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Chase Watch: History on Bowyer's side

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

Clint Bowyer has all but clinched the 12th and final spot in the 2010 Chase. However, there is one catch: Bowyer has finished 23rd and 29th, respectively, in the last two races at Atlanta, and if that trend continues – and one of the bubble drivers can notch a top-five this Sunday – Richmond will still be interesting.

With two races to go, here is how the field shakes out heading into Sunday's Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway:

[NOTE: The estimated average finish needed is based on the points total each driver needs in order to match the average number of points the 12th-place driver earned after race No. 26 in the 2007-09 seasons.]

12. Clint Bowyer

Points vs. 13th: +100
Average finish at remaining tracks: 13.3
Best remaining track: Richmond International Raceway (10.2)
Worst remaining track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (16.4)
Atlanta average: 16.4
Estimated average finish needed: 14th
Comment: It's clearly Bowyer's spot to lose now. The largest deficit ever made up with two races to go was 90 points by Kasey Kahne in 2006. The trailing drivers aren't close enough to take it away from Bowyer, but they are still within reach for Bowyer to hand it to them.

13. Jamie McMurray

Points vs. 12th: -100
Average finish at remaining tracks: 23.1
Best remaining track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (20.9)
Worst remaining track: Richmond International Raceway (25.2)
Atlanta average: 20.9
Estimated average finish needed: Second
Comment: No driver has been closer yet never qualified for the Chase than McMurray. He fell 15 points shy in 2004, was 12th back in 2005 when only 10 drivers qualified and now, barring a major choke by Bowyer, it looks like he'll come up just short again. That's unfortunate, because over the last two months McMurray has absolutely been a top-10 driver.

14. Mark Martin

Points vs. 12th: -101
Average finish at remaining tracks: 14.7
Best remaining track: Richmond International Raceway (12.0)
Worst remaining track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (17.3)
Atlanta average: 17.3
Estimated average finish needed: Second
Comment: Without question, Martin being on the outside looking in is the biggest surprise of all. Qualifying for the Chase was presumed to be a given for a driver with serious championship aspirations. The question now will be if he can rebound in 2011 or was 2009 his last best shot.

15. Ryan Newman

Points vs. 12th: -118
Average finish at remaining tracks: 14.7
Best remaining track: Richmond International Raceway (11.4)
Worst remaining track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (17.9)
Atlanta average: 17.9
Estimated average finish needed: First
Comment: Newman's been consistently average throughout the entire season. If he were to somehow squeak into the Chase, it would be solid evidence that 12 drivers are too many.

16. Kasey Kahne

Points vs. 12th: -126
Average finish at remaining tracks: 17.1
Best remaining track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (16.0)
Worst remaining track: Richmond International Raceway (18.2)
Atlanta average:15.2
Estimated average finish needed: First
Comment: Aside from McMurray, Kahne is probably the top candidate of those who could potentially capitalize on a Bowyer mistake. Kahne finished fourth at Atlanta earlier this year and while his recent history at Richmond is mediocre, he has won there.