Chase Tracker – The Contenders after Pocono

The Race for the Chase is on and it’s go time for competitors. Who will crank it up with their game on and who will fizzle on the backstretch?

 

Five to go and counting in the Race to the Chase. The competition is heating up for some and for others the Pocono rain is fizzling on their parade.  

Fan4Racing provides post-Pocono analysis and predictions for the Chase based on Race to the Chase performance from the wild card contenders, as well as the current top-ten chasers. 

 
Analysis includes, who’s fizzling on the backstretch, who’s bubble is about to burst and who’s cranking it up with their game on. 

Fizzling on the Backstretch
Hardest hit of the Chase contenders – top-ten – this week is Kevin Harvick, fizzling down three positions in the point standings.  He currently sits ninth in points just three points behind Denny Hamlin in eighth-place and only one point away from tenth-place contender Clint Bowyer. Hamlin also lost three positions this week but has two wins to bolster his position when the Chase begins. Also, Clint Bowyer has one win which will place him ahead of Harvick when re-seating occurs in September. Harvick remains winless this season and a win would bolster his position as he heads around turn 3 in the Race to the Chase.
 
#18 crew survey the damage at Pocono
Photo – Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Taking a hard hit in the wild card Race to the Chase this week is Kyle Busch, losing four positions, he now ranks 15th in the point standings. With only one win this season and a not-so-good day at Pocono, Busch now finds himself chasing a wild card spot again. 

Right now Busch, Newman and Logano, need another win in the next five races to gain the #2 wild card spot currently held by Gordon. Newman has the edge over Busch and Logano with his 14th place points position and a cushion of 12 markers. However, if Busch gets a second win he’ll take back the #2 Wild Card spot. The real question is, of the four of them, which one will get the second win first?

Joey Logano’s 13th-place finish at Pocono was not enough to boost his chances for the Chase. Although he has one win under his belt, his 17th place position in the point standings puts him on the outside edge. Another win would put him back into the mix, but with an average finish of 15th in the past five races, he’ll need to also find some consistency in the top-five to contend in the Chase. 

 
Bubbles about the Burst
As the Chase looms ahead, two current contenders, along with Harvick that really need a boost in performance are Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.  Both were in the mix at Pocono, but the last wreck of the race impacted their final results, leaving Kenseth finishing in 23rd and Biffle in 15th. Going down the stretch and into the Chase, they really need to be getting more wins and top-fives on the board. Both have a one win, but top-15/20 finishes do not bode well for their championship contention. 

Clint Bowyer’s 8th-place finished at Pocono slightly helps his positioning, but again the name of the game right now is wins and top-fives to chase a title. 

Edward’s Fastenal car at Pocono
Photo – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Chasing a Wild Card, Edwards also slightly helped his chances with an 8th-place finish at Pocono, but with no wins this season, he needs at least two wins in the next five races to have a shot. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? If he can get on a hot streak, who knows? His current 12th position gives him advantage right now if he can do it. 

In a similar position, with no wins this season is Paul Menard. He finished 11th at Pocono, but it’s not going to be enough to make the Chase without wins. What Menard does have in his favor is that over the last five races, his consistency is surprisingly out-performing current Chase contenders, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. His recent results also out-perform his wild card competitors with the exception of Newman. But Newman needs one win to Menard’s two to gain a wild card. 

 
Cranking it up – Game on  
Bet a lot of you are thinking top contenders are Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and perhaps Dale Jr…right? They are in the mix and will definitely be contenders with top spots when the Chase begins. But looking at most recent performance in the Race to the Chase, they are surprisingly not the top contenders. 

Stewart did crank it up this week with a top-five finish, but Junior’s 32nd-place finished at Pocono put a chink into his string of consistency. Both Stewart and Junior now have average finishes of 12th in the Race to the Chase. 

Although Johnson currently holds the top spot with re-seating in September, his recent results are not currently working in his favor. Shockingly Johnson’s average finish is 13th with a 35th at Daytona in July and 14th at Pocono this past weekend. He needs top-five/three finishes to contend for his sixth title.

Brad Keselowski
The 2012 Champion?
Photo – John Harrelson/Getty 

Cranking it up in the Race to the Chase are Kasey Kahne – two wins – and Brad Keselowski – three wins. Both have average finishes of 5th, with Kahne just slightly ahead of Keselowski. Based on their most recent performances, these two have their mojos in gear with championships on their minds. 

With Re-seating in September, Keselowski holds a three-win advantage and at this point he holds the 3rd-place seat at the start of the Chase, while Kahne currently holds the top Wild Card spot at 11th.  
   

The two strongest wild cards last week, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon are the epitome of the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory respectively. Gordon not only took over the wild card spot from Busch but is also third on the list of top contenders for a championship in the Chase. Gordon has truly cranked it up with his win at Pocono and an average finish of 6th in the Race to the Chase. 

Another driver to watch in contention for the Chase is Martin Truex Jr. This is going to surprise some, because he is currently out performing Dale Jr, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin with an average finish of 9th. Currently winless this season, what Truex needs to bolster his performance are wins.  

For the Wild Card, watch Ryan Newman, who’s slightly out performing Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin with his average finish of 12th.  His finish of 6th at Pocono certainly gave him this slight advantage. Now he just needs some wins to improve his chances of making the Chase.
 
Checkered Flag  – Week Five in the Race to the Chase at Pocono
In summary, it’s going to take at least top-five performances to make the Chase and contend for a championship. Those riding the edge, need even better performance with wins. Those with mojos in gear are riding a high wave right now. Will they be able to catch another high ride in the Chase for the title? It’s going to be fun finding out as the Race to the Chase continues on the way to a Championship in Homestead.  

Next up is the final road course race of the season at Watkins Glen International.  That should shake things up a bit.

That wraps it up for Race to the Chase week five analysis. Your view is always valued, so sound off and give your analysis and predictions in the comment section below.