Well, Richmond is over and now we head forward to the final 10 races of the season. If last year was any indication of how the playoff system is suppose to work, we’re definitely in for a treat this season. I mean, who would have thought that Jeff Gordon could actually make the Chase for the Cup?
Sep 8, 2012; Richmond, VA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers pose for a Cup Chase contender photo after the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
Denny Hamlin will head into Chicago with the number one seed. He sits atop of the seeding for the Chase by three points over second place. He has four wins that came at Phoenix and Kansas, and most recently two consecutive victories at Bristol and Atlanta.
“Five Time” Jimmie Johnson looks to rekindle his championship magic from 2006-2010 this year. He will begin the Chase in the second seed just three points behind Hamlin and tied with third and fourth seeds with just three wins and thee points ahead of the fifth place seed. Johnson dominated and then claimed victory at Darlington and Dover and was there when it counted to win the Brickyard 400.
Tied for Johnson in wins and points comes the third seeded Tony Stewart. Smoke is the defending Sprint Cup Series Champion after winning his third title last season ending Johnson’s streak of five consecutive championships. While the overall performance of Smoke this year has been rather disappointing it still isn’t as poor as it was before barely making the Chase last year where he went on to win 5 of the Chase races to claim the title. This year his three victories come from Las Vegas, Auto Club Speedway, and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Tied with Johnson and Stewart is the fourth seeded “Bad” Brad Keselowski. Brad K of course comes into the Chase with controversy. But that is good for the sport. His three victories were earned at the Food City 500 at Bristol, Talladega, and Kentucky. He along with Johnson and Smoke hit sits ahead of the fifth seed driver by three weeks.
Greg Biffle sits fifth in the Chase before Chicago and is determined to prove everyone wrong and that he is in fact a series contender to win the Sprint Cup Championship this year. He finished the regular season in first place and twelve points over Dale Earnhardt Jr. He has two victories this season (Texas and Michigan). Both of his victory came after he passed Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps of the race.
Biffle is tied via points and wins with Clint Bowyer who is the sixth seeded driver in the Chase. Bowyer has put Michael Waltrip Racing on the map and has proven they can compete with the big boys. Bowyer earned his first victory at a road course and with his new team at Sonoma Raceway and then earned the victory this past weekend at Richmond.
September 02, 2012; Hampton, GA, USA; The sun sets behind turns one and two during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE
In a season of career highs, Dale Jr loses his second place spot in the standings falling back to the seventh seed with only one victory. It was the victory many expected to come this year to snap his long winless streak. It finally came in June at Michigan. He has been the most consistant driver this season and until the second race at Pocono was the only driver who finished every lap this season. Many believe Steve Letarte has his driver poised to truly contend for the Championship this year.
The eight seed belongs to Matt Kenseth who also has one victory this season. He won the Daytona 500 this year but has kept rather consistant which was the key to his 2003 championship. However with the new points system adopted after 2003, he needs to find victory lane to win this year’s championship. Despite the success this season, Kenseth will be leaving Roush-Fenway Racing to join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.
Despite the dark cloud over him, Kevin Harvick earned the ninth seed this year. Since the return of Gil Martin as his crew chief, Harvick has began to turn things around.
Closing the Chase field that earned spots via points is Martin Truex Jr. Many thought his winless streak would have ended this year. He has come close, but just hasn’t been there to win it in the end.
The two wildcards belongs to a driver who definitely earned it and a driver who defied the odds and made the Chase against all of the odds. Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Kahne earned two victories this season after a rough start to his Hendrick Motorsports career. Gordon earned one victory and was in no contention to make the Chase. He finished well over the thirteen spots over Kyle Busch to earn his spot in the Chase. Gordon said if he managed to make the Chase that he would bring back the stache’ from the 1990s and assured he’s a man of his word!