Bristol met all expectations in bringing beating and banging, helmet throwing and Race to the Chase shakeups.
Only two to go, to determine who’s in and who’s out of the competition for the 2012 Sprint Cup championship.
So let’s talk about who is fizzling on the backstretch, who has a bubble about to burst and who is revving up their motors by cranking it up with their game on. Fizzling on the Backstretch
Two drivers, currently in the top-ten, didn’t improve their Race to the Chase performances with their Bristol results. Tony Stewart finished 27th and Matt Kenseth finished 25th after racing for the lead and both cars wrecked. Stewart dropped one position to 10th and Kenseth dropped two positions to 4th. Stewart is only 16-points from 11th-place wild-card holder Kasey Kahne. Even if Tony drops to a wild-card entry for the Chase, his three wins will keep him out of jeopardy in that competition. But here’s the rub for Tony; as a wild-card he would lose his win bonus points, keeping him in the top-four, when the Chase begins. As a wild-card, his best point position would be 11th, with no bonus points. So look for Stewart to turn on some heat in, at least, the next two races. What’s disturbing about both Kenseth and Stewart’s performances over the last eight races is their average finishes, with Stewart at 17.25 and Kenseth at 16.38. To be championship contenders in the Chase, they ‘ll need to pick up their performance.
The race for the #2 wild card, now finds Kyle Busch holding the coveted spot, giving him entry to Chase competition as of the eighth Race to the Chase. Although, he currently holds the spot, we could still see someone else in the mix with a very tight competition for the wild card entry. Currently there are five drivers with one win to their credit – Gordon, Ambrose, Kyle Busch, Newman and Logano. Another win from any of them, gives them the #2 wild card spot. Of these contenders, Gordon has the best Race to the Chase average finish at 10.13, with Logano at the worst with a 19.63 average finish. What’s interesting about this competition, is that Carl Edwards could snatch the wild card spot with just one win, as he sits in 12th position in the point standings. His average finish in the last eight races is at 15.25.
Bubbles about to Burst
Of the top-ten contenders, there are two with no wins for the season – Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. However, that is the only common point between the two competitors. Harvick’s Race to the Chase performance has not been what he needs to truly compete for a championship with an average finish of 14.63 in the last eight races. His finish at 15th in Bristol is on par with his average finishes and unless he steps up his game for the Chase, at this point, Harvick is simply in the Chase and not a factor for the duration of the competition.
Adding Denny Hamlin to this category, even though he won the Bristol race. Why? because of his Race to the Chase average finish of 13.88, which is even with #2 wild-card holder, Kyle Busch. Currently there are ten other championship candidates out-performing Hamlin. His win actually helped him in this regard, but with similar performance in the Chase, even his three wins putting him within the top-four at the start of the Chase, won’t be enough to compete for the title.
Looking at wild card contenders, it’s Logano in the position of being a non-factor even if he wins another race to gain entry to the Chase. His Race to the Chase performance is the furthest away from championship contention of all remaining potential candidates with an average finish of 19.63 for the past eight races. That’s not even close to competing for the Sprint Cup.
Turning it up with their Game On
Kasey Kahne has the best performance of all competitors in the Race to the Chase with an average finish of 6.13. He’s been the most consistent performer with four top-fives, two top-tens and two top-15’s. He’s the only driver with no finishes outside of the top-15 since Kentucky. His closest competitor is Brad Keselowski with an average finish of 7.63 and three wins to Kahne’s two wins. Kahne is currently a wild card holder and his best starting position as of now, is 11th with no bonus points to help him out. Keselowski will be among the top four and currently holds the #2 position when the Chase begins. But if either team keeps their mojo working into the Chase, they’ll be title contenders with the best of the best in the Chase.
Continuing to impress, Martin Truex Jr only lacks a win in the Race to the Chase. He currently has the third best performance in the last eight races with an average finish of 9.75. It would be great to see him win one of the next two races before the Chase begins, as he’ll need wins to earn a title in 2012.
The best performing wild card contender is Jeff Gordon with an average finish of 10.13 in the last eight races – Kentucky to Bristol. Of all the wild card contenders, Gordon has shown the best potential to truly contend for the championship and needs another win to seal the deal for the #2 wild card entry.
The Checkered Flag – Week 8 in the Race to the Chase at Bristol
Well that’s it for this week. The AdvoCare 500 will tell us more when all is said in done in Atlanta this weekend.
Your turn to tell us your analysis and predictions before the green flag waves in race #9 in the Race to the Chase at Atlanta.