In getting ready for Sunday’s action at the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR , I started to ponder the Sprint Cup points standings, and was trying to decide who needs to step up at the newly paved Pocono Raceway, in order to make The Race For The Chase.
The first step in trying to figure out who was on the bubble, I first had to decide where the bubble was located, think it starts with Tony Stewart who is currently in 8th position, 79 points behind points leader Greg Biffle, and continues through to Paul Menard who is 122 points behind.
Why Does The Bubble Start At Tony Stewart:
The gap between Kevin Harvick who is in seventh place, and Tony is 33 points. It would take some really bad finishes and a couple of DNF’s for any of the top seven drivers to not make the chase. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are the only three in the top seven who don’t have a win on their resume’s in 2012, but have a 70% rate of finishing in the top ten every week. Dale Jr. has 10 top 10′s in 13 races, and Truex has eight.
The only driver in the top seven who has more than one DNF is Jimmie Johnson, and with two wins under his belt in the last three points races, is not going to digress any time soon. Everyone else in this catagory has at least one win and I don’t see them falling far enough to slide out of the chase picture.
Although I don’t feel like last years Sprint Cup Champion will miss the chase, he has had some bad luck of late, and has gotten himself far enough behind the leaders to warrant concern. His two wins at Las Vegas and California will keep him eligible for Wild Card consideration should he slide further. We know how he finished last season, but with a new crew chief, can he overcome a second season of mediocrity with another miracle run?
Why Does The Bubble End With Paul Menard:
Joey Logano, who is currently 15th in the standings, 136 points behind Greg Biffle, is 14 points behind Paul Menard. With no wins in Sprint Cup competition this season, and only four Top 10′s, I think he would have to “Slice a lot of Bread” to climb over the drivers in front of him. With a 14 point gap between himself and Paul Menard, I don’t think Joey has a legitimate chance of making the chase.
The only reason I have Paul Menard at the end of the bubble is, 14 points seperate him from Logano, and he is only two points out of 13th place. Although he has only three top 10′s on the year, he has no DNF’s, and with Carl Edwards falling like wounded duck, this has to give Menard some hope. After all, Indianapolis, the track where he secured his only career Cup win, is coming up on the schedule soon.
The only driver in the rear view mirror who has the talent to put on a miraculous finish, is Jeff Gordon. He would however, need at least two wins, and a whole lot of Good Luck to make this years chase. The “Season From Hell” would have to make a big turn around this Sunday in Pocono.
The two drivers I think are in trouble, and hovering around the cut line are Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards. Bowyer needed the fifth place finish he got at Dover last weekend to climb two spots into tenth place. This was his first top 10 since Talladega, where he finished sixth. He will need some more of these types of performances to hold off a hard charging Kasey Kahne.
Carl Edwards has had 8 top 10 finishes this year, but only two top 5′s. This, coupled with no wins, puts Carl in danger of slipping out of the picture. He finished 26th at Dover after blowing a tire, and hitting the wall in turn two, dropping him out of the top ten for the first time this season. Wins are hard to come by for Carl Edwards, as was evident at the end of last season where if he had won a race, he would have won his first championship.
With two wins and seven top 10′s at Pocono, Sunday would be a good time for Carl Edwards to turn his season around and mount a charge back into the safety of the top ten.
Since early season Bad Luck that would somewhat mirror Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne looks to have turned the corner on a good first season at Hendricks Motorsports. Coming off his win at Charlotte, and being in the top ten in finishes for every race since Texas in early April, I see Kasey continue his march northward in the points standings. In fact, I am predicting that he will finish the pre-chase schedule inside the top ten in points. With one win at Pocono and 5 top 10′s, I see that march starting Sunday afternoon.
In the current Wild Card battle, Brad Keselowski would hold the advantage over Ryan Newman by virtue of having two wins versus one. Unless Ryan kicks himself in the pants pretty soon, I don’t see him making the chase.
With the new surface at Pocono this weekend, I think it becomes a wild card in itself. Even after two days of testing, that first charge into turn one Sunday will be a crap shoot to say the least. The notebooks on this new setup are pretty thin, and teams will need some time to sort out the variables. Pocono will, if anything start to define the chase picture as we head into the summer season. We should have a real indication of who will have a chance, and who won’t on Monday morning.
Photo Courtesy Getty Images For Nascar
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Topics: Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart