The 2012 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is far from over, meaning that there is plenty of time for drivers to make up for their early shortcomings.
Two races into NASCAR's postseason, a few of the sport's top drivers have a lot of work to do if they want a realistic chance at claiming the top spot when the Ford 400 rolls around on November 18th.
Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin make up the top-three following the latter's win at the Sylvania 300 in New Hampshire. The three are in prime position to take a stranglehold on The Chase, but some other highly respected names haven't been as lucky.
Here are three drivers who need to blow away the field at Dover International Speedway on September 30.
Matt Kenseth followed up an 18th-place finish in Chicago with another lackluster 14th-place effort in New Hampshire on Sunday.
Kenseth was strong for the majority of the season, but he has tailed off during crunch time. The 40-year-old Roush Fenway Racing team member won two of the first three races of the year, but has finished outside of the top-10 in seven of the last 10.
He is now 35 points behind Johnson for The Chase lead with nine other drivers separating the two. If he fails to put on a show next Sunday, he'll find the deficit insurmountable.
Jeff Gordon got back on the right track in New Hampshire by finishing in third after a disappointing 35th-place finish in Chicago.
One of NASCAR's most decorated drivers is heading in the right direction, but he'll need to be even better in Dover next weekend if he is going to climb out of the bottom spot in The Chase.
It would be foolish to take away from Gordon's third-place effort, but he was the top qualifier for the race. When you start in first, anything less than a top-five (or top-10, at the very least), is a letdown.
Greg Biffle hasn't been struggling by any means, but compared to the top drivers that remain in the field, he has been sub-par.
Which of these three drivers needs a win the most next week?
After winning at the Pure Michigan 400, Biffle has finished outside of the top-10 in four of his last five races. Results like that might be good enough to get into postseason racing, but they won't be good enough to win the championship.
He picked up just 26 points on Sunday, and now sits 33 points behind the leader in ninth place.
Here are the top drivers in The Chase.
|7||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2070||-26|
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||2062||-34|