We're coming up on the halfway point in the Chase, and it's about time for anybody who wants to be a contender to step up his game. So let's take a look at what recent history can teach us at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The numbers over the last five races might just surprise you. Maybe it's the pressure of playing in front of a hometown crowd, but the Chasers aren't always at their best in Charlotte. Let's break it down:
1. Kyle Busch (average finish 4.8): Although he hasn't won, he's posted top-10 finishes in the last six races at Charlotte. And with nothing to lose, he can go all-out this weekend and see if he can make goodness happen.
2. Jeff Gordon (average finish 7.2): Here's a bit of a surprise; Gordon has run better than almost anyone in the field over the last few years at Charlotte. And he'll need all his mojo to close the gap on first place.
3. Kurt Busch (average finish 12.8): He won in the spring, but he's all but out of the Chase. He'll need another win and some ugly finishes by his competitors to have a hope at climbing back into this.
4. Matt Kenseth (average finish 14.0): "Average finish" could be Kenseth's middle name(s). He's got a 41st-place that skews this total, but still -- this is the most unsurprising total of the Chasers.
5. Jeff Burton (average finish 14.2): A win back in 2008 masks the fact that Burton hasn't run particularly well here of late. Not good news for The Senator.
6. Tony Stewart (average finish 15.2): Straight mid-teens finishes on down the line. Stewart's going to have to crank it up and exceed his limits this weekend.
7. Greg Biffle (average finish 15.4): A couple top-10s in recent races combine with some ugly low-teens and below finishes. Charlotte hasn't been kind to the Biff of late.
8. Clint Bowyer (average finish 17.2): He's coming off two top-10 finishes, but that's not going to mean much at this point. It's all about racing for next year (and for legitimacy) now for Bowyer.
9. Jimmie Johnson (average finish 19.2): This was a surprisingly low finish for the guy who drives the car that the speedway used to be named for. But this sample didn't include the run from 2003 to 2004 when Vader won five of six races at CMS.
10. Kevin Harvick (average finish 19.4): Another guy who needs a great finish but hasn't had one lately at Charlotte; he hasn't finished above 11th in the last five races.
11. Carl Edwards (average finish 20.2): Two low-30s finishes mar an otherwise solid record at Charlotte. Edwards is all but out of it, but he's not yet ready to concede. This weekend could do it, though.
12. Denny Hamlin (average finish 22.2): The time when Hamlin most needs to run well comes at a track where he's run the worst. He's finished no better than 11th in the last five races here, and he'll need to improve on that to have even a hope of reeling in Johnson.
So there you have it — the best in the 2010 Chase run the worst, and those who are out of it run the best. How's this going to play out this weekend?
- Charlotte Motor Speedway