Currently in 12th but only six points off 10th, he is probably one driver that should be in the top 10 and with wins but bad luck or poor strategy has cost him dearly. Still there is no doubt that he is the surprise package of the season and if he can make the Chase he will be the only single car team to do have done so. Fresh off the media storm over his move next year to SHR he has reiterated his desire to leave the 78 with a bang and a top 10 finish. He can certainly do this at Atlanta, a track he’s got three wins at and 13th being his worse finish there in the last four races. He even managed to achieve the 13th with a smaller team last year when he was at Phoenix Racing so he knows how to get the job done. A good result at Atlanta is probably vital as his Richmond results are very up and down. A 9th earlier in the season but two 28th place finishes last year and a 5th place finish before that. A win at Atlanta could seal a Chase spot but if he doesn’t get a top 10 finish there his season will probably come to an end.
A perennial fan favourite who once again is causing them all to pull their hair out in frustration over his Chase chances. Currently in 13th with no wins, his saving grace is that in this crazy season he is only 13 points outside of 10th. Of course last season he left it late but did have a win by this point in the season. But Atlanta is a track that Gordon knows well with 5 wins, his last in 2011 and a second place last year. Like Kurt Busch Richmond has been a mixed bag in recent years but take heart Gordon fans as his second race is usually his strongest race, an 11th earlier in the year with a 2nd and 23rd last season and a 39th and 3rd the year before. If he stands any chance of making the Chase he needs to repeat that run. Without a win I can’t see him making the Chase, but then again I said that for most of last year and he sneaked in at the end, so never write him off, just don’t put any money on it!
Martin Truex Jr
Sitting in 14th place and 22 points off 10th the likelihood of him making an automatic spot is unlikely, but the win he got at Sonoma is crucial as it means he currently occupies the first wildcard spot. A 4th place last year at Atlanta would be a result I’m sure he would take now, and a 14th and 12th the years before shows that he can run well there. But his form at Richmond is disappointing, a 17th place earlier in the season and a 21st and 25th last year are results that he can ill afford to repeat. As if he wasn’t up against it already news that he has broken a bone in his wrist and will have to wear a cast for the next few races will not help his cause. His closest Chase rivals are probably Biffle and Logano the drivers with one win who could slip outside the top 10. Strangely if he can’t win then he’ll want those two to run well and make sure that they don’t fall outside the top 10.
In 15th place and 26 points away from 10th, like Truex Jr it will be very unlikely he’ll make the Chase as a top 10 finisher. Instead he will be relying on his win at Indianapolis for a wildcard place. Atlanta has never been kind to him, an 8th place in 2010 is his best finish in 15 seasons. Richmond is no better, although he does have a win there that was back in 2003, with a 15th in the earlier season race. He had an 8th and 15th last season and an 8th and 20th in 2011 but these results wont see him leap up the rankings. He will be another one whose focus will be on Logano and Biffle and willing them to do well. But if any of the other contenders take a trip to victory lane it will be Newman that loses out and the chance to leave SHR on a high will end.
After all that, out of the drivers mentioned who do I think will make the Chase? I think that the automatic spots will go too Kahne, Biffle and Keselowski with Logano and either Kurt or Truex Jr taking the last wildcard (I know choosing two is a cop-out but I think that Kurt can get his first win of the season at Atlanta). Of course I am usually wrong with my predictions and if any of the above takes a win this weekend it will probably all change! So do you agree with my analysis and who do you think will squeeze into the Chase?