The Chase for the Sprint Cup has just three races left, and this weekend the championship contenders visit Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, November 4. While no drivers have been mathematically eliminated yet, the cuts will come following Texas - these five drivers will likely still be in contention after the event and will fight it out in the final two races of the season.
Jimmie Johnson - HOT - Johnson took over the points lead following his win at Martinsville, but his advantage is just two points. His advantage at Texas gives him the fourth- best driver rating (100.6) of the drivers in the Chase - but the three drivers ahead of him (Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart) are long shots in the Chase at this point. Johnson has one win and 13 top 10s in 18 races at Texas, with an average finish of 9.7.
Brad Keselowski - HOT - Keselowski lost his points lead to Johnson, but was happy with his sixth-place finish at Martinsville. At Texas, Keselowski and the Blue Deuce have some catching up to do - his average finish is 25.3, and his best finish is 14th; in April, he finished 36th. Keselowski is hot in the Chase, but needs to work on Texas.
Clint Bowyer - LUKEWARM - Bowyer is 26 points back of Johnson, but has six top 10s in the first seven Chase races. At Texas, Bowyer has seven top 10 finishes in 13 races, including a runner-up finish in the April 2011 race. In April of this year, Bowyer finished 17th at Texas, but in his last four races, that is his only finish outside the top 10 there.
Kasey Kahne - LUKEWARM - Kahne is 29 points out of the lead, and has five top 10 finishes in the Chase. Early in the season, when Kahne was struggling, his luck turned around at Texas Motor Speedway, finishing seventh - it started his climb from 31st in points to a wild-card spot in the Chase. Kahne has a win at Texas - in the spring of 2006 - and five top 10s in 16 races there; during last year's Chase, when Kahne was the hottest driver not in the title hunt, he finished third.
Denny Hamlin - NOT - Hamlin's drop from third to fifth in points following a dismal finish at Martinsville put him 49 points behind leader Johnson - not yet eliminated, but a tough battle back to the top. Hamlin has eight top 10s in 14 races at Texas, including two wins, so he'll be a top contender this weekend, but is it too little, too late for the 2010 championship runner-up? It probably is.
Source: "Statistical Advance: Analyzing the AAA Texas 500," NASCAR Media, October 29, 2012
Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.