 10, Brad Keselowski starts 19th in the #2 Dodge while the two drivers he needs to catch up on to gain a top 10 sport are Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 8th starting 27th in the #88 Chevrolet while Tony Stewart in 10th starts 22nd in the #14 Chevrolet.

Racing conditions should be good falling into the mid 60’s during the evening with a 20% chance of rain. The Richmond race is one of the few over the air NASCAR races broadcast by ESPN on the ABC network.

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