Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 33 -- Could Martinsville be Johnsonville?

Jimmie Johnson sits on the poll for tomorrow’s Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.  Imagine the sinking feeling the competition must be feeling with visions of a 6th championship in 7 years for the 48 team looking all too real.

Folks in the #2 Miller Lite Dodge stable must be praying for the miraculous to maintain their perch atop the Sprint Cup standings as they enter Martinsville, Virginia for tomorrow’s scheduled running of the Tums Fast Relief 500.  Martinsville is a track that his adversaries, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have mastered in past races where Johnson has especially shown dominance. Keselowski’s not tamed the tiny paperclip shaped track so far in his short career. To make matters worse, the #2 Dodge starts in a miserable 32nd place where track position is all important, not to mention pit selection. Jimmie Johnson (no surprise) sits on the poll and Denny Hamlin, feeling especially sharp having just won the Camping World Truck Series race, starts 5th. Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer who is trying to push himself into the beauty contest starts 8th. Kasey Kahne, 30 points out, the only driver left with the faintest of chances of getting in the title chase did not do his cause well starting in 15th.  The rest of the Chase field is effectively eliminated with only four races to go and more than a race’s worth of points to overcome.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to action after sitting out two races recovering from a concussion. He starts 20th.  

Martinsville should dodge the bad weather forecast for the East Coast with temperatures in the 60’s, cloudy conditions, and moderate wind from the north around 15 mph.

Friday, October 26, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 8 -- Rest for the Weary Ravens

The "bye" segment of the season continues as Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnaati, and Houston get their week off. For the Ravens, losing their leader, Ray Lewis and much wear and tear on both sides of the ball the break comes none to soon.

Here's the card for this week.

Tampa Bay @ Minnesota (-6.5)
Pick Minnesota, perhaps this year's most improved team.

Carolina @ Chicago (-7.5)
Where's Cam Newton's touch this year?  The Bears should dominate.

San Diego (-3) @ Cleveland
San Diego should win, but could lose. They remain the underachievers of the AFC.

Seattle @ Detroit (-2.5)
Slight edge to the home team.  Detroit's rise from the worst team in the sport to a decent club seems to be heading back down.

Jacksonville @ Green Bay (-14.5)
A great day for the Pack to put behind their rough start. They'll look like the awesome killers in this one.

Indianapolis @ Tennessee (-3.5)
Andrew Luck lacks the experience and results to pick the Colts as the winner for this game.

New England (-7) @ St. Louis
New England - no doubts.

Miani @ the New York Jets (-.2.5)
This game could go either way. The Jets chaos will become deafening as Tebow waits on the sidelines waiting to be the next man up.

Atlanta @ Philadelphia (-2.5)
Atlanta should dominate this game. Philadelphia is simply too inconsistent.

Washington @ Pittsburgh (-5)
The Steelers must stop RGIII to win this one.

Oakland @ Kansas City (-2)
Tough to pick when two week teams collide. We'll go with the homeboys.

New York Giants (-3) @ Dallas
Who's listening?  The Cowboys are so over-rated. The Giants will rule this one.

New Orleans @ Denver (-5)
Peyton Manning on national TV. Denver should beat the rattled Saints.

San Francisco (-6.5) @ Arizona
The "Niners" strive to get their season into high gear after some early season blunders.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 32: Kansas -- Tough Challenge for the Front Runner

Predicting results at a freshly paved race track is senseless as the handling characteristics are completely changed; however, from studying yesterday’s Nationwide Series race, it looks like largely a one groove race track where track position will be everything which given the qualifying order, puts some chasers, notably, points leader, Brad Keselowski behind the eight ball.  The chase currently looks like a three man affair between Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin with Clint Bowyer helping his cause tremendously. Kasey Kahne sits on the pole 35 points back, but with five more races, he’ll need some help with drivers above him slipping with so much room to make up. The rest of the field is more than a race’s worth of points. We’re counting them out.

  1. Brad Keselowski (0)
  2. Jimmie Johnson (-7)
  3. Denny Hamlin (-15)
  4. Clint Bowyer (-28)
  5. Kasey Kahne (-35)

Here’s how they line up…Chase drivers shown in CAPS.

