The NASCAR Sprint Cup regular season is starting to wind down with seven events remaining before the Chase. The current Top 10 seems to be all but a sure thing with 10th place Brad Keselowski 46 points ahead of 11th place Carl Edwards. So then, the only battle left is the two wildcards positions; though, it gets a bit convoluted from there.
Kahne & Kyle
The wildcard spots are drawn from the 11th through 20th spots and awarded to whoever has the most victories. If there's a tie among wins, then it reverts back to their points position. Right now Kasey Kahne leads with two wins while sitting in 12th overall. The other wildcard would be Kyle Busch who has one victory but is 13th. Two other drivers, Ryan Newman in 14th and Joey Logano in 16th, each have a victory but Kyle is ahead of them in points.
Edwards is 11th but does not have a win in 2012 and would be on the outside looking in. Victories are oh so important. The only reasonable way for Edwards to grab a wildcard spot is simply to win. And that's what this race to the Chase is all about … wins.
First, let's realize that the top seven drivers in the point standings would have to be hit by a meteor to not make the Chase - and they are: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. Unless something quite unusual happens, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski are in - that gives you the Top 10. Now, let's take a look at the last seven races of the regular season to see if we can get a glimpse at who might snag a victory or two and win the wildcards.
Who's in - who's out
Carl Edwards sits 11th and normally, he might feel somewhat confident what with tracks like Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen and Richmond coming up where he has done well in the past. But two things are working against him right now. One, Cousin Carl hasn't won yet this year and has only one Top 10 over the last seven just completed races. Two, he just lost the only crew chief he's ever had in Cup, Bob Osborne, who stepped down for undefined health reasons but is staying on in the Roush Fenway organization (source - Sporting News). This can't bode well for Edwards and adds to a stunning turn-of-events from last season's near-championship run.
Kasey Kahne is 12th in points and has two victories this season. Except for a couple crashes, he's been one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR since April. Atlanta is really the only track coming up where he has consistently done well at (two wins and two poles including last year). He looks solidly in at this juncture but will likely be angling for another victory to make sure he doesn't get knocked out of his current wildcard position.
What jumps out to me is Kyle Busch. He already has one win this year and his style of all or nothing looks good when you look at tracks like Watkins Glen where he has a win, two poles and no finish outside the Top 10 over the last six races. At Bristol, Kyle has five wins since '07 and at Richmond, he has four wins in the last seven events. On the surface, Kyle Busch has the best chance to make the Chase and currently has the second of two wildcard spots as it stands.
Ryan Newman is 14th right now with one win under his belt but needs good finishes and probably another victory to snatch one of the two wildcards. He has only two Top 10s dating back to his victory April 1st at Martinsville. But those two Top 10s were the past two races. Although he's never won there, Bristol looks like a possibility for a win what with three poles at the fast half-mile facility. It will be tough from this point on for the 'Rocketman'.
Slim or no chance
Paul Menard is 15th - his chances look dim, having no victories and only four Top 10s all season. Joey Logano is 16th with one win. Another victory might be enough to get him in but none of the tracks coming up appear to be good places for Logano's quest to make the Chase and keep his job at Joe Gibbs Racing. He doesn't have a victory this season but Jeff Gordon seems to be the only other driver who looks legitimately like he has a shot at the Chase. Gordon had four wins at Indianapolis including a second place last season and then there's Atlanta where he's won five times including last season's race. No time like the present for Gordon to get some wins.
None of the other drivers including Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton and the two Earnhardt Ganassi cars of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya have much of a chance at this point of the season, though Ambrose and Montoya will be threats for a win at Watkins Glen.
Realistically, Edwards, Kahne, Busch and Newman are where we should be watching the battle for the wildcards. If I had to handicap the race to the Chase, Kahne and Busch should win out for the wildcards.
Source - NASCAR, Racing Reference
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus for several years has blogged about every type of racing.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Kyle Busch
- Kasey Kahne
- Carl Edwards
- Ryan Newman
- Brad Keselowski
- Joey Logano