Scenarios for Bristol

File:BMS-Front Grandstand.jpg

By Peter Carcia
TheRacingExperts.com Reporter


  Three races to go until the chase. 468 points from now until Richmond is the cushion you can gain or lose. Surprisingly, only one driver up to this point has clinched the position. Point leader Kevin Harvick, who received his first non-restrictor plate race win last week in Michigan, looks well in contention to getting into the title.

            So, what are the doubts for this year’s regular season leader? History. For the last four years of Johnson’s rule, the point leader going into the chase (if used in the non-chase format) did not hold the punch to get the cup. Even with more than 300 points separating first from second, the leader has seemed to collapse once the top 12 reset, and Kevin Harvick has plenty of experience collapsing his game when you least expect it, after last year’s dismal finish.

            Some of the recent winners at this track have been in slumps coming into this race. The winners here for the last two years, Johnson and Ky. Busch, have been relatively quiet since their previous wins. With four weeks and three races until the chase however, now is not the time to sit back. It is time to reboot and get back into the dominating mode we’ve grown custom to when these drivers are on the world’s fastest half-mile. Hopefully for Kyle, he’ll be able to gain momentum if, more like when, he wins the truck and n’wide races.

            This race at Bristol is not however the race for people to clinch, but the race to have on the bubble drivers falls out of contention. Pay attention to that last column below. The bottom seven has struggled inThunder Valley. This is now crunch time for these drivers. Meanwhile, in 12th position, something the standings rarely see; a 200 point gap from 11th. With 35 points separating Clint Bowyer from being kicked out again, he now holds a target right on his back bumper. 12 drivers below him are still in safe spots, but for some, he needs to end up on the 43rd position as many times as possible, something Bowyer is only prone to do in Nationwide Series action, but not here.

            It’s not that simple though. Take a look at Joey Logano for example. He might not have been here many times before, but Logano has failed to finish the race twice in the tree events he’s run here. This lays a problem with 228 points separating him from 12th. He needs to win one event with the 12th place guy falling before the start and parkers (see what I mean), even that, he still needs to get back roughly 80 points, meaning he needs to be spotless, and make sure Bowyer does not finish, while making sure none of the 8 guys between him and 12th aren’t any better.

            This is the norm for every driver more than a race’s worth of points behind, which is from 18thdown to 24th. With many drivers in front of you, it is hard to communicate and make sure you get every last point available to clinch the chase. This is exactly what we saw last year in Richmond. When Kyle Busch had a decent finish and was looking good to gain the few points he needed to reach 12th, he failed to account for that guy in 14th called Brian Vickers, who just squeezed into the chase, knocking off two favorites (Busch and Matt Kenseth) and taking 12th all for himself.

            So ultimately, these situations separate the contenders and pretenders. With so much to gain and everything to lose, it will all come down to that simple consistency that lets people come back from the madness.

 

            3 drivers have a legitimate chance to reach 12th Saturday night.

13.) Mark Martin (-35): Must finish 11 spots better than Clint Bowyer.

14.) Ryan Newman (-103): Must finish 35 better than Bowyer and 24 spots better spots than Martin.

15.) Jamie McMurray (-105): Must finish 36 spots better than Bowyer, 25 better than Martin, and 1 better than Newman.

*Note: these numbers do not imply bonus points and / or penalties.

 

            That being said, the bottom 2 is in desperate mode:

23.) Paul Menard (-356): Must finish 16 places better than whomever ends up 12th after Bristol.

24.) David Ragan (-472): Needs to win AND get the most laps lead, while 12th place is last and has lead no laps.

 

Rk.

Driver

Pts

2Chase

2Next

2Lead

Starts

Wins

Top5

Top10

Avg Bristol

1

Kevin Harvick

3400

+680

0

0

23

3

11

16

12.2

2

Jeff Gordon

3107

+387

-293

-293

23

0

10

13

11.7

3

Denny Hamlin

3047

+327

-60

-353

23

5

9

10

12.4

4

Tony Stewart

3020

+300

-27

-380

23

0

6

13

16.5

5

Jimmie Johnson

3014

+294

-6

-386

23

5

8

12

15.0*

6

Carl Edwards

2986

+266

-28

-414

23

0

5

12

13.4

7

Jeff Burton

2986

+266

0

-414

23

0

4

12

17.9

8

Kyle Busch

2975

+277

-11

-425

23

2

5

11

10.1

9

Matt Kenseth

2961

+263

-14

-439

23

0

5

9

12.7

10

Kurt Busch

2935

+237

-26

-465

23

2

8

13

13.2

11

Greg Biffle

2913

+215

-22

-487

23

1

5

13

11.0

12

Clint Bowyer

2755

+35

-158

-645

23

0

3

11

18.0

13

Mark Martin

2720

-35

-35

-680

23

0

5

7

12.9

14

Ryan Newman

2652

-103

-68

-748

23

1

2

6

18.2

15

Jamie McMurray

2650

-105

-2

-750

23

2

6

8

19.3

16

Kasey Kahne

2629

-126

-21

-771

23

0

5

7

21.1

17

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2626

-129

-3

-774

23

0

2

6

11.4

18

David Reutimann

2590

-165

-36

-810

23

1

4

4

22.4

19

Juan Pablo Montoya

2582

-173

-8

-818

23

1

5

10

20.4

20

Martin Truex Jr.

2548

-207

-34

-852

23

0

1

6

23.6

21

Joey Logano

2527

-228

-21

-873

23

0

2

9

33.0

22

AJ Allmendinger

2499

-256

-28

-901

23

0

1

4

29.8

23

Paul Menard

2399

-356

-100

-1001

23

0

1

3

23.2

24

David Ragan

2283

-472

-116

-1117

23

0

0

1

24.0

*won spring race

 

             My predictions:

  1. David Ragan will continue to lose any 2008 momentum left in him and drop out of contention.
  2. Paul Menard, who has also lost his touch from his peak early in the year, will also drop out of contention.
  3. AJ Allmendinger, who only needs to have a consistent run this week to stay in contention, drops out also due to a wreck.
  4. Mark Martin, although he and Clint Bowyer have swapped the 12th place position for much of the year, will loose ground after a wreck.
  5. DNQed drivers: #92 Brian Keselowski; #55 Michael McDowell; #35 Jeff Green; #38 Tony Raines; #26 TBA; #07 TBA; #4 Kevin Lepage
  6. Top 5: 5.) Tony Stewart; 4.) Jeff Gordon; 3.) Matt Kenseth; 2.) Kyle Busch; 1.) Jimmie Johnson

 

            So those are my thoughts on this week’s race. We have a week off from action next week, but the next stop is Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Emory Health Care 500. Until then, see you at the track.

 

 

I'm thinking of this, and if you want, have a similar setup for the top 35 race as well.