FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Chase Has Shrunk Top Contenders to 3 for Last 2 Races

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIINovember 8, 2012

Brad Keselowski talks to media on pit road. Credit: Dwight Drum at
Brad Keselowski talks to media on pit road. Credit: Dwight Drum at

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series has a season 36 races long that begins in winter and stretches about one month short of the start of the next winter. But that long schedule is down to two races, with only three of the top leaders with a good shot at winning the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

With 96 total points up for grabs, only two of 12 contenders are mathematically eliminated, but seven of that dozen are 58 to 83 points back with little chance of advancing.

Only three drivers have points on their side.

Equipment failure or crashes could potentially ruin the lofty position of leader Jimmie Johnson, who leads Brad Keselowski by seven points and third-place Chaser Clint Bowyer by 36 points. If the top two were to crash and go to the garage, that would change opportunities, but that’s not common.

It could be said that it’s really a two-man race, but until the next scheduled laps are run, nothing can be certain.

The long season is down to 712 miles or 579 laps. The AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway this Sunday will feature 312 laps, and the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 18 will host 267 laps.

The total laps could be extended with green-white-checker finishes, but race history shows only by a few per race.

Fans without tickets for one of the 93,521 seats at Phoenix can view the motor fury on ESPN at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11.

The one-mile oval with 11-degree banking at PIR has been recently repaved, making most team racing data invalid.

The top four contenders—Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne—had comments on the significance of PIR.

Jimmie Johnson (NO. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

“The track has had some time to age and I hope it’s lost some grip so we will definitely move out,” said Jimmie Johnson. “They spent a lot of time and effort to try to create extra lanes of racing through their modeling. I hope they are right. The first time there it was pretty narrow and I hope that as it ages we can get a wider race track and really put on a good show.”

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Dodge, Penske Racing)

“Our mindset heading into Phoenix is exactly the same as it was going into Texas. If we keep running the way we are running, I like our chances. Now, there are some things that I may need to place more focus on over the next two races, especially on pit road. Those are things that are in my control and I will take those necessary steps.

“Since the repave at Phoenix, I think we’ve been pretty competitive there and I’m excited about the new car we are bringing. I’m ready to get back at it.”

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing)

“I’ve said this all along—it’s fun to be racing for the championship, but I’m more proud of where we’re at contending for that championship—winning three races our first year together as a group,” Bowyer said. “Got a long time to work. We just keep polishing the edges and keep getting better, fixing our program week in and week out. We’ll be there.”

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

“I’m really looking forward to Phoenix,” Kahne said. “I think the racing will be even better with some more wear on the pavement. We unloaded a really fast car there in March, and our team has been strong on the intermediate tracks all season.”

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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.