Martinsville Speedway is known for interesting races and shaking things up and today’s race didn’t disappoint. Chase drivers knew Sunday’s race could make or break their season and for some it did. Two drivers came out on top while one driver lost a dog in the fight.
For drivers twelfth through sixth in points all realistic hopes of a championship have disappeared in the last couple weeks. Wrecks, miscalculations and mechanical issues have left them on the outside looking in. Drivers include Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon. As Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty of ESPN might say, put a fork in them!
After Martinsville, Jeff Gordon, sixth in points, is 54 points behind the points leader. With three races remaining in the Sprint Cup season, there are not enough opportunities for drivers sixth through twelfth in points to climb back in the Chase and make a run at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
October 28, 2012; Martinsville, VA USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) does a burn out after winning the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE
Here are where the remaining Chase driver’s stand after Martinsville:
Denny Hamlin: Martinsville is one of Hamlin’s best tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit. Hamlin said he had to capitalize and get a win this weekend to have a real chance to win the championship. Denny Hamlin missed that opportunity and produce opposite results. After overcoming two speeding penalties on pit road, Hamlin couldn’t overcome a voltage issue that ultimately led him to repairs in the garage and a thirty third place finish. At the end of the day he came away fifth in the standings and 49 points behind Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin’s championship hopes coasted away when his car coasted to a stop on the race track Sunday.
Kasey Kahne: Kasey Kahne keeps finishing strong in a quite way. He finished third at Martinsville after running in the top 10 all day. Kasey continues to have solid finishes and still has championship hopes as he sits fourth in the standing and 29 points behind the points leader.
Clint Bowyer: Clint Bowyer ran strong all day as he raced Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon for the lead through out the race. Bowyer led over 150 laps and battled Jeff Gordon on the last lap for a fifth place finish. Bowyer leaves Martinsville third in points and still in the championship battle. He sits three points ahead of Kasey Kahne in the standings.
Brad Keselowski: Brad Keselowski started 32nd Sunday and had many peoples’ eyes on him through out the day. Many wanted to see if the young team could handle the pressure of starting near the rear and finish strong at a track where Keselowski doesn’t have a good track record. Brad slowly worked his way into the top 10 with pit strategy and patience through out the day. The two team proved they could handle the pressure of the Chase and finished sixth. Although they gave up the points lead, a sixth place finish proved that the team is not afraid to deliver results when pressure is applied. Keselowski has a good record at the remaining tracks and looks to run neck and neck with Johnson all the way to Homestead.
Jimmmie Johnson: Jimmie Johnson came into Martinsville with high hopes and capitalized in every way possible. Johnson started on the pole, led the most laps, got the win and left with the championship points lead. Johnson battled Gordon and Bowyer on Sunday for the lead but came away on top. With three races remaining, Johnson holds a two point lead over Keselowski and, with the experience of winning five championships, seems to have a leg up on Keselowski.