Chase Driver Ratings: Final eight races
This is an evaluation of all 12 Chase drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Sprint Cup.
I've calculated the stats, eliminating every driver's worse finish at the final eight tracks, as well as their percentage of laps completed, and where they have finished at their last visit to the track.
The driver's average finish will eliminate their worst finish, and it will be a total of all of the tracks remaining.
And also the finishing average is how many spots ahead of leader, Mark Martin, that each driver needs to finish each race, to catch up with Mark, rounded to the nearest whole number.
12th place; Kasey Kahne; No. 9 Budweiser Dodge
Kasey Kahne sits twelth in the series point standings after Dover. A blown engine in Loudon, New Hampshire dealt him what can be his only bad luck of the chase.
Kahne has ran ok at the remaining tracks with an average highest finishes of 15.6 overall. Including California, which is the lowest at 10.3
He finished 12th at California in the spring. He also had one win at the track in the fall of 2006.
Charlotte has also been a very good track for Kahne. His computed average finish is 10.4 there, and he has three wins at the track.
Other than that it's just average for Kahne. Only one win at the other six tracks, and that was at Texas in a dream season for Kahne.
His downfall will probably be Talladega. He's only completed 82.5 percent of the laps he's raced there, showing that he doesn't finish very often. His average finish at the track is 21.9 and in the spring he got into a crash and finished 36th.
If Kahne wants to win this thing, he's going to need to run better than his average finish of 15.6. He needs to finish on average eight spots ahead of Mark Martin, every race.
With those stats, and the Dodge motor up in the air, Kahne's chances are not looking too good, but hey, he's in, he's alive, and he has a chance.
11th place; Carl Edwards; No. 99 Aflac Ford
Carl Edwards is next.
Carl, and the rest of Ford racing, are in the midst of what is the biggest slump in the manufacture's long history in the sport.
But with good tracks coming up, Carl may just break them out of it.
With an average finish of 10.4 in the final eight tracks, Carl has had one of the best track records of all the twelve drivers in this thing.
His best two tracks are California and Homestead. Not only are his average finishes very good at those two tracks, 4.2 and 4.5 in order, but Carl has completed 99.9 percent of his laps at California, and 100 percent at Homestead.
Carl's average finish is in the top 10 at five of the eight tracks, with his worst being at Talladega, at 22.6. But in this Talladega race last year, he and Matt Kenseth were coming up through the field before causing the big one.
And in the spring Carl was in position to win, before winding up in the catch fence on the final corner, and finishing 24th.
The other curve ball is in the picture above. Carl is on crutches. With a broken foot, he's going to have to be extra cautious, and extra good, and with the way the Roush Fenway cars are running this year, it may be time to think about 2010 for that group.
10th place; Brian Vickers; No. 83 Red Bull Toyota
10th place belongs to the only driver from the state of North Carolina in the chase.
Brian Vickers and his Red Bull Racing team finished the final races of the race for the chase, on fire.
But with an 11th at Loudon, and a 15th at Dover, they haven't had the same fire in the chase.
And if the past means anything, these next eight races, are going to be a real struggle for Vickers.
His highest average finish is 11.3 at Kansas. He's completed every lap he's ever ran at Kansas, and he finished 15th here last year.
But the next seven races have been abismal for Vickers. None of his average finishes are in the top 10, and the lowest is at California which is a 13.5
The real tough place for Vickers has been Homestead. His average finish there is almost unthinkably bad. 29.4, and that is after taking out his worst finish there.
He finished 32nd there last season, driving what was the 82 car there. But he's only completed 78.3 percent of the laps he's ever raced there, and with only going there once a year, he and crew chief Ryan Pemberton have not been able to work at the track before, and therefore may struggle there yet again.
For this team, it was a feat just to make it in here, in only their third year of operation. There still one more year away from having a really good chance to win it. But Vickers and Pemberton have shocked us before, and they could again But I think 2010 wil be their best opportunity to win it.
9th; Greg Biffle; No. 16 3M Ford
Greg Biffle joins teammate Carl Edwards as the only two drivers from Ford Motor Company in the chase.
Biffle sits in 9th place in the chase 153 points behind leader Mark Martin. What does that mean? It means he needs to finish six spots ahead of Mark Martin on average, every race, from here on out.
With Biffle's best two chase tracks behind him, he and crew chief, Greg Erwin, are going to have to really step up.
Kansas has been historically a great track for Biffle. He finished third here last year, after two wins. He won here in 2007, and his average finish is 5.5. He also has completed every lap he's ever ran here, as a Roush driver.
Homestead is also a huge track for "The Biff." He won there three years in a row, from 2004-'06, and has an average finish of 9.8.
The other six tracks are just ok for Biffle. Only one win at those six tracks, which was in the spring of 2005, at Texas.
His performance has to go way up in those tracks to be a champion, especially at Charlotte, where he's only completed 85.5 percent of his laps.
Last season may be deja vu for Biffle. After winning the first two races, and finishing third at Kansas, he fell way off, and this year, he's 9th, not first.
If he even falls off a little, its over for Biffle, and with Ford Racing in 2009, look for that to happen, and Biffle be on the outside looking in for 2010.
8th; Jeff Gordon; No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon somehow sits 8th in the points, 122 markers behind.
