The Wild Card race - Talladega - is over, and now there are just six races left before a Chase champion is crowned in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. Next on the schedule: NASCAR's "home track," the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Are there still 12 drivers in contention for the title, or have the first four races in the Chase taken their toll on some of the drivers? These five Chase drivers are at varying levels of "hot" and "not" at Charlotte.
Jimmie Johnson - HOT - Johnson has six wins at Charlotte, along with 14 top 10s in 22 races. Last week at Talladega, he got caught up in "The Big One," finishing 17th; Johnson still sits second in points, 14 points back - well within range of the leader with six races to go.
Brad Keselowski - HOT - Keselowski still leads the Chase following his seventh-place finish at Talladega - his worst finish of the Chase so far (two wins, sixth and seventh). His consistency is making things difficult on Johnson and the rest of the Chasers, as drivers get good finishes but continue to fall behind. Keselowski has one top five finish in six races at Charlotte - and that was back in May.
Kasey Kahne - HOT - Kahne was also collected in "The Big One," but pulled off a 12th-place finish at Talladega and managed to move up one spot in the standings. However, at 36 points back, fourth looks like it might be the cut-off point for contenders at this stage of the game. Going into Charlotte, Kahne has four wins in 17 races, the most recent one coming in May.
Jeff Gordon - LUKEWARM - while Gordon continues to make up for his 35th-place finish in the Chase's first race with three-straight top three finishes, he has made little movement in actual points: while he has moved from 12th to sixth, he's still 42 points back of Keselowski -nearly a complete race's-worth of points. Gordon has five wins and 21 top 10 finishes in 39 races at Charlotte, so chances are good he'll continue with the recent string of high finishes, but if Keselowski continues on his streak, there will be little chance of any more movement.
Matt Kenseth - NOT - even though he made it through the carnage at the end of the Talladega race and won, Kenseth is lodged in 12th place in points, 62 points back. While a comeback is possible, it's not probable. At Charlotte, Kenseth has two wins and 14 top 10s in 26 races, with an average finish of 14.2; he finished 10th in May, but 10th won't help make up for his first three Chase finishes of 2012: 18th, 14th and 35th.
Source: "Statistical Advance: Analyzing the Bank of America 500," NASCAR Media, October 8, 2012
Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation