The Chase for the Sprint Cup title is the playoff series for the elite of NASCAR. Only two drivers can make the Chase via the coveted "Wild Card" positions, and for a few, hopes to do so could fade quickly.
A driver must be 11th through 20th in the point standings to be eligible for the "Wild Card" berths. From there, the two drivers with the most wins and top finishes have a shot at the Chase.
The lead "Wild Card" contender for the Chase is Kasey Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, who is a two-time winner this season and currently ranked 11th in the standings.
Ryan Newman, a Stewart-Haas driver of the No. 39, holds the provisional second slot by virtue of one win and his 13th-place ranking in the points.
Winning is becoming the only thing that matters for drivers in the top 10 and for those in the precarious position of failing to make the Chase with the "Wild Card."
Four drivers, Kyle Busch who is 14th in points, Jeff Gordon ranked 15th, Marcos Ambrose ranked 17th and Joey Logano, who is 18th in the point standings, each have one win. Just like Newman, these four drivers must secure an additional win to have a sure shot at the Chase. Finishing in the top five really no longer matters when it comes to garnering a chance at the title.
Lead driver at Roush Fenway Racing, Carl Edwards, is 12th in the standings but has yet to find his way to Victory Lane. RFR drivers can be serious threats to win at Michigan.
Should Edwards win the Pure Michigan 400, the game changes once again for those in the battle for the second "Wild Card" slot.
Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Ford, has two wins at MIS. He finished 11th in the June race, and his average finish at this track is 8.4. If he is going to win before the Chase, this may be his best shot.
Kahne could easily win one more race before the 10-week playoff. He has one win at MIS from 2006 and a 33rd place finish in the June race earlier this year.
Newman has two wins at MIS from 2003 and 2004, with a 15th place finish in June.
Busch nearly secured the second win he needs so badly at Watkins Glen, but the "Oil Gate" deal ruined his day. He is the defending winner of this race, but finished 33rd in June.
Gordon has two wins at Michigan and finished sixth in June. His record at this track shows 18 top-five finishes, 25 top-10 finishes, five poles and an average finish of 11.3.
Ambrose won the second race of his Cup career last week at Watkins Glen. In June, he scored his first top-10 finish at MIS.
With only four attempts to make the Chase left, these drivers have no choice but to be aggressive and to go for wins. At this track—known for long-green flag runs—great strategy in the pits may be just as important as a fast car and good track position.
Winning is at a premium for the drivers in the top 10 and those fighting for the "Wild Card" slot. With so much to lose, it could get wild in Michigan.