Chase Tracker for the Sprint Cup – Chicagoland

Chase Tracker for the Sprint Cup begins with the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway

Here’s the rundown on what’s going on with each of the Chase contenders and the Best of the Rest.

For this analysis, Chase drivers are ranked based on their performance in the last ten races leading up to the Chase – a.k.a. The Race to the Chase. The Sprint Cup Chase Tracker begins with positions 18-13 for those contending for the “Best of the Rest” top position.

Be ready for some interesting revelations…

The Best of the Rest

Joey Logano had his one win as the only bright spot keeping him in contention for a wild-card spot throughout the Race for the Chase. Of the 18 drivers in this analysis, Logano came in dead last with a less than stellar ten-race performance since Kentucky and an average finish of 20.50. But with his 2013 plans decided, is he ready to step it up?

Carl Edwards is the guy coming closest to taking the title from 2011 champion, Tony Stewart. Edwards actually has followed up in 2012 with a disappointing season and his ten-race performance since Kentucky is slightly better than Logano’s with a 17.50 average finish.  Even searching for a bright spot in the last five races, Edwards has only one top-ten finish with a sixth-place finish at Michigan. With the pressure off his shoulders, will Edwards use the Chase to setup his 2013 title run?

Ryan Newman brings the first interesting revelation in analyzing the last ten races leading up to the Chase. His average finish of 16.00 is slightly better than his teammate and boss, Tony Stewart at 16.30. Newman, who is currently 15th in points, could be a contender for the Best of the Rest, but with only two top-tens in the last five events, he’ll need to step up his game. Consistency is what Newman needs the most. 

Marcos Ambrose is certainly one to watch throughout the Chase as he is currently the strongest contender for the Best of the Rest with his performance in the last five events of the Race to the Chase. His average finish for that period is 8.60. And are you ready for this one? Ambrose has the best five-race average finish of all 18 Race to the Chase contenders. At the very least, he has a great chance to set up his team for some great momentum in the 2013 season.  Go for it Man!

Kyle Busch was in a good position to gain the #2 wild-card spot, but with his performance throughout the last ten races, Gordon had him beat by quite a bit with an 8.50 average finish compared to Busch’s 13.30. Busch, however out performed Gordon in the last five races with an average finish of 9.60 versus Gordon’s 11.20. Busch is still not performing as well as Ambrose in the last five races, but look for him to contend for the Best of the Rest.

Paul Menard is another surprise as a wild-card contender in the Race to the Chase, against his competition. Menard has the next-to-the-best, ten-race wild-card performance – only exception is Gordon.  His average finish of 13.00 is still not in the championship range per se, but consider this point. Throughout the Race to the Chase, Menard out performed four of the current Chase contenders, with three of them carrying at least one championship title with their name. More to come with this revelation – see next four Chase contenders. 

The 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders
Photo David Yezell – SpeedwayMedia.com

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Contenders

Tony Stewart has certainly been in this position before, as a come-from-behind-to-win-the-championship contender. But did you know there are only two wild-card contenders with a worse performance over the last ten races?  Stewart’s average finish of 16.30 ranks above Logano’s and Edwards only – all others rank ahead of him. While Stewart is playing head games with those out performing him by talking about his experience advantage, he’ll do well to step up his performance in the next ten races.  We all know he’s capable of doing just that! But keep a watchful eye on Tony’s “Smoke” screen masking his performance.  In the last five races, Stewart has one top-ten and three finishes worst than 30th. But, keep in mind, he also has the best performance of all active drivers at Chicagoland.

Matt Kenseth has seen a lot of disappointment over the last ten races with results not necessarily matching his race runs. His average finish ranks ahead of Newman, Stewart, Edwards and Logano at 16.00. His slight edge over Stewart, is that he has three top-ten finishes in his last five races, showing some positive energy that will help him and his team in the next ten events.

Jimmie Johnson is certainly another big surprise in the Race to the Chase with a ten-race average finish result of 14.30, ranking him above Kenseth. But even more surprising is his last five race average finish of 15.80.  His finishes of 3rd at The Glen and 2nd at Bristol are certainly bright spots, but he also touts a 27th at Michigan, 34th at Atlanta and 13th at Richmond. To win his sixth championship he’ll need to perform with a better average finish in the Chase races. Perhaps, he’s just lying low building up his reserves for the final ten races.

Kevin Harvick may not have any wins to his credit in 2012 yet, but he ranks ahead of the three previous champions with his ten-race average finish of 13.20 and he’s moving at least in the right direction with his last five races average finish of 12.20, albeit still not what’s needed to win a championship. He’ll need to pump it up with more top-fives and some wins in the next ten races to be a better title contender going forward. It’s “Go” time!

