What's at Stake for Each Driver in 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2013

What's at Stake for Each Driver in 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup

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    With the preseason over and NASCAR getting ready to head into the Chase, the 12 championship contenders will have something at stake as they compete for the Sprint Cup title.

    Drivers will be trying to prove they are future champions, while others will be competing to prove they still have what it takes to be the best in the sport.

    This Chase has already been the victim of controversy, as Martin Truex Jr was knocked out after NASCAR fined Michael Waltrip Racing for the events that took place at Richmond. While Truex won’t have a shot at the title, Ryan Newman now has a chance to hold the championship before he leaves Stewart-Haas Racing.

    As the Chase moves forward, drivers will be tested and will go through ups and downs, but only the best will be left standing at the end.

    Each driver will have something different at stake as he tries to make the most out of the 2013 season.

    Will they be able to prove their worth? Can drivers overcome past mistakes and become serious contenders for the 2013 title?

    We will have to wait until the Chase is fully underway to find out, but here's what each of the 12 drivers has at stake as the Chase for Sprint Cup gets set to start.

12. A Chance to Live Up to a Legacy: Dale Jr.

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. has made the Chase again, and without a doubt, he is one of the underdogs of this season.

    Jr. enters the Chase without winning a single race in the preseason and has a history of doing nothing spectacular in the postseason.

    The Chase for Jr., though, is always a chance for him to live up to the legacy his father created.

    Dale will once again be able to compete for the championship and could always add a championship of his own to the Earnhardt name in NASCAR.

    Of course Dale could always struggle yet again and still not succeed in his championship quest, but by being in the Chase, this could be the year Jr. finally gets the title.

11. One Last Hurrah: Kevin Harvick

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    Kevin Harvick is moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

    And while SHR might be a better place for the Closer, Richard Childress Racing is where Harvick has made his name.

    He has one last shot to bring a championship to Richard Childress Racing, and even though he might be more focused on moving on, he will undoubtedly miss the people he's worked with during the time he's spent at RCR.

    Harvick has one last chance to get the 29 team a championship before younger drivers like Austin Dillon come into the organization, and he has one last chance to leave RCR by doing something major for the team.

    The 2013 Chase will be Harvick's last hurrah at RCR, and it will be the last chance he has to make the 29 team champions.

10. Proving He's the Future: Kasey Kahne

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    Hendrick Motorsports clearly saw something in Kasey Kahne when it decided to bring him on as a driver.

    Kahne had a decent finish last season, which was his first with the organization, and now has another chance to prove how good of a driver he is.

    Kahne is surrounded by veterans at HMS, and with a chance to win the championship yet again, it's time for him to prove he is the future.

    He locked up a wild-card spot by winning two races, and while he won't get bonus points entering the Chase, Kahne can still be a threat when he has a good car.

    Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. are all top drivers in their own right, but the Chase is Kahne's chance to prove that he can be just as good as them, if not better.

9. Rising Above Mistakes: Clint Bowyer

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    For Clint Bowyer, the Chase is a chance for him to rise above the recent controversy surrounding his spin at Richmond.

    Whether he spun on his own or he really had a tire going down, Bowyer played a role in changing the outcome of the Richmond race.

    After being fined points, he will head into the Chase and try to prove he is above the recent controversy.

    He made mistakes last year, specifically tangling with Jeff Gordon at Phoenix, which essentially caused Gordon to wreck Bowyer and ended his chances at winning the championship.

    This postseason will be a chance for Bowyer to focus on driving instead of fighting as he tries to accomplish what he couldn't last season.

8. Potential to Be One of the Greats: Joey Logano

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    Joey Logano has had an impressive season.

    Not only was this year his debut for Penske Racing, but the young driver has also managed to make it into the Chase.

    Now the hard part for Logano begins.

    For years people believed he could be the next big thing in NASCAR, but Logano continued to fail to live up to expectations in the Sprint Cup Series.

    Now he has a chance to prove that he will be one of the top drivers in the sport.

    And all he needs to do is beat some of the current greats.

    It won't be an easy task at all, but Logano has a lot to prove this postseason, and the Chase is a way for him to show the world just how good of a driver he is.

7. Setting Records: Greg Biffle

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    Greg Biffle will enter the Chase and have another chance to do something which has never been done in NASCAR: Biffle could be the first driver to win a championship in all three of NASCAR's series.

