Stat Science: 2012 Brickyard 400
Photo by Paul Stirckland Jr. / TheRacingExperts.Com
Casey Mears and the No. 13 team are in jeopardy of falling outside Chase contention.
By Peter Carcia
Only seven races left now until the 2012 Chase is green in the windy city, and after drugs are confirmed with a major contender and more small caliber teams seal their fate, the window of opportunity for drivers get smaller and smaller. So let's take a look at what's at stake for drivers this week.
As always, we have two "magic numbers" to set the field. This shows the amount of points that are available to lose or make up on the Chase field, both theoretically with the standard 48 points that can be made in one race and realistically with the start and park drivers taking over the bottom few spots, in which we estimate creates only 39 points of leway in any given race. So with seven to go, the magic numbers are...
336 & 273
With this amount of leway involved in the series, this means that with 613 points for 10th place man Brad Keselowski, a driver theoretically needs 277 points to stay in the race this week, meaning that 31 drivers, all the way down to Travis Kvapil, are still in it. But let's focus on that realistic barrier where we see a better sight of the field. now that the leway is lowered to 273, a driver would actually need 340 points right now to be in the field. This cuts the field down to 27, leaving Travis Kvapil, David Gilliland, David Ragan, and Mark Martin who's limited due to a part time schedule, out of contention.
So who's on the chopping block this week? With next week's magic number being 234, having 379 points is a better place to be when you're on the lower side of the stick. This leaves the two teams driving for the more "up and coming" teams in the Sprint Cup Series: Casey Mears and the Gecko driving for Germain Racing have their work cut out for them, currently with 358 points, 21 out of the basement. So, the boys need to finish better than 23rd to better ensure their safety, or else they'll have to spend the fall months working on Casey's "secret sauce." Meanwhile another driver who is in the hole is Regan Smith with Furniture Row Racing, who are only two points out of the cutoff. As long as something catostrophic doesn't happen, they should be good for this week, but keep in mind that anything is possible. Not to mention that AJ Allmendinger is still technically in the race for the Chase with 400 points, but obviously since his B test came back positive, he too is pretty much out of the show, leaving us with the opportunity to bring the Chase field down to 24 drivers. That's right, when we head into Pocono, we might only have to cut the field in half by season's end.
Keep in mind that Kurt Busch is only 7 points ahead of the cutoff and Bobby Labonte is 29 points ahead, so look for them to be on the block next week. Plus, in case anyone is curious, point leader Matt Kenseth has a 140 point lead on eleventh place in the standings, so it'll take a while before some drivers can get locked into the show still.
Meanwhile, a win by Kasey Kahne last week in New Hampshire has completely shifted the outlook of the wild card race. With Kahne's second win of the year he's enstilled a better shot at taking one of those positions, currently 12th in the points and 66 points behind 10th place. Making up more than a race and a half's points is tough when you've only got seven races to do it, but it's certainly possible.
But with Kahne's new found power this means that the other drivers eligible for a wild card spot are scrambling for solutions. Three drivers, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano are right now in position for the 12th spot in the Chase with one win each: Busch in the lead with 545 points, Newman nine points behind Busch and Logano in the rear back 12 points. With 12 points and thus 12 positions on the race track separating them, it's still anybody's game. All they can pray for though is that Brad Keselowski stays in the top 10 and that Carl Edwards continues his winless streak, because if one of those things don't happen, all three of them would be wiped out of legitimate contention.
We still have a long way to go before Richmond, but make no mistake; many drivers are on the clock.