Chase Scenarios For Auto Club
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By Peter Carcia
TheRacingExperts.com Lead Reporter
10/5/2010

Kansas brought us some major changes to the chase. A new, but unsurprising point leader, many comeback kids on the horizon, and once again one of the closest chases to date brought a lot for the always loyal Kansas fans to cheer about. With non chase drivers like Paul Menard and Ryan Newman getting good strides on Sunday, it all ended up to Mr. Sherwin Williams to get the crown for the second time this year. The 4-domin-8 has the point lead now however as we head to his best track on the chase circuit: No-Fans LandFontanaCalifornia.

            This is how I put things, if you are 200 points behind, you really don’t have a legitimate chance of contending. Eleven of the drivers, the one omitted being Clint Bowyer, are within that range. Here’s how they stand right now:

 

1.) Jimmie Johnson (5503 / Lead / +1) Once upon a time, there was a future legend in deep haste, but then, some of his yearly luck set in, and he ended up with two top 2’s in a row, and the point lead. Johnson, as I have said in the past, was able to get back in his usual form. Now we are going to the track where he has truly has shined, winning the last two events here in Fontana. Now normally, I would have gone on to start calling foul play and saying the inspections haven’t seemed to do their job and complaining like Rush Limbaugh, but instead, I’ve decided to give him four words: Congrats on number five.

  • Finished 2nd @ Kansas
  • 5.5 Average @ Auto Club
  • Won spring race

 

2.) Denny Hamlin (5495 / -8 / -1) Hamlin’s mediocre performances have now come back to haunt him. Ever since the chase has started, he has yet to make a significant spark in the run for the title. To make matters worse, he is in a track where he finished two laps down in 29th last time around. Right now, the only thing missing from Hamlin is the daring moves to the finish. He’s been a little too conservative. I’m okay with him saving the craziness for the first half of the race and all, but be warned, if he can get back the urgency of Richmond, he will be a tight one to handle with. Right now, it’s either a prologue of his usualMartinsville tango with Johnson, or he doesn’t have a chance.

  • Finished 12th @ Kansas
  • 18.2  Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 29th in spring race
  • Must finish 4 spots better than Johnson for lead

 

3.) Kevin Harvick (5473 / -30 / +2) From a driver that’s not listening to me to a driver that is. Happy Harvick finally got the groove back that got him the invitation to the chase. Now his deficit is down to 30, and now, we are heading to a track where only a slight tap of the wall kept him away from a fourth win back in February. He will need a good win now while everyone can expect it, because he still will have two weeks to deal with before he can go for a third consecutive restrictor plate win. My advice, stay in the hunt and not get too cocky about what’s three races ahead of you still.

  • Finished 3rd @ Kansas
  • 17.7 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 2nd in spring race
  • Must finish 9 spots better than Hamlin and 11 better than Johnson for lead

 

4.) Carl Edwards (5450 / -53 / +2) Edwards is in a good position as of right now. Keep in mind, we’ve still got seven races left to work with. With the good movements in the field and pure talent in him, I think all that’s missing is the sort of leadership and intensity that people believed got the Giants to upset their way to the Super Bowl (sorry Drew, I had to do it…) Momentum is what he needs, and momentum he can get if he just gets a good attitude. That to me is the secret recipe that will take him to victory lane.

  • Finished 6th @ Kansas
  • 7.2 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 13th in spring race
  • Must finish 9 spots better than Harvick, 16 better than Hamlin, and 19 better than Johnson for lead

 

5.) Jeff Gordon (5445 / -58 / +3) I suppose this will give him a boost after the terrible season he’s been having lately. Gordon has been good, but not good enough to be chase worthy. Now, we now he has the good purpose. Gordon has just as much of a chance as anyone. I think we can all agree that Gordon still has a long way to go, but he is still in a heated battle.

  • Finished 5th @ Kansas
  • 10.9 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 20th in spring race
  • Must finish 5 spots better than Edwards, 11 better than Harvick, 18 better than Hamlin, and 21 better than Johnson for lead

 

6.) Kurt Busch (5433 / -70 / -2) Positions 3-7 had sort of a flip flop happen in the points in Kansas. Harvick, Gordon, and Edwards had stellar days to bring them up, but the Busch brothers were far from it. Kurt was the one who just had a bad day of the two. There weren’t many things he got riled up in, but all in all, Kansas just didn’t like him. Hopefully, he won’t have days like that anymore, and with 70 points separating him from the title, his lifelines are gone.

