Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 12: The Coke 600 "The Long Run"

How 2012 is shaping up so far and a look at the Coke 600

With the All-Star Race completed, the Sprint Cup long drive is now underway leading to September’s showdown in Richmond that will determine the field for the chase. This provides a great opportunity to assess the season so far and perhaps make a feeble attempt at projecting who the real championship and chase contenders are.

For all the foibles at the start of the season, Jimmie Johnson sure looks poised to gain his sixth after missing the mark last year. Tony Stewart has had his ups and downs but has the reputation of being a late season spectacular, so that he has two wins already sure makes him look good. Roush has Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle in hot contention occupying the top of the standings while last year’s almost champ, Carl Edwards has struggled so far, but it’s hard to count him out. Denny Hamlin has two wins and is back in form while teammate, Kyle Busch is just beginning to get cranked up. Martin Truex Jr. can’t finish races but has consistently run well. He could be Michael Waltrip Racing’s first legit contender. Kevin Harvick still hasn’t really caught fire yet with two top 5’s and five top 10’s, he’s in the top ten in rather unspectacular fashion. Beyond that, the most spectacular of the rides outside the top ten has to be Brad Keselowski, who apart from some bad finishes, would surely be strongly in the top ten. His two wins could be enough to get him in a wild card spot. The only other driver outside the top ten with a win is Ryan Newman in 14th. Somehow, his car seems to be a magnet for crashes this year. Clint Bowyer in 11th has not looked nearly as aggressive as in past years. A driver to watch is Kasey Kahne in 15th. His season could not have started off much worse, but in recent weeks, his team has come on strong and is bound to break into victory lane soon.  We neglected to mention, NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. who’s in 3rd place looking more consistent than he has in years. He’s come so close so often, a win can’t be far away.

The year’s greatest disappointment has to be Jeff Gordon, buried in 24th place far from the top ten, the #24 team must first get into the top 20 and then chalk up some wins or it will be a major black mark for one of the most famous careers in the sport.

Joey Logano is fighting to keep his spot in Joe Gibbs Racing. His season is so far looking far more promising standing in 15th position. He’ll need to continue to improve to assure his spot in the #20 Toyota next year.

Here’s how the current top ten and winning teams place noting teams that could also be in contention.

  1. Greg Biffle #19
  2. Matt Kenseth #17 (-2)
  3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. #3 (-14)
  4. Denny Hamlin #11 (-17)
  5. Jimmie Johnson #48 (-39)
  6. Martin Truex, Jr. #56 (-39)
  7. Tony Stewart #14 (-42)
  8. Kevin Harvick #29 (-50)
  9. Kyle Busch #18 (-62)
  10. Carl Edwards (#99) (-74)
  11. Clint Bowyer (#15) (-76)
  12. Brad Keselowski (#2) (-83) WILDCARD
  13. Paul Menard #27 (-103)
  14. Ryan Newman #39 (-104)

So how bad is it for Jeff Gordon? Go down the standings ten places to 24th, -170 pts. Jeff Gordon would need to win at least two of the next fifteen races to make The Chase as a wildcard.

Tonight, Richard Petty has the top two cars on the pole with Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose on the front row. Gunning for them in row two are perhaps the hottest two drivers of the year right now, Jimmie Johnson (all-star and Darlington winner) and Greg Biffle (points leader). Strong competitors fill out the top 17 entries. As always, the Coke 600 is an endurance contest. Looking at previous 1 ½ mile events so far this year is not a good barometer of the likely winner. It’s hard not to look to a Rich Hendricks or Jack Roush entry to take the checkered flag.

Coke 600 Starting Line Up:
143Aric AlmirolaFordU.S. Air Force192.940
29Marcos AmbroseFordDEWALT191.598
348Jimmie JohnsonChevroletLowe's Patriotic191.374
416Greg BiffleFordFastenal191.259
515Clint BowyerToyota5-hour Energy191.198
655Mark MartinToyotaAaron's Armed Forces Foundation191.171
75Kasey KahneChevroletQuaker State191.130
811Denny HamlinToyotaFedEx Ground190.887
927Paul MenardChevroletMenards / Serta190.597
1078Regan SmithChevroletFurniture Row Racing190.456
1122AJ AllmendingerDodgeShell / Pennzoil190.329
1288Dale Earnhardt Jr.ChevroletNational Guard 'An American Salute' 190.302
1321Trevor BayneFordMotorcraft / Quick Lane Auto Center190.268
1429Kevin HarvickChevroletBudweiser Folds of Honor190.201
1556Martin Truex Jr.ToyotaNAPA Auto Parts190.194
1639Ryan NewmanChevroletU.S. Army190.054
1718Kyle BuschToyotaM&M's Red, White & Blue190.034
1883Landon CassillToyotaBurger King Real Fruit Smoothies189.987
1920Joey LoganoToyotaDollar General189.707
2017Matt KensethFordFastenal189.607
2114Tony StewartChevroletOffice Depot / Mobil 1189.574
2231Jeff BurtonChevroletWheaties189.520
2324Jeff GordonChevroletDrive to End Hunger189.076
242Brad KeselowskiDodgeMiller Lite188.871
2513Casey MearsFordGEICO188.363
2647Bobby LabonteToyotaKingsford188.344
2774Cole WhittChevroletTurn One Racing188.324
2899Carl EdwardsFordFastenal188.206
2942Juan MontoyaChevroletTarget187.924
3034David RaganFordAl's Liners / Scorpion Coatings187.656
311Jamie McMurrayChevroletBass Pro Shops / Arctic Cat187.526
3298Michael McDowellFordPresbyterian Healthcare System187.487
3326Josh Wise*FordMDS Transport187.259
3433Stephen Leicht*ChevroletLittle Joe's Autos / Precon187.169
3530David StremmeToyotaInception Motorsports186.143
3636Dave BlaneyChevroletSealWrap186.111
3793Travis KvapilToyotaDr Pepper186.085
38195Scott SpeedFordJordan's Truck Sales185.976
3938David GillilandFordModSpace185.810
4132T.J. Bell+FordGreen Smoke-
4251Kurt Busch+ChevroletPhoenix Construction Services-
4387Joe NemechekToyotaGlobal Barter Corp185.784
Did Not Qualify
-249J.J. YeleyToyotaAmerica Israel Racing / JPO Absorbents-
-119Mike BlissToyotaHumphrey Smith Racing-
-173David ReutimannToyotaBurger King-
-23Scott RiggsChevroletNorth Texas Pipe-

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