1 5 KASEY KAHNE Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 191.360
2 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 191.238
3 15 CLINT BOWYER Toyota 5-Hour Energy  191.130
4 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's Halloween 191.096
5 43 Aric Almirola Ford Farmland 190.988
6 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Code 3 Associates 190.853
7 48 JIMMIE JOHNSON Chevrolet Lowe's 190.840
8 20 Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General 190.813
9 11 DENNY HAMLIN Toyota FedEx Freight 190.718
10 29 KEVIN HARVICK Chevrolet Budweiser 190.409
11 16 GREG BIFFLE Ford 3M / Sherwin Williams 190.389
12 17 MATT KENSETH Ford Zest 190.376
13 51 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 190.154
14 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / CertainTeed 190.134
15 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 190.094
16 56 MARTIN TRUEX JR. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 189.940
17 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal 189.913
18 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Black & Decker 189.827
19 24 JEFF GORDON Chevrolet DuPont 189.520
20 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 189.367
21 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Arctic Cat 189.268
22 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford 189.268
23 98 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love / Curb Records 189.261
24 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Taylor Swift / Target 188.851
25 2 BRAD KESELOWSKI Dodge Miller Lite 188.772
26 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 188.646
27 37 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet MaxQworkforce 188.633
28 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 188.600
29 78 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 188.370
30 19 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical / Crowne Plaza 188.173
31 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 188.147
32 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 188.055
33 14 TONY STEWART Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 187.859
34 191 Reed Sorenson Toyota Plinker Tactical / Crowne Plaza 187.761
35 195 Scott Speed Ford B&D Electrical 187.748
36 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 187.578
37 34 David Ragan Ford Client One Securities, LLC 187.474
38 38 David Gilliland Ford Long John Silver's 187.234
39 88 Regan Smith Chevrolet National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew 187.182
40 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 186.896
41 36 Dave Blaney+ Chevrolet TBR / TMone 183.773
42 32 Timmy Hill+ Ford Southern Pride Trucking / U.S. Chrome 183.624
43 79 Kelly Bires Ford Bestway Disposal / 187.285
Did Not Qualify
44 33 Cole Whitt Chevrolet Moon Shine Attire 186.877
45 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 186.027
46 26 Josh Wise* Ford MDS Transport 182.500

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 7 -- What's Up Is Down

There is no rhyme or reason to the 2012 season. Consider the AFC standings. Only two teams, the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans, both at 5-1 have winning records. They are two games out in front of any competitor. As karma would have it, they meet in Houston this weekend, but they'll still be leading the pack regardless with one team having a one game advantage over the the other.

It certainly looks like that team won't be the Baltimore Ravens who have looked sloppy so far this year despite their record and their defense has not been effective against the run -- a longstanding Baltimore strength. The unthinkable happened in their squeaker of a win over Dallas last week, their leader, linebacker Ray Lewis, tore his tricep muscle and is surely out for the year as is Ladarius Webb, their top corner back with a torn ACL. The bye for week eight won't come soon enough for Baltimore -- who could conceivably just go 5-5 for the rest of the year and still make the playoffs. They still haven't faced Pittsburgh, a team that sure seems to have gotten old in a hurry.

Finally the Washington Redskins have something to brighten their future with QB Robert Griffin III. For a rookie quarterback, he's generating a lot of excitement and the Skins are getting harder to count out of any game.  

We'll give our picks for the week, but even that endeavor is way off so far. We're about 10 points down from our typical results in most years even suffering a losing week last week.

Seattle at San Fracisco (-7)
The surprise Seahawks will give the 49er's all they can handle with the Niners prevaling.

Baltimore at Houston (-6.5)
Our heart picks the Ravens, but this one goes to Houston.

Tennessee at Buffalo (-3)
Buffalo is impossible to predict but Tennessee is starting to get some firer.

Cleveland at Indianapolis (-3)
Here's a good game for Andrew Luck to gain confidence beating the miserable Browns.

Washington at New York Giants (-6.5)
Too soon for their young QB to beat the defending champs, this one is the Giants.

New Orleans (-3) at Tampa Bay
A smile in a downer season for the Saints.

Dallas (-2) at Carolina
It's time for Cam Newton to rise up and beat the 'Boys. 

Green Bay (-6) at St. Louis 
In their dramatic win over Texas, the Packers showed the fire that seemed absent all year. They'll handle St. Louis with ease.

