Thirteen different drivers have won out of 21 NSCS races in season 2012, and if that first number increases with drivers who have not yet gotten to victory lane in the next five races, the Chase for the Sprint Cup race will get tighter—crazy tight. Perhaps one or two points may define the difference between a Chase position and a denial to NASCAR’s playoffs.
Jeff Gordon may have benefited from a rain-shortened race in Pocono as well as the desperate and futile moves by race leaders to secure a win, but the No. 24 team has been performing well over the past nine races since Charlotte.
Gordon has advanced from 24th to 13th in points, moving one or two spots every race while Hendrick Motorsports has won seven of the last 11 NSCS races.
Despite a transmission failure and change at Pocono, Dale Earnhardt Jr. maintained the top spot in the point standings and takes momentum into the final five races before the shuffling of spots after Richmond.
Here is the top dozen select NSCS “rock and drop” list this week: (Includes points behind and position moves)
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-15) [--]
2. Matt Kenseth (-5) [--]
3. Greg Biffle (-6) [--]
4. Jimmie Johnson (-8) [--]
5. Martin Truex Jr. (-50) – [+2]
6. Tony Stewart 691 -53 - [+2]
7. Brad Keselowski 690 -54 - [+2]
8. Denny Hamlin 683 -61 – [-3]
9. Kevin Harvick 680 -64 – [-3]
11. Kasey Kahne 622 -122 - [+2]
13. Jeff Gordon 611 -133 - [+2]
15. Kyle Busch 599 -145 – [-4]
Select Driver comments after Pocono reveals mood and assessment going forward.
Jeff Gordon moved up two spots and got an all-important win to accompany his point total.
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)
“To see this race unfold the way it did, you know, certainly makes up for a lot of those would have, could have, should haves this year,” Gordon said. “Things are coming together at the right time. The attitude of this team is that we don't ever give up. We keep fighting. We go to the racetrack, try to win. Today we got the win.
“All those things I've been talking about that haven't gone our way this year, they did go our way. We had a fast race car. We had good pit stops. All the things that haven't gone our way, they did today. That's what I love, is that it solidifies to us, to this team—that these things can happen. We just got to keep fighting.”
It was not a good weekend for Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin and team dropped three spots.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“Whatever Goodyear is putting in this new tire that is kind of green substance that is really, really slick,” Hamlin said. “So we all went in turn one and the leaders got in trouble and next thing you know one of the cars slid right in front me and that was about the end of it. We weren’t going to win anyway and at this point all we’re racing for is wins.”
It was a worse weekend for Kyle Busch who dropped four spots. The No. 18 team has had dismal luck with equipment failure this season.
Kyle Busch (No 18 Toyota)
“It’s just the way it seems to be, but the way our year has gone it’s just inevitable to have something every week happen,” Busch said. “We had hoped we had shaken it, but obviously it’s not to be. It’s going to hurt us a lot in the points. We’re obviously not going to make the top-10, so if we get a win great we’ll make the Chase. If not, we’ll probably miss it.”
If Stewart and the No. 14 team advanced two positions and if they come even close to the production of last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, they will be strong contenders for the crown yet again.
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)
“I’m real proud of Steve Addington (crew chief) and all these guys at Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart said. “We didn’t necessarily throw a Hail Mary at it, but we kind of went back to where we started Friday and worked from that. We only spent about a quarter of the two practices on that setup that we ended up racing. I’m really proud of him for taking all afternoon and evening last night and finding the package that we ran today. It was a much better racecar.”
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
“The good news is that we were fast and Chad has done a really good job with the car,” Edwards said. “I am really looking forward to next week. I have never wanted to race so bad in my life. I want to be racing right now.”
For teams on the bubble to the playoffs the next five races are like treasure. The road course at Watkins Glen awaits their skills and preparation.
This reporter joins Pocono Raceway and all drivers, teams and fans in the sad loss of fan Brain Zimmerman and for unfortunate injuries sustained by nine others during two separate deadly lightning strikes at Pocono this weekend. Our thoughts and prayers are with all concerned—families and friends—today and going forward.
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.