As we close in on the halfway point of the 2012 Nascar Sprint Cup Season, and with a return next weekend to regular oval track racing, It’s time to do some analysis. Where do some of these drivers stand, and who is probably going to be on the outside looking in after Richmond?
Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota is a driver that I think is in trouble. After dropping two spots on Sunday with a 22nd place finish at the Save Mart 300, Truex is currently in ninth place in the standing, 76 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. He has a 30 point lead over 10th place Brad Keselowski, but with the engine problems that seem to be plaguing Toyota this season, he has no room for error.
With a point system that punishes DNF’s, and no wins on the season so far, he is dangerously close to the wild card positions where he would be a deer in the headlights for the likes of Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman, all with at least one win.
After a 6th place finish at Sonoma and a move up the board to 18th, Jeff Gordon continues to lurk. If this were anyone but Jeff Gordon, we would have written him completely off a couple of weeks back, but he is truly a wild card. We all know he is the one driver back there that can string some wins together, especially with the tracks coming up. I don’t think it’s possible for him to make up the points difference and make the top ten, but if he’s already had all the bad luck he is going to have this season, he’s certainly capable of two or three wins.
Kasey Kahne is the big mystery. Dude had bad luck for a while, made a run that looked like he was back, but has fell back the last few weeks. At this point, like Jeff Gordon, I don’t think he can make the top ten, but with his streaky driving style and the Hendricks bunch in his corner, a couple more wins are not out of the question.
Joey Logano needs needs at least one more win, and some help from Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards. Carl has struggled all season, and being win-less would give Joey the spots needed to maybe get close. With the series going back to Michigan and Pocono very soon, and let’s not forget, Logano ran well at Daytona, I think Joey has a chance to make some more noise.
Another mystery is Kyle Busch. Kyle usually gets multiple wins early in the season, then hangs on all the way to Richmond. Three blown engines and only one win on the year so far is mind boggling. With the bulk of his career wins coming at Bristol and Richmond , all of which are on the schedule prior to the chase, I think you can pencil him in, but it might be close.
Marcos Ambrose needs some wins. He runs well week-to-week, qualifies well, but can’t seem to close the deal. I’m not sure if it is his lack of knowledge on the ovals or lack of equipment that keeps him from a win. I’m not sold on the fact that Richard Petty Motorsports have the resources for him and Aric Almirola to compete for wins. With both drivers having no top 5′s on the year, and only six top 10′s(Ambros having 4) I think the answer is no.
Paul Menard and Ryan Newman are in trouble in my opinion. Menard is looking forward to Indianapolis where he scored his only win, but like the Petty cars, he has trouble running for wins. Newman has one win, but seems to be struggling this season. I’m just wondering if his mind is in the middle of Silly Season with sights on another ride. JGR perhaps?
Carl Edwards has stayed close to the top ten all season by virtue of 2 top 5 and 8 top 10 finishes coupled with only 1 DNF. If he doesn’t get a win pretty soon, I think he is also in trouble. He’s had a couple of wins at Michigan and Atlanta(both on the schedule prior to the chase)where he could get that needed win, but I almost think Carl is lost on the season. Not being able to win down the stretch last season, and losing the championship to Tony Stewart may have disrupted his confidence. Something just isn’t right with the 33 year old driver from Missouri.
All of the drivers 1-8 are safe. With a 44 point lead over 11th place, 8th place Denny Hamlin with 2 wins on the year is going into some tracks where he has had success and is in no danger of falling out of the chase. The only thing that could disrupt these guys are DNF’s.
I’m looking forward to this summer stretch and think by the time we get back to Bristol for the August race, the top ten will be pretty much set. The only questions will be the Wild Cards.
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