FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Top Chase Spots Take Math, Experience and Talladega Crashes

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIIOctober 3, 2012

Tony Stewart waits on pit road for a practice run.  Credit: Dwight Drum at
Tony Stewart waits on pit road for a practice run. Credit: Dwight Drum at

According to Wikipedia data, NASCAR driver appearances in the Chase for the Sprint Cup show that experience counts as top contenders tend to repeat—yet only three drivers have taken home the big prize at the Homestead-Miami finale.

The top 10 appearances go to Jimmie Johnson with nine; Tony Stewart, eight; Jeff Gordon, eight; Matt Kenseth, eight; Denny Hamlin, seven; Kurt Busch, six; Carl Edwards, six; Kevin Harvick, six; Greg Biffle, five and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with five.

Only Jimmie Johnson with five championships, Tony Stewart with two championships and Kurt Busch with one championship have taken home the treasured and colorful Sprint Cup trophy.

It’s certain that Kurt Busch won’t be repeating his accomplishment this season, as he will be racing for his third team in 2012, and he didn’t make the Chase.

It’s interesting that no driver in the 2012 class of Chasers is a rookie. All have made the playoffs before.

Clint Bowyer has qualified for the Chase four times; Kasey Kahne, three times; Brad Keselowski two times and Martin Truex Jr, twice, as well.

Kasey Kahne goes into the next big race in Talladega in the sixth position, 32 points behind leader Brad Keselowski. He shared his thoughts about being a contender.

“I think experience helps,” Kahne said.

I think you kind of went through the pressure of going down to the wire and just probably on your mind constantly, hard to break away from anything more than just racing and think about that, and you've pulled it off, you've accomplished it, something that's really difficult to do.

Kahne also had words about the leaders.

“Those guys I think are in a really good spot because they've been there, they've done it, they feel comfortable about where they're at,” he said. “But they're not the only ones who have won championships. Other guys will step up eventually and beat them. Will it be this year? I have no idea.”

The next big race on October 7, the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, is at Talladega Superspeedway. The long track at TSS is known for “The Big One,” an inevitable crash on the 2.66 mile tri-oval with 33-degree banking.

The massive track seats 143,231 in the stands, so fans that attend will likely find an elevated view somewhere. Those without tickets can catch the fast action on ESPN at 1 p.m. Sunday.

TSS (“Dega”) is known for changing leader points because of the likelihood of crashing out or equipment failure in high-speed stock-car traffic. It’s the seventh race of 10 Chase events, and the effect of the action on the outcome of the Chase is always a mystery until the checkered flag waves for the last competitor.

The top five in points—Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart—have the most to lose, but even they can’t count on a good result from hectic “Dega” racing. All hope to remain in the top five but it’s not likely that all will. Each had words for Talladega.


Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Dodge)

“I really don’t feel like we have any weaknesses on our team,” Keselowski said.

In our two Chase wins we’ve won on pure speed and we won on fuel mileage. To me that’s covering all of your bases. Now we get to part of the schedule where I think our strengths will shine. I love racing at Talladega. We have a lot of confidence going back there as the winner of the spring race. There is still a lot of racing left to go in this Chase, but I like our position in the standings, for sure.


Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)

“It definitely is the one track in the Chase I’ve kind of been a little concerned about,” Johnson said.

There are a lot of great tracks for the 48 coming up in the Chase, but this one is definitely one where anything can happen. There are so many things that are out of your control. There is a lot of room on this track to move around though, obviously, and try things.


Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)

“Talladega is an absolute crap shoot, but it’s going to be for everyone,” Hamlin said.

We have to know who we’re racing. We have to make smart decisions and keep all the fenders on it. Typically, most superspeedways I’m right in it until the very end and get caught up in a wreck. My job is to make sure to concentrate, not look forward and focus on getting the most points possible.


Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)

“It’s going to be the wild card race,” Bowyer said.

Things are so tight right now and the competition is so close it’s literally a point or two here and a point or two there. Talladega can shake things up in a big way. It can propel you to the lead or bury you.


Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)

Every time you’re at Talladega you try to take care of yourself and your equipment by not getting yourself in compromising positions that are going to take you out of an opportunity to get you to the end of the race.

For me, it’s no different whether the race is in April during the regular season or in October when I’m in the Chase.

It seems the last few laps at Talladega tend to be crushing for some Chase contenders every year. This 2012 Chase event with 188 roaring laps is likely to have crashes and consequences.

Until the final lap is over no one will know for certain what effect the excitement will have on the Chase race.

For more race details go to

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.