Today’s race in
, the Pure Michigan 400, begins a four race shootout for the final field for the 2012 Chase for the Championship. For all drivers who have not positioned themselves effectively to lock into the Chase, the focus is clear, the agenda specifc, the goal obvious – win races. The field breaks down into five categories – those drivers who are or almost are assured of locking in their place. Next are drivers in the top ten with no victories who could fall out of the chase. The next groups are ones not in the top ten and what their chances are of making the Chase or slipping in as a Wild Card. Michigan
The following drivers have three wins: they’re in.
The next group of drivers each have one win with three of them in good points standing to make a top ten standing after the checkered flag drops in
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Cling Bowyer is in 7th place, 26 points ahead of 10th place. Bowyer is one of two drivers playing a cautious strategy might be prudent. A major catastrophe could throw him in the field on one win drivers outside the top ten.
Denny Hamlin in 10th place has two wins. He leads the 11th place ride by 40 points. He is almost certainly a sure bet for at least a wild card place, but bad finishes could revert him to a wild card.
Martin Truex Jr. has no wins and is in 6th in the standings. His 49 point margin ahead of 10th place. He enjoys more than a one race cushion to maintain a top ten in points. Only the worst of calamity would knock him out, but without a win so far this year, he would be eliminated.
Kevin Harvick is in 9th place, winless in 2012. He is only 17 points above 10th place. Kevin Harvick is sitting in the hot seat on the favorable side of the bubble.
In 11th place with two wins, Kasey Kahne is well-positioned for the wild card. He has 40 point deficit out of 10th place. Moving into the top 10 will require picking up 10 points a race through
, a tough task; however, for him to fall out of the wild card spot, two one win drivers would have to each win two races. That’s not likely to happen. Richmond
Ryan Newman in 13th place holds the second wild card position, but his stance as the second wild card winner is not secure given he only has a six point lead over the next winner, Kyle Busch. He is six points below Carl Edwards who’d knock him out with a win and become the leader of the one win drivers with a win in
Jeff Gordon, in 15th place is six points behind Kyle Busch, twelve points beneath Ryan Newman absolutely in the running for the second wild card. A Jeff Gordon win would push both Newman and Busch out of his way as the 2nd wild card and seriously put Carl Edwards behind the needing two wins and a points advantage to work into the wild card. Marcos Ambrose in 17th with one win, 44 points behind Newman and Joey Logano in 18th, 57th are not poised to exceed Ryan Newman in points. They must win at least one race while denying the other one win drivers in their three remaining races.
There is only one driver left, Paul Menard, currently winless, needing a win and overcoming a 15 points deficit below Newman to have a shot at the Chase.
Here’s a look at what the Chase field would be if it were determined right now. This is the chart against which drivers must advance to move in.
- Jimmie Johnson, 3 wins
- Brad Keselowski, 3 wins
- Tony Stewart, 3 wins
- Denny Hamlin, 2 wins
- Greg Biffle, 1 win
- Matt Kenseth, 1 win
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 1 win
- Clint Bowyer, 1 win
- Martin Truex, 0 wins
- Kevin Harvick, 0 wins
WC-1. Kasey Kahne, 2 wins
WC-2. Ryan Newman, 1 win
Mark Martin sits on the pole in the #55 Aaron’s
for Michael Waltrip Racing never to old to be counted out of anything in the backyard of the American Auto Industry, certainly a point not lost on the “Big Three” executives. The Ford contenders needed to step up their qualifying effort and with Carl Edwards, who must step it up tremendously in the next four races on the outside pole, and teammate, Matt Kenseth, behind him in 4th have answered the call. Part-timer, 2011 Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne starts 6th while last week’s winner, Marcose Ambrose starts 9th while remaining Roush driver, Greg Biffle, checks in at an acceptable 13th. Toyota
Of all drivers with chase possibilities, the lowest starters are Kyle Busch in 23rd and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 22nd. Drivers from 19th to 23rd are all hot in the Chase battle and will seek to move through traffic and work on good track position early on. That’s also where early wrecks happen. The heat is on!
With two garbage entries failing to qualify – the #33 Stephen Lecht entry and the #37, J.J. Yeley entry, there are nine trash entries in the field – all likely candidates for a “start and park performance. In other words, quitters are now infecting the top 35 in the standings. That is unacceptable and must be addressed by NASCAR. The top level of a sport is no place for fantasy camp drivers to be shuffling in with the big boys.
Here’s the starting line up:
|1||55||Mark Martin||Toyota||Aaron's Dream Machine||199.706|
|2||99||Carl Edwards||Ford||Geek Squad||198.626|
|4||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford||Fifth Third Bank||198.183|
|5||5||Kasey Kahne||Chevrolet||Farmers Insurance||197.878|
|6||21||Trevor Bayne||Ford||Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center||197.781|
|7||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||NAPA Auto Parts||197.65|
|9||83||Landon Cassill||Toyota||Burger King / Dr Pepper||197.433|
|10||27||Paul Menard||Chevrolet||Menards / Pittsburgh Paints||197.163|
|11||24||Jeff Gordon||Chevrolet||Drive to End Hunger / AARP||197.115|
|12||15||Clint Bowyer||Toyota||5-hour Energy||197.012|
|14||14||Tony Stewart||Chevrolet||Mobil 1 / Office Depot||196.877|
|15||39||Ryan Newman||Chevrolet||Wix Filters||196.732|
|16||20||Joey Logano||Toyota||The Home Depot||196.501|
|17||22||Parker Kligerman||Dodge||Shell / Pennzoil||196.249|
|18||78||Regan Smith||Chevrolet||Furniture Row / Farm American||196.217|
|19||2||Brad Keselowski||Dodge||Miller Lite||196.18|
|20||29||Kevin Harvick||Chevrolet||Jimmy Johns||196.052|
|21||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Office||195.956|
|22||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew||195.822|
|23||18||Kyle Busch||Toyota||Interstate Batteries||193.299|
|24||1||Jamie McMurray||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops / Mercury||193.268|
|27||191||Reed Sorenson||Ford||Plinker Tactical||192.709|
|30||93||Travis Kvapil||Toyota||Burger King / Dr Pepper||192.539|
|31||30||David Stremme||Toyota||Inception Motorsports||192.359|
|33||119||Jason Leffler||Ford||Plinker Tactical||192.205|
|34||26||Josh Wise*||Ford||MDS Transport||192.179|
|35||87||Joe Nemechek||Toyota||AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves||192.118|
|36||38||David Gilliland||Ford||Taco Bell||191.79|
|37||34||David Ragan||Ford||Long John Silver's||191.724|
|38||23||Scott Riggs||Chevrolet||North Texas Pipe||189.943|
|40||32||T.J. Bell+||Ford||Southern Pride Trucking / U.S. Chrome||185.118|
|42||36||Dave Blaney+||Chevrolet||Tommy Baldwin Racing||-|
|43||98||Mike Skinner||Ford||Phil Parsons Racing||189.939|
|Did Not Qualify|
|44||33||Stephen Leicht*||Chevrolet||Little Joes Autos||189.444|
|45||37||J.J. Yeley||Chevrolet||Max Q Motorsports||188.157|