Arizona at Minnesota (-6)
The Vikings are one of this year's pleasant surprises. They'll handle this one.

NY Jets at New England (-10.5)
The Patriots will feel like their old nasty selves versus the Jets. Will this be the game Tebow gets moved in?

Jacksonville at Oakland (-4)
Far from home, the Jags probbly don't have enough juice to beat the Raiders.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Cincinnati
Neither team is as good as last year, but the Steelers should handle the Bengals.

Detroit at Chicago (-5.5)
When will the Lions show up in 2012?  The Bears go this one.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Okay, it's not because we argued vehemently that the Orioles would finish last at the beginning of the season that this site has not had more to say about the Orioles' success, it's more how to express happy disbelief.

We celebrate how the team did a complete turnabout converting 93 losses to 93 wins and winning three games in the post season giving the dreaded Yankees all they could handle in the ALDS.  With no big household names, but certainly some emerging stars, the Orioles scratched, clawed, and hit a lot of home runs just like in the days of Earl Weaver. The Orioles won with their one star through their darkest days all but out for the season, Brian Roberts. The second longest suffering Oriole, Nick Markakis was injured for most of September.

There are absolutely stars on the rise. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are on the verge of greatness. Promoted from Double A, Manny Machado, solidified defense at 3rd base and showed a knack for clutch hitting. Finally, the Orioles farm system is producing quality players again.

Also, this is a team that won 93 games without a true #1 starter. They won with a full house. Three Jacks and a pair beats an ace any day. Evidently not even the Yankees have a pair of aces.

If the Orioles are to play championship baseball, they probably do need some more talent starting with a #1 starter. They require more from their existing starter candidates. Dylan Bundy could be an ace in the future but he's at least a year away.

Congratulations to the Baltimore Orioles (and our sympathies to the boys down the street, the Washington Nationals).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 31 -- Home Sweet Home

Perhaps it’s only just that the Sprint Cup tour should stop at Charlotte after racing in Talladega last week. In a sport where every week is a road trip, Charlotte is the only time the Cup drivers get a home game. As if the “big one” wasn’t bad enough for the number of cars that were collected in the horrific last lap wreck and how many hopes for the season dashed, the news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will sit out at least the next two weeks ending perhaps his best chance in his career to run for a championship underscores just how frightening the Alabama track is as if memories of Carl Edwards crashing into the guard fence, horrible accidents involving Junior’s dad or the defining accident where Bobby Allison’s car jumped the fence hastening the era of restrictor plate racing aren’t all terror enough for a normal sports fan.

Talladega was a track built a little too soon. It pushed big bulky cars to their limits when it opened but as cars became lighter and more aerodynamic making speeds of over 200 mph, even faster than 210 possible, no track has made the darker side of racing more possible, and perhaps we are blessed that more horrors haven’t happened. The deadly consequences have been more frequent at its sister track in Daytona.

Let’s not forget as they buckle up for Charlotte, the IRL saw Charlotte as an attractive venue for Indy Car racing, but a track that allows more speed than car technology proved lethal with history repeating itself last year at a similar track in Las Vegas, the last on track event killing a popular driver. A Charlotte configuration works just fine for Sprint Cup at its current level of technology. No fan wants an IRL like event in Charlotte to be NASCAR’s fate in Alabama. That Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sports’ favorite driver, got his brain rattled should perhaps rattle a few brains among the NASCAR brain trust and seriously think about what options they have to improve safety concerns at Talladega. While tremendous advancements have made Sprint Cup racing much safer since Dale Earnhardt’s death at Daytona, February, 2001, drivers aren’t the only possible casualties at racing events. Many options are on the drawing board but none ever seem to be close to reality. The judgment is “We’ll just have to live with Talladega the way it is right now,” but the instant somebody is killed or gruesomely disabled such smugness will end. This is avoidable not inevitable.

As action approaches tomorrow night, the Chase for the Cup is pretty much a three driver competition between Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin. If any driver seems to own Charlotte, it’s Johnson. Starting 21st, Keselowski has his work cut out for him requiring brilliant pit strategy, patience, and opportunism to give him a fighting chance to build on his 14 point lead over Johnson.

This will be only Keselowski’s 7th race at the venerated speedway with only one top five, his last race in May. He’s only failed to finish on the lead lap once with an average 16.5 finish at the Carolina track.

