The NASCAR regular season is 1/2 over and it appears that the top seven drivers have their space reserved for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Unless there is a record setting string of bad luck these drivers should make it. The drivers from eighth on back have some work to do.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup consists of the top ten drivers based on points at the end of the regular season plus two wild card spots. The drivers who get those wild card spots are the two drivers who are in the top 20 but not in the top ten that have the most race wins and most points.
Tony Stewart has two race wins and is currently eighth in points. He will make the chase either by staying in the top ten or certainly the wild card based on his two race wins.
Kyle Busch is currently ninth in points and in the chase. He has one win but can not rest on his laurels. If he drops out of the top ten there are a bunch of drivers with only one win.
Clint Bowyer had a great race at Dover and moved up two positions in the standings to tenth. He does not have any race wins to fall back on and must continue having races like Dover to stay in the top ten. He really could use the insurance of a race win.
Brad Keselowski is currently 11th in the standings only five points out of the top ten. He is the first driver not in the top ten who has two race wins. He is assured a wild card spot unless someone out of the top ten gets more race wins.
Carl Edwards had a disastrous Dover race and dropped out of the top ten in the standings. Right now he is the poster child for why you should not only have good finishes to be in the top ten in points but also race wins in case something happens. Although he is only 15 points out of tenth place he would not make the Chase because he does not have any wins.
Ryan Newman has one race win and is the top driver in points with one win. He will make the Chase unless the drivers above him win a race. He needs to have better finishes to get into the top ten or more importantly get a second win. This would give him the insurance that Brad Keselowski currently has.
Kasey Kahne has been coming on strong the last few weeks. He not only moved himself back into the top 20 in points but also won a race. If he were to finish better than Ryan Newman he would get that last wild card spot. It is still possible mathematically and realistically for him to get into the top ten in points by the end of the regular season as it is for all the drivers mentioned above.
Jeff Gordon has had a dismal year in spite of some great cars and great runs. He has not been able to finish races well if at all. Mathematically he could get into the top 10 in points but he would have to finish 7 positions better than all the other drivers from tenth on back every week from here on out. The only way Jeff Gordon can make the chase would be for him to win races. He needs to win at least two races and possible three if one of the other drivers mentioned above win another race.
This analysis seems to indicate that for the drivers mentioned above the reward for winning races far exceeds the reward for simply having good finishes. Hopefully this will show up in more on track passing, action and drama. The next thirteen NASCAR races should be good ones especially if one of these drivers can string together some race wins.
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