Sprint Cup - Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup Field Taking Shape
DAYTONA BEACH, Sept. 2, 2011: Two races remain before the complete 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set, seedings and all.
Six drivers have clinched a Chase spot in some fashion. Kyle Busch, five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards have locked up top-10 spots. Kevin Harvick (three wins) and Jeff Gordon (two wins) both have clinched, at the least, Wild Card spots; both will likely cement top-10 berths in Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After race No. 26 at Richmond International Raceway, the top-10 drivers in points will fill out the first portion of the 12-driver Chase. Spots 11 and 12 go to drivers outside the top 10 with the most victories, provided they are in the top 20. The Wild Card tiebreaker is points position.
Regarding bonus points for victories: Only the top 10 will get them. Once the Chase field is set, all 12 drivers will have their points reset to 2,000. Then, for those in the top 10, three additional bonus points will be tacked on for each win during the 26-race “regular season.”
Sunday’s race in Atlanta will likely further shore things up. The “magic number” for Atlanta is 49. Leaving Atlanta, any driver with a 49-point lead over 11th place clinches a top-10 Chase spot (Note: If the driver in question owns the tiebreaker over 11th of best-finish, that magic number shrinks to 48.). Here are the clinch scenarios going into the weekend…
Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon: Both 93 points ahead of 11th, Harvick and Gordon can guarantee a top-10 spot with at least a finish of 40th; or 41st and at least one lap led; or 42nd and the most laps led.
Ryan Newman: Currently 73 points ahead of 11th, Newman can guarantee a top-10 spot with at least a finish of 20th; or 21st and at least one lap led; or 22nd and the most laps led.
Kurt Busch: Currently 60 points ahead of 11th, Busch can guarantee a top-10 spot with at least a finish of seventh; or eighth and at least one lap led; or ninth and the most laps led.
Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. (39 points ahead of 11th) and Tony Stewart (21 points ahead) can both mathematically reach that 49-point threshold but would need help. No specific finish guarantees a spot.
There are Wild Card clinching possibilities for this weekend, but all depend on finishes from various competitors on Sunday.