Jimmie Johnson is absolutely dominant at Charlotte with six wins, ten top fives, and an average 11.8 finish. The consolation is Johnson has finished outside the top ten in his last four races in Charlotte with a 34th and 37th finish in his last two fall races. Johnson starts fifth, well-positioned to get back to his typical form at the track.

Denny Hamlin’s results at Charlotte are lackluster, with a 15th average finish, no wins, only two top 5’s and seven top 10’s, this is not one of Hamlin’s stronger tracks though he is no slouch on 1 ½ mile tracks in general. Hamlin starts 9th in good striking distance for a good evening of racing.

Regan Smith, shopping for a job for next year, starts 26th substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. While Earnhardt’s chance for a top ten finish this year are over, a respectable performance from Smith will certainly help Hendricks Motor Sports maintain its dominance in owner points as the sports’ team to beat.

Almost certainly, Tony Stewart’s desire to repeat as champ is over. He starts a horrible 32nd right in front of the trash heap. Does anyone wonder if he misses Darien Grubb, one of the three crew chiefs right in the thick of the battle for the championship. In 7th place,  46 points out, he’s racing for pride and next year.

The starting field is listed below with Chase drivers shown in CAPS. 

1 16 GREG BIFFLE Ford 3M / IDG 193.708
2 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 193.361
3 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans 193.251
4 15 CLINT BOWYER Toyota 5-Hour Energy 193.043
5 48 JIMMIE JOHNSON Chevrolet MyLowe's 192.995
6 56 MARTIN TRUEX, JR. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 192.919
7 17 MATT KENSETH Ford Best Buy 192.885
8 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 192.850
9 11 DENNY HAMLIN Toyota FedEx Ground 192.802
10 5 KASEY KAHNE Chevrolet Time Warner Cable 192.644
11 29 KEVIN HARVICK Chevrolet Jimmy Johns 192.637
12 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 192.561
13 24 JEFF GORDON  Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 192.212
14 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 191.666
15 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Scott Products 191.605
16 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Good Sam Club / Camping World 191.293
17 43 Aric Almirola Ford Smithfield 191.286
18 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 191.279
19 99 Carl Edwards Ford Kellogg's 191.245
20 2 BRAD KESELOWSKI Dodge Miller Lite 191.232
21 78 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 191.225
22 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target / Kellogg's 190.691
23 195 Scott Speed Ford B&D Electrical 190.691
24 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Pittsburgh Paints 190.617
25 34 David Ragan Ford Glory Foods 190.382
26 88 Regan Smith Chevrolet AMP Energy / National Guard 190.181
27 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 190.027
28 19 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical 190.027
29 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Best Buy 189.987
30 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 189.867
31 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 189.687
32 14 TONY STEWART Chevrolet Mobil 1 / Office Depot 189.587
33 98 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love / Curb Records 189.587
34 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 189.520
35 37 J.J. Yeley Ford MaxQworkforce 189.341
36 38 David Gilliland Ford Glory Foods 189.255
37 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 189.168
38 51 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 189.142
39 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 188.469
40 32 Timmy Hill Ford U.S. Chrome 188.225
41 93 Travis Kvapil+ Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 186.735
42 36 Dave Blaney+ Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 186.322
43 91 Reed Sorenson Toyota Aquaria USA 189.102
Did Not Qualify
44 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 188.937
45 26 Josh Wise* Ford MDS Transport 187.123
46 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 184.988
47 33 Cole Whitt Chevrolet Little Joes A 183.517

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NFL 2012: Week 6 - The Parody of Parity: Close Match-ups

No sport except perhaps NASCAR intervenes more to even up the playing field among competitors. In the NFL, there never could be a filthy wealthy New York Yankees overwhelming a marginally financed   Pittsburgh Pirates. Market size doesn't matter. Who wouldn't love to have the Pittsburgh Steelers fortunes. With salary caps and schedule tweaks, the NFL strives to keep things in some kind of balance, but nevertheless, there certainly are premium franchises where shrewd management and strong organization keeps winners on the field from year to year.  Certain teams are almost certain to be in the hunt when January comes around. Recent AFC history finds the Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers almost certainly in the playoffs as were the Indianapolis Colts until rebuilding time came around. In the NFC, recently the situation has been more tumultuous though certainly some organizations have been strong in recent years: Green Bay, the New York Giants, and Philadelphia.