  • Finished 13th @ Kansas
  • 12.2 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 6th in spring race
  • Must finish 5 spots better than Gordon, 7 better than Edwards, 15 better than Harvick, 22 better than Hamlin, and 25 better than Johnson for lead

 

7.) Kyle Busch (5423 / -80 / -4) Psh, so much for championship form… Looks like my thoughts were fluke. He got in a battle with Reutimann, and he got dumped in the process, leading him to finish 21st, and the only driver to not finish no the lead lap. Whether Reutimann was being a whiner or not, these things just can’t happen when the drivers already hate you. Kyle has now lost that momentum that he had before, and now we are back to 2008. Make no mistake, he has a legitimate chance, but that should never happen again. As crew chief Dave Rogers put it in the All-star race: “Easy fellas, we have a championship to win.”

  • Finished 21st @ Kansas
  • 10.8 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 14th in spring race
  • Must finish 5 spots better than Ku. Busch, 9 better than Gordon, 10 better than Edwards, 18 better than Harvick, 25 better than Hamlin, and 28 better than Johnson for lead

 

8.) Greg Biffle (5418 / -85 / +1) I told this forum that this was Biffle’s best chance at a win, and look at this, Biffle is back in the hunt-well, sort of. He does have a win under his belt, but he was in a pretty big gap coming in, meaning that this race is even more critical. He hasn’t been the best here in Fontana, but he has won before. Could he make it two in a row? Possibly. He has the guts, the movement, and the momentum, now all we need is the machine that uses it.

  • Won @ Kansas
  • 16.8 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 10th in spring race
  • Must finish 3 spots better than Ky. Busch, 6 better than Ku. Busch, 10 better than Gordon, Edwards, Harvick, Hamlin, Johnson for lead

 

9.) Jeff Burton (5376 / -101 / -2) If you are looking for the guy that fell while Greg got up, well, here he is. Jeff had an all out terrible day last week and he is now out of that 100 point green zone that means you’re still in decent form. Now, his chance to come back is firm in this track, a place where RCR was doing very well last February. Burton has a good chance to gain on others, maybe not the lead, but he can get a few points back from other drivers.

  • Finished 18th @ Kansas
  • 16.7 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 3rd in spring race
  • Must finish 7 spots better than Biffle, 8 better than Ky. Busch, 12 better than Ku. Busch, 16 better than Gordon, 17 better than Edwards, 25 better than Harvick, 32 better than Hamlin, and 35 better than Johnson for lead

 

10.) Tony Stewart (5376 / -127) Tony getting a top 5 in Kansas meant that he did get some dead weight off his shoulders after disappointing outings in the mile-longs. Fourth place and the 10 bonus points, I’d say that was a good day overall. It’s not enough to bring him back into contention, however, and that is the key. Tony is going to need more than just one good finish to return into minds, and hopefully, Stewart will be able to step up to the challenge.

  • Finished 4th @ Kansas
  • 14.9 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 9th in spring race
  • Must finish 10 spots better than Burton, 15 better than Biffle, 17 better than Ky. Busch, 20 better than Ku. Busch, 24 better than Gordon, 26 better than Edwards, 34 better than Harvick, 39 better than Hamlin, and 41 better than Johnson for lead

 

11.) Matt Kenseth (5354 / -149) Kenseth got a bit of a lift when he finished in the top 10 in Kansas, but Matt has a long way to go. He can get the finishes correctly, now it all depends on trying to simply do better than the guys in front of him the most. This will make it easier to pass everyone when the time comes. Let’s be honest, though, it will be hard to do that with the talent that this chase field has. Even if Kenseth finishes up top here at one of his best chase tracks, this will be anything but a challenge.

  • Finished 7th @ Kansas
  • 9.1 Average @ Auto Club
  • Finished 7th in spring race
  • Must finish 9 spots better than Stewart, 9 better than Burton, 23 better than Biffle, 24 better than Ky. Busch, 28 better than Ku. Busch, 32 better than Gordon, 33 better than Edwards, 39 better than Harvick, and 42 better than Hamlin OR Johnson for second place. Kenseth can not clinch first in this race.

After we finish with the long intermediate track in CaliNASCAR will take the green at the racing capitol of the world, Charlotte Motor Speedway. Until then, I’ll see you on the track.