    He already has a title win in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, but he has yet to win the Sprint Cup title.

    It won't be easy for Biffle, and he will need to overcome several top drivers to achieve something that has yet to be done, but he now has another chance to cement his name in NASCAR history and also show that he is the top driver at Roush Fenway Racing.

6. Overcoming Past Failures: Carl Edwards

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    Carl Edwards had the championship in his hands in 2011.

    But he didn’t win a race, and it would ultimately cost him a spot in NASCAR history as Tony Stewart would win the championship thanks to the amount of wins he had.

    2012 was supposed to be a fresh start of Edwards, but instead he had one of the worst seasons of his career.

    He did nothing all season and never made the Chase.

    This year, though, Edwards came back with a new crew chief and has two wins heading into 2013. He now has a chance to claim a spot in NASCAR history once again.

    Edwards making it into the Chase shows how much the 99 team has learned from 2012. If he can compete in the postseason, he will have finally overcome his past failures that kept the Sprint Cup title out of his reach.

5. A Chance to Prove He Is Far from Finished: Matt Kenseth

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    When Matt Kenseth was dropped from Roush Fenway Racing and signed by Joe Gibbs Racing, it's hard to imagine anyone seeing the success the 20 team would have this season.

    With five wins heading into the Chase, Kenseth and the 20 team have won more regular-season races this year than any other team.

    While that stat alone is impressive, what's even more impressive is how the team is still new. This isn't a group of people who are used to working with each other. They were brought together this year and came out of the regular season looking like the top team in NASCAR.

    The Chase for Kenseth will be a chance for him to prove that he is still a top driver. He spent his whole career at Roush Fenway Racing, but now he has a second chance at the Joe Gibbs organization to prove he is far from finished.

4. Doing the Impossible: Kurt Busch

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    Kurt Busch has done the impossible: He's proved that you don't need to be part of a big racing organization to make the Chase.

    Busch has become the first driver of a single-car team to make the Chase, and he is now setting his hopes even higher.

    Regardless of his eventual departure from Front Row Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, Busch is going to make the most out of this chance to win the championship.

    It goes above being the first driver of a single-car team to see NASCAR's new postseason, though. Busch has overcome horrible pit stops and mistakes from the 78 team throughout the season.

    He's made mistakes of his own, but to see the 78 team rally behind Busch and get into the Chase is something that seems almost impossible.

    Now the real challenge for Busch and his team awaits as they try to become the first single-car team to win a NASCAR championship under the Chase system.

3. Silencing the Critics: Kyle Busch

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    Kyle Busch has constantly proved how good of a driver he is during the regular season.

    When it comes to the Chase, though, Bush's best finish is fifth.

    This season, Kyle and the 18 team are heading into the Chase with four wins behind them and will have a big advantage once the postseason starts.

    Will he be able to have the same success in the Chase that he saw in the regular season, though?

    After missing the Chase last year, Kyle had something to prove heading into 2013. He now looks like one of the top drivers to watch for in the Chase, and this postseason could be his chance to finally silence all of his critics.

2. Still the Man to Beat: Jimmie Johnson

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    Jimmie Johnson was the man in NASCAR for several years.

    Let's face it: The 48 team seemed pretty invincible especially after winning five championships in a row.

    Still, Johnson hasn't held the trophy since 2011, and even this year when he's managed to win four races, people still doubt he can pull off a championship.

    They have run into a string of bad luck recently, but NASCAR fans shouldn't be quick to discredit Johnson.

    There is a reason, after all, why they call him "Five-Time."

    The 2013 Chase is a chance for Johnson and the 48 to prove that they never lost a step, and it's a chance for them to once again get back into the championship scene.

1. Redemption: Ryan Newman

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    After being knocked out of the Chase because of a controversial spin that cost him the Richmond race, Ryan Newman has been given a second chance.

    NASCAR wasn't too happy with Bowyer and the rest of the drivers at Michael Waltrip Racing, and after investigating the late race spin from the 15 and the 55 of Brian Vickers being told to go to pit road, it found enough evidence to dock all three drivers 50 points, thus taking Truex out of the Chase.

    Now that Newman has a second chance, the Chase for him is all about redemption.

    Redemption to prove that Stewart-Haas Racing shouldn't have cut him, and to show how he can still compete against the best in the sport.

    The Chase for Newman will be a chance for him to show Richard Childress Racing that it made the right move by signing him for the 2014 season.