This week almost every contest finds the odds makers going for less than a touchdown difference -- any given Sunday, the mighty can fall. Would anyone have seen the Indianapolis Colts beating the Green Bay Packers last week?  How about Arizona beating New England in week 2?

In this context, perhaps we're weaseling out on why our predictions are below our typical success rate so far this year especially against the spread!!!  Still we soldier on...

Pittsburgh (-5 1/2) @ Tennessee
The Steelers sure look like a sure bet here.

Dallas @ Baltimore (-3 1/2)
The still over rated and excessively hyped Cowboys will not walk away happy in Crab Town.

Oakland @ Atlanta (-9)
Atlanta is one of 2012's success stories. They'll prevail.

Cincinnati (-2 1/2) @ Cleveland
Cincinnati wins the first battle for Ohio in 2012. Cleveland cannot be taken for granted. They could pull the upset if the home crowd wakes up.

St. Louis @ Miami (-3 1/2)
Whoa, here's a tough call. Have to go with the fish in their own tank.

Indianapolis @ New York Jets (-3)
The Jets have been miserable so far this year but face an inexperienced but clearly enthusiastic team. On substance, we have to pick the Jets, but surprises could be in the wind.

Detroit @ Philadelphia (-5.5)
It's starting to look like Detroit's football revival was a short-lived phenomenon. They're not the guaranteed loser they had been for decades, but they're a team in turmoil and will lose to the tough Eagles.

Kansas City @ Tampa Bay (-3.5)
Toss up game. We pick the home team.

New England (-3.5) @ Seattle
Don't worry, the Patriots will prevail.

Buffalo @ Arizona (-5)
Arizona's not as good as their fast start but at home against the Bills, they'll do fine.

New York Giants @ San Francisco (-5.5)
The tables are turned this year. The Giants are struggling to look like defending champs against erhaps the team to beat in the NFC.

Minnesota @ Washington (-2.5 only one report)
Las Vegas didn't like this game and neither do we. We'll go for the home team, the Landover Maryland Redskins. (or is it Ashburn, Virginia?)

Green Bay @ Houston (-5.5)
The Packers face the toughest team in the AFC so far this year. The Texans have the edge.

Denver @ San Diego (-2.5)
Peyton Manning hasn't fully taken charge in Denver yet, but San Diego?  They're the ultimate under achievers. The Chargers should win, but this is another surprise in the makings.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: The Curse of Taladega

188 laps didn't matter. It all came down to the last lap. When it comes to restrictor plate racing, "the big one" is to be expected. We've seen cars dart out of an exploding scrap heap before to take the checkered flags, but when has one had so much riding on it as today's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500?

The impact is substantial. While the same three drivers remain noticeably ahead of the pack, the ground that must be overcome for other possible contenders with now just six races to go has grown to where all but a dominating winning streak and some misfortune for the top three narrows down possibilities to  wishful thinking.

Racing for the win, Tony Stewart's contact, a move for which he has taken full responsibility, with Michael Waltrip's car ignited the chain reaction that knocked  out most of the field with  Stewart finishing 22nd surrounded by Dale Earnhardt Jr. 21st and Clint Bowyer 23rd. Meanwhile others took quite a shot.

Here's what's left of the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase standings.

1 -- Brad Keselowski 2179   -
2 -- Jimmie Johnson 2165 -14
3 -- Denny Hamlin 2159 -20
4  2 Kasey Kahne 2142 -37
5 -1 Clint Bowyer 2142 -37
6  4 Jeff Gordon 2137 -42
7 -2 Tony Stewart 2136 -43
8 -- Martin Truex Jr. 2132 -47
9  2 Greg Biffle 2131 -48
10 -1 Kevin Harvick 2127 -52
11 -4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2121 -58
12 -- Matt Kenseth 2117 -62

Pity race winner, Matt Kenseth, for his is still the highest mountain to climb for the grand trophy or look at Jeff Gordon who finished second still having more than an entire race worth of points to make up. It's almost impossible to imagine today's two most fortunate drivers or Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the head table when it's all over in Las Vegas Recognize at -37 points in arrears, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer need to overcome more than six points a race to lead the standings, six positions ahead of their rivals in each race to come.

