Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 31 -- the Home Stretch to the Championship is on.

The Sprint Cup tour comes home to Charlotte marking the halfway point in the 2011 Chase at race’s end. Tony Stewart who burst on the Chase scene winning his first two races, his first two for 2011, but has fallen to 7th place with bad showings at Dover and Kansas, is positioned to throw himself back in the picture sitting on the poll for the Bank of America 500. Five more chasers reside in the top ten while all but two start in the top 20. The two outside of the top 20 are Jeff Gordon, all but eliminated from the chase when his engine blew in the final laps of last week’s race. Trapped in 10th place, 47 points out any faint hope Gordon had are surely dashed with tonight’s qualifying spot all but cinching the deal. Kyle Busch who has not shown much punch in the chase 8th place, 20 points out starts in 25th. Let’s look at where the championship contenders by rank start in their drive to the Chase. Leader, Carl Edwards, starting 3rd must be feeling pretty good!

1-      Carl Edwards, #99, (#1), starts 3rd
2-      Kevin Harvick, #29, (-1), starts 14th
3-      Jimmie Johnson, #48, (-4), starts 9th
4-      Brad Keselowski, #2, (-11), starts 26th
5-      Matt Kenseth, #17, (-16), starts 2nd
6-      Kurt Busch, #22, (-16), starts 20th
7-      Tony Stewart, #14, (-19), starts 1st
8-      Kyle Busch, #18, (-20), starts 25th
9-      Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88, (-43) starts 15th
10-  Jeff Gordon, #24, (-47), starts 23rd
11-  Ryan Newman, #39, (-54), starts 6th
12-  Denny Hamlin, #11, (-79), starts 17th

For all practical purposes, positions 9-12 are absolutely eliminated from Chase consideration. At -43 points, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has an entire race’s worth of points to ake make. While positions 4-8 are within 20 points of the lead, they’re also going to depend on other drivers ahead of them to fail to make their move. Perhaps the big question for the race will be if any of those drivers can vault themselves back into serious contention at the close of the race realizing than Charlotte is one of the tracks where Jimmie Johnson is most successful. Carl Edwards needs a win to atone for his sloppy, car destroying burnout, from last spring’s All-Star race at the track!

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