By admin | August 5, 2013
By Richard Allen
The Chase for the Sprint Cup cutoff will take place after just five more races. The series will hit Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond before the ten race playoff to determine the 2013 champion begins.
So with that said, what ten drivers will make the Chase based on their standings in points? And, what two drivers will qualify to make a championship run as wildcard invitees?
Here are my thoughts:
1. Jimmie Johnson: Leading the standings by 77 points over second place and with four wins, he could take probably take the next five races off and still be included in the Chase field, but he isn’t going to do that. So these next few races will serve as a ‘test and tune’ as well as an opportunity to add more bonus points by winning more races.
2. Clint Bowyer: He hasn’t won a race this season, but he has accumulated enough points to get himself into the Chase barring a major meltdown over the next five races. He needs to pick up a win or two somewhere along the way so that he won’t have such a big deficit to overcome once the playoff begins.
3. Carl Edwards: If you looked away from the standings for a few weeks and then took a peak just now, it might seem a little surprising that Edwards is 3rd. He does have one win from all the way back in the second week of the season, but his six top-5s and 11 top-10s have been very quiet ones. He’ll be in the Chase but he needs to find more strength that will allow him to run up front more often and possibly even win another race along the way if he wants to be a real contender.
4. Kevin Harvick: He is 4th in the standings and has snared two wins in 2013 despite having led only 36 laps all year. He is currently 76 points ahead of 10th place in the standings which virtually assures he’ll make the Chase. So like the two drivers ahead of him, he needs to find that something extra that will allow him to run up front on a weekly basis before the playoff begins if he wants to be a serious contender.
5. Matt Kenseth: He may only be 7th in the standings but his four wins give him and his team plenty of flexibility as they prepare for these next five races. Like Johnson, he can essentially test and tune with an eye toward adding more bonus points before the playoff. The whole Joe Gibbs Racing organization showed surprisingly little strength in these recent races on flat 2.5 mile tracks. But there are no more flat 2.5 mile tracks on the schedule, but there are plenty of ‘cookie cutters’ remaining. And that’s where Kenseth has been at his best all year.
6. Kyle Busch: He is 6th in the standings but has two wins to lean on in case of emergency down the stretch. He has been somewhat inconsistent this year so his goal over the next five races needs to be finding more of that. He’ll make the Chase, but after that, he needs to improve on his performance in that playoff. Over the course of his career, he has been a bit of a disappointment when it counts the most.
7. Kasey Kahne: He is 8th in the standings, but like Kyle Busch, he has two wins to fall back on should he need to use a wildcard to make the Chase. But my prediction is that he will not need that as he will be inside the top-10 five weeks from now. He also needs more consistency if he hopes to challenge for his first Sprint Cup title.
The seven drivers listed above will definitely make the Chase for the Sprint Cup based on their point totals, in my opinion. The real intrigue between Watkins Glen and Richmond will come from the battle to claim the final three points spots and the two wildcard positions.
The following drivers will emerge from that battle with those coveted spots:
8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: NASCAR’s most popular driver has no wins and he needs to get that monkey off his back. Unlike Kenseth, Busch and Kahne, who are actually behind him in the standings, he does not have a fall back position as of now should he need a wildcard. However, he does have a 57 point advantage over 10th place in the standings. As a result, he would have to suffer at least two DNF’s to fall out of the top-10, and that’s not likely to happen to Hendrick Motorsports equipment. He’ll make the Chase, but he needs to become a regular in the top-5 rather than the back end of the top-10.
9. Jeff Gordon: The four time champion is 9th in the standings with no wins. Despite his disappointing loss on Sunday in Pocono, he and his team have been running much better of late. He will find a way to make the Chase. Whether he’ll contend once he gets there or not is another question.
10. Brad Keselowski: He’s on the outside looking in from the 12th spot in the standings with no wins, but he has some favorable tracks coming up over the next few weeks. The defending champion and his Penske Racing team will find a way to get into the top-10, if not even win a race before the cutoff.
If the ten drivers listed above are indeed the ones who make the Chase based on their standings in the points, then the race for the two wildcard spots will be an intriguing one. The two wildcard invitations go to drivers between 11th and 20th in the standings with the most wins. Point totals serve as a tie breaker.
Currently, there are three drivers between 11th and 20th with one win. Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr. and Ryan Newman fit that description. Also, Greg Biffle has one win and is currently inside the top-10 in the standings. Since I did not pick him as one to be within the top-10 at the cutoff, he will be considered for a wildcard spot.
Here are my picks:
Tony Stewart: He’s been up and he’s been down, but he’ll get a wildcard spot. And as he showed us a couple of years ago, all he needs to do is get in it to win it.
Greg Biffle: His one win along with the points advantage he has over Truex and Newman will get him the final wildcard spot.
So there they are. These are the 12 drivers I’m picking for the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Who are you picking?
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