Twelve drivers have won in 19 of 36 races in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season. Only five have multiple wins—Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski own three wins and Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have all grabbed two checkered flags this year.
All NSCS drivers vie for the top 12 spots, but this year the spread of winners has made Chase territory premium ground. Only Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards have been among the nifty dozen through the completed19 races without a single win.
But top finishes without a win will not be enough to hold a secure spot on the Chase contender list. Over the next seven races, Chase hopefuls must find victory lane.
If the present list of 12 winning drivers remains intact with only winning drivers nabbing multiple victories, the final group of contenders should line up quickly. If that win list expands to include first 2012 wins from Harvick, Truex and Edwards, the competition for spots gets even more intense. Add to that a win from Paul Menard or Jeff Gordon, and the value of every point takes on the price of gold. .
Kasey Kahne with two wins owns the top wild card sport with Kyle Busch single win holds on to the second spot with teammate Joey Logano only 12 points away with his 2012 win. Logano also has single winner Ryan Newman in his way with only a one point buffer.
Certainly Stewart and Keselowski are on prime turf with three wins each. Another win by either might make the ride to Homestead a pleasant trip.
Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle have the extra cushion of top points to add to their single win. Earnhardt has the best closing record in NSCS this year with 14 top-10 finishes. Given continued effort with no abysmal luck, Kenseth, Earnhardt and Biffle will be hard to catch going into Richmond.
NASCAR has to be thrilled with the tweaking of the points system, where reduced mathematics has created competition. Certainly 2012 has created a battle for position, where one win is no guarantee and no win is detrimental.
Should the fortunate dozen, those drivers with one or more wins, extend to a prosperous 14 or 15 different winners in the next seven races—look for a tense battle at Richmond.
The top dozen select NSCS “rock and drop” list this week: (Includes points behind and position moves)
1. Matt Kenseth Leader [--]
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-16) [--]
3. Greg Biffle (-40) [--]
5. Denny Hamlin (-79) [+2]
7. Tony Stewart (-89) [-2]
9. Clint Bowyer (-93) [+1]
11 Carl Edwards (-140) [--]
12. Kasey Kahne (-160) [+4]
13. Kyle Busch (-162) [-1]
14. Ryan Newman -171 - [+1]
16. Joey Logano (-174) [-2]
17. Jeff Gordon (-183) [--]
Select Driver comments after Loudon reveal mood and assessment.
Kasey Kahne’s 2012 season began with equipment failure and crashes, but he has rebounded. Kahne commented on luck and the value of wins.
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
“You have good luck at times, bad luck at times,” Kahne said. “Some of ours wasn't bad luck. At Phoenix it was straight up driver error. We had some bad luck, some straight up mistakes, things to learn from. When you do that or have those mistakes, as long as you're learning from them, you'll be all right.
“I think three (wins) would put you in a real good spot,” Kahne said. “Two helps, but three would put you in a real good spot. We're going to stay after it. We have some really good tracks coming up. I like my car a lot, so...I think we'll be in good shape."
Denny Hamlin seemed comfortable with his performance this year compared to the past.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“If we don’t get wrecked or taken out or something like that, we’re in contention to win a race,” Hamlin said. “I feel like our performance right now, even though we don’t have the wins we had in 2010 at this point, I think we’re more competitive now than what we were in 2010. We’re just going to take that experience from then and apply it this year. You know, everything seems very, very similar to a couple years ago as far as how our performance is.”
Clint Bowyer is one of the drivers with one win and not enough top points.
Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)
“Good way to get things turned around. After the last two weeks of getting wrecked, it felt good to get a good finish. We’ve been running well. Certainly, happy for Kasey Kahne for winning today, but didn’t need him to. That’s a wild card spot that I had by points and now I’m going to have to go get me another win to have him by a win.”
Jeff Gordon was not happy with a sixth place finish, as he needs a win or two to make the Chase.
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)
“It was just a disappointing day when you look at what our goals are right now,” Gordon said. “We’ve got to be up there battling for wins if we are going to make this Chase and then get those wins. At the beginning I thought we were equally as good as anybody. I don’t know, from that second run on it just went downhill.”
Carl Edwards is on the outside looking in even though he held onto 11th place. No one needs to remind Edwards of his needs right now. A win would cure much for Edwards and his team.
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
"We'll go back to the shop and get a real war plan," Edwards said. “I say 'war plan' because I think it's going to be tough, but we've got to plan for the next seven races.”
The next seven races will decide plenty for the 12 drivers who earn the spot to compete in the final 10 on the way to Sprint Cup crown in Homestead.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanctions, teams or track representatives.