It was an ugly afternoon, and the comic image of Jmmie Johnson riding to the start/finished line in the window opening of the #88 car of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr hardly reveals the gravity each team must accept to get on with business going home to Charlotte for their next race. The cold chill of fall sets in as the days for a bountiful harvest slip away.

Brad Keselowski must hold off the most experienced champ in the business and another driver whose time for the sport's grandest reward has come so close but proven so elusive. For the rest of the field, the most perfect effort and planning in the world might not be enough to be a factor when the trailers roll into Homestead Florida late next month.

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 30 - The Curse of Talladega

Along with Dover and Martinsville, Talladega is one track on the Sprint Cup Chase circuit capable of totally shaking up the Chase standings -- between the consequences of a "big one," a multi-car collecting wreck or that getting out of the drafting "trains" at the end of the race, drivers' fortunes can fall to pieces in short order on the massive high banked 2.66 mile track. Looking at the standings of the twelve drivers in the Chase, the consequences are obvious.


1 1 Brad Keselowski 2142 Leader
2 -1 Jimmie Johnson 2137 -5
3 -- Denny Hamlin 2126 -16
4 2 Clint Bowyer 2117 -25
5 -1 Tony Stewart 2110 -32
6 -1 Kasey Kahne 2110 -32
7 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2103 -39
8 2 Martin Truex Jr. 2100 -42
9 -1 Kevin Harvick 2096 -46
10 2 Jeff Gordon 2094 -48
11 -2 Greg Biffle 2091 -51
12 -1 Matt Kenseth 2070 -72

32 points in arrears, the challenge is demanding for Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne who cannot afford any more mediocre finishes. They need to make up at around five unanswered points a race to hope to win a championship. The challenge is close to impossible for Dale Earnhardt Jr. needing six points a race. While it's too soon to call this a three car field, Keselowski, Johnson, and Hamlin look to further separate them from the rest of the field.  Past results would make this challenge look the most difficult for Hamlin. That both Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. have good restrictor plate results could be the perfect tonic to reignite their chase prospects.  Let's look at how they line up.


1 5 KASEY KAHNE Chevrolet 191.455
2 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 191.145
3 15 CLINT BOWYER Toyota 5-Hour Energy  191.119
4 14 TONY STEWART Chevrolet Mobil 1 / Office Depot 190.993
5 16 GREG BIFFLE Ford 3M / National Breast Cancer Foundation 190.955
6 24 JEFF GORDON Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 190.848
7 99 Carl Edwards Ford Subway 190.784
8 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane / Warriors in Pink 190.727
9 56 MARTIN TRUEX JR. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 190.662
10 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge SKF 190.628
11 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota Charlie Loudermilk Aaron's Dream Machine 190.465
12 88 DALE EARNHARDT JR. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard 190.427
13 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 190.419
14 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 190.393
15 17 MATT KENSETH Ford Ford Ecoboost 190.370
16 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet CertainTeed Insulation / Menards 190.332
17 48 JIMMIE JOHNSON Chevrolet Lowe's 190.298
18 43 Aric Almirola Ford Gwaltney 190.298
19 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 190.177
20 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt 190.170
21 29 KEVIN HARVICK Chevrolet Budweiser 190.113
22 2 BRAD KESELOWSKI Dodge Miller Lite 189.778
23 11 DENNY HAMLIN Toyota FedEx Freight 189.748
24 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate 189.740
25 34 David Ragan Ford MHP / 8 Hour Alert 189.616
26 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar  189.552
27 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target / Gillette 189.380
28 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 189.316
29 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 189.025
30 30 David Stremme Toyota 188.947
31 32 Terry Labonte Ford C&J Energy Services 188.794
32 38 David Gilliland Ford Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts  188.727
33 26 Josh Wise* Ford MDS Transport 188.649
34 98 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love / Curb Records 188.638
35 97 Timmy Hill Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 188.326
36 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 188.296
37 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 188.001
38 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 187.986
39 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral 187.460
40 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Scott / Kingsford / Bush Beans 186.991
41 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet 186.783
42 33 Cole Whitt Chevrolet Little Joes Autos 186.289
43 23 Robert Richardson Jr. Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 185.942