Gordon has the best track record of the twelve drivers, and has amassed a total of 23 wins in the final eight tracks.
Gordon's regular season was great. He never fell out of the top three after he got in the top three.
He had one of the most consistent season's he's ever had, and his track record is awesome.
Jeff's 10.2 average finish overall, and 23 wins shows he knows how to get the job done.
Sitting sixth, Jeff's in a decent spot. Plus he unlike most drivers where they've stuggled, he's ran very well at Martinsville. So that's in his favor.
Also, his experience. Gordon is still my pick to win, but he's got to win at least two races to do it, the past shows he can, and so his experience makes him a top dog to do so.
7th; Ryan Newman; No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet
Ryan Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team are 7th.
Newman has had a very quiet, very consistent season, and that's it.
No wins, five top fivess and 14 top 10's.
Newman's track record is no where near the drivers in front of him. Two wins, and an average finish of 17.4
Newman's best track is Martinsville and his average finish there is 12.5.
And his worst track is Texas with a 21.7, although he won there in 2003.
Newman's team is too new to the chase, and so is Newman. He's yet to stun people as a driver so far in his career, and with no wins, he's not going to win.
6th; Denny Hamlin; No. 11 FedEx Toyota
Denny Hamlin is 6th.
Hamlin and his team, have proved this writer wrong this season. Hamlin has two wins, and has had a very strong season.
He belongs higher than sixth and has a very good shot at winning.
Out of the previous five drivers, Hamlin is the first one to have all of his laps completed somewhere in the 90% range, with nothing lower than 93 percent.
Hamlin's best track is Martinsville with an average finish of 3.9. His worst is Kansas next week, and its at 19.3.
But Hamlin's average finishes are in the top-10 in 5 out of the eight remaining races, and besides Kansas its not higher than 16th.
Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford seemed to have really gelled, and seem to be clicking on all cylinders. A win at Richmond proved this even further.
Another Dover for Hamlin and its over, but if he can keep his head above water when he runs bad, Hamlin can shut me up for good and win this thing.
5th; Tony Stewart; No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet
Tony is fifth, and has had a dream season.
But lately he's struggled.
He's still been pretty good, but he stumbled into the chase.
Tony has won this thing in the chase format before in 2005.
His history has shown that he's been very consistent and good here at these final eight tracks.
The lowest average finish is 8.4 at Texas, and the highest is 14.1 at California. That comes out to 11.2.
He's also got nine wins in the chase, with one at every track but California.
So Tony's chances are good, for him to become the first owner/driver champion since Alan Kulwicki, in 1992.
4th; Kurt Busch; No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge
The original chase winner, Kurt Busch is fourth.
Busch has had a bounce back year after a tough 2008.
This team has two flaws in the chase.
One is Kurt's average finishes. 15.3 is not the worst in the chase, but it needs to be better, and with Penske, it's been much worse than it had been with Roush.
And another is the crew chief situation. Pat Tryson announced before New Hampshire that he would leave Penske Championship Racing for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2010.
This could damper the spirits of the No. 2 team, and Tryson is not allowed at the Penske shop, and this could be detrimental to the success of this team.
Although those are the thoughts of many, the performance in these last two races haven't gone down.
The No. 2 team can win this thing, Kurt has done it before, but Tryson needs to try and focus for these last eight, and not let his head go to MWR too soon.
3rd; Juan Pablo Montoya; Target Chevrolet
Montoya is having the best season in his three year career. Juan has contended for wins at Indianapolis, Pocono, and the Coca-Cola 600. If it weren't for bad luck, JPM would have three wins.
He and crew chief, Brian Pattie have been cooking on all cylinders all season long.
However, Montoya average finishing position for the final eight races is 17.6. Juan though, has shown he's been getting better and better as he gains more experience.
Montoya can win this, but like Newman he needs to win. He's more than capable, but he needs to stop points racing, and be patiently aggressive for the rest of the year, and not tear things up.
2nd; Jimmie Johnson; No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet
Jimmie is the three time defending series champion who is only 10 points behind Mark Martin.
Jimmie's average finish of the final eight races is 10.2. With all of his average finishes being in the top 10 at every track except Talladega.
Jimmie's best track out of the eight is Martinsville, and it's 3.1.
He's completed every lap at both California, and Phoenix in his career, and he's amassed 20 wins at the eight tracks.
Jimmie's shot is a very good one. He and crew chief Chad Knaus are coming off of a dominating performance at Dover, and will stay strong heading into Kansas with a 6.8 average finish.
Look for Johnson to win his fourth straight championship.
1st; Mark Martin; No. 5 Kelloggs/CARQUEST Chevrolet
Mark Martin is the lead dog of this twelve dog fight.
He's got five wins on the 2009 season after not having one for three years.
Mark has won at all of the remaining tracks, except the final one at Homestead, but that is where his average finish is highest at 9.4.
Mark's never really been totally consistent all season long.
Mark's worst tracks coming up are Talladega and Charlotte both with a 15.5 average finish there.
But he's been better than he's ever been, and here, the history doesn't really matter.
All that matters is, Mark Martin can still win, we know that, and with Alan Gustafson, they may take that fourth straight title away from Jimmie.