Denny Hamlin is at the at the top of the list as the Chase begins and certainly has some positive mojo working in his favor with two wins in the last three races. But his ten-race average finish is 13.00 and ironically so is his five-race average finish. His finish of 34th at The Glen is the most damaging in the last five races, but those wins are counting big time, at the right time, heading into the Chase. He seems ready to go for it!

Dale Earnhardt Jr is having a great season and Junior Nation is ready to cheer him on, which is the encouragement needed with his low points. Junior’s average finish during the Race to the Chase falls in at 12.40 and his five-race average finish is the same as Hamlin’s at 13.00.  Again, it was his 28th-place finish at The Glen that hurt the most in the last five races. Dale Jr has one top-five in that time and that includes a top-ten as well.  He’ll need more of those in the next ten to contend. Keep cheering Junior Nation – this could be Dale Jr’s year!

Greg Biffle’s ten race average finish lines up at 11.90 while his five-race average is at 10.00 moving him in the right direction going into the Chase. His worst finish is 19th at Bristol with a 15th at Atlanta. He offsets that with a win at Michigan, a 9th at Richmond and 6th at The Glen.  He’s knocking on the door of making some history in 2012, but he’ll need to notch it up going into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Clint Bowyer is on the move in the right direction, building some momentum as he prepares to race in the Chase at Chicagoland. Winning at Richmond gives him and his team some great vibes for contending with his peers. To illustrate just how well this MWR team is stepping it up – Bowyer’s ten-race average finish is 11.70, but his five-race average finish is 9.20. This 2.5 point variance is truly a huge difference and gives Bowyer and his team the motivation they need to continue the push for more in the next ten races. 

Martin Truex Jr needs to hang with his teammate and pick up some of his positive energy to keep his title hopes moving along in the right direction. Truex has impressed in the Race to the Chase’s ten events with an average finish ahead of everyone mentioned so far at 10.30. But his five-race average finish falls to 11.20 with his 21st-place finish at Richmond. But don’t let that fool you too much, because Truex backs up his five-race performance with an 11th at Bristol, two 10th-place finishes at The Glen and Michigan and a 4th-place finish at Atlanta. No wins yet, but in the last ten races, Truex has out performed all but three. 

Jeff Gordon may have been a wild-card contender, but his ten-race performance is below only two other competitors with an average finish of 8.50. With a five race average finish of 11.20, one would think Gordon would have plenty of reason for concern. Definitely, his 21st-place finish at The Glen, followed by a 28th at Michigan was what really kept Gordon sleepless for a few nights. But his three top-threes in the last three races, including a 3rd at Bristol, and 2nd’s at Atlanta and Richmond give Gordon and his team tremendous momentum in their drive for five for this year’s Chase. 

Kasey Kahne has performed well throughout the last ten races with an average finish of 8.40, just slightly ahead of Gordon. And just like Gordon his five race average finish is headed in the wrong direction at 12.00. With a difference of 3.6 points, there is some cause for concern, with only one top-five and one top-ten performance in the last five events. Kahne’s 23rd-place finish at Atlanta hurt the most, but his 13th at The Glen and 12th at Richmond were not enough to keep his performance where he needs to be to contend in the next ten. Kahne and his team need to pump it up again to go after their first championship. 

Brad Keselowski  is the best of all contenders in the Race to the Chase with a ten-race average finish of 7.10. In the last five races, Keselowski ranks 2nd to – and this will still surprise a few – Ambrose who has a five-race average finish of 8.60 compared to Keselowski’s 8.80 average finish. It will be interesting to see if Ambrose can keep up his momentum even though he’s no longer in title contention. But equally interesting will be the competition between Brad Keselowksi and the other Chase Racers at the next ten tracks.

Will Bad Brad beat the rest and win his first championship trophy? Does he have an edge over Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Dale Jr or Denny Hamlin with four wins, also eyeing their first Sprint Cup trophy?

Will Tony (the Tiger) roar back into history-making mode and Chase his fourth championship?  Or will it be Jeff Gordon finding his way in his drive for five? Or Jimmie Johnson striving for his sixth trophy?

Or will it be champion Matt Kenseth earning title number two? But, what about his Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle – could he make history as the first driver to win championships in all three series?

Martin Truex Jr has been impressive, but will he or Kevin Harvick – both winless for the season – surprise everyone and rack up all their wins in the next ten events?

The Chase begins at Chicagoland this weekend – the first chapter of the Chase story that well tell the tale of the 2012 Sprint Cup championship.

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