The Nascar Sprint Cup Series was in Joliet, Illinois this past weekend at Chicagoland Speedway for the LifeLock.com 400. Several drivers came into Chicagoland already on a roll in the 2010 season, while some came in on a free fall after several bad races.
The series only has six races to go until the cutoff for the chase. Not all the drivers will make it. With six races to go until Richmond, what would you say is the safety zone?
Let's take a look at the points now and the drivers who may fall out or those who may get in and leave everyone else on the outside after Richmond in September.
- Kevin Harvick has been dominating the Sprint Cup point standings for a few months now and has two victories at Talladega and
Daytona. Harvick had fuel pump issues that ended his chance at a good finish in Chicago. He has to be a lock for the chase with only six races to go until Richmond.
- Jeff Gordon has had one of his best seasons in a couple of years despite not winning a race. He has had several chances at victory and plenty of runner-up finishes. Gordon should be a lock for Richmond but will the goose egg in the win column hurt his chance for a drive for five? Gordon still has time to win before Richmond, but can he close the deal?
- Jimmie Johnson, the defending Sprint Cup Champion, has five wins in the 2010 season and has been snake bitten a few times by things out of his control. Johnson started on the outside front row at Chicagoland and had was the dominant car early only to end the race in an accident and a bad finish. Johnson is more than likely a lock come Richmond and will become the driver to score the drive for five before teammate Jeff Gordon.
- Denny Hamlin, who equals Jimmie Johnson with five wins, was on a hot streak early in the season, especially at the start of June, winning at Pocono and Michigan. Hamlin has since had trouble at Sonoma and Daytona but finished in the top 10 at Chicagoland. I think Hamlin will also be a lock come chase time and could be the biggest threat at Johnson's reign.
- Kurt Busch has two wins and has been strong in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. Last week at Daytona, Busch was a ping pong ball and wasn't much better at Chicagoland. However, Kurt Busch should be a solid contender after Richmond and contend for the 2010 Championship.
- Kyle Busch has two wins in 2010 and is good in any series he competes in. Kyle Busch just has to be in the field come Richmond and he will be a serious contender for a Sprint Cup Championship, but as in year's past, he has missed the chase. It's hard to believe a driver as good and as dominant as Busch has had trouble late in the season.
- Jeff Burton has had a great season, but like Jeff Gordon is winless. It's not that Burton hasn't run well, he just can't score a victory. He's come close at Martinsville, Darlington, and New Hampshire. Burton will most likely make the chase, but will the zero in the win column hurt his chances?
- Matt Kenseth has been solid, but the Ford team seems to be a little off in 2010. Kenseth and the Roush Fenway team has made great progress but is winless in 2010. Kenseth and his team has a chance to stay in the chase where they are at now, but wins are key at the moment.
- Tony Stewart was a dominant contender in the 2009 season but has struggled early in 2010. Stewart started to turn it around at Pocono and had several great runs, including a second place finish at Loudon. If Stewart and the No. 14 team can hold on they will be in after Richmond. Never count Tony out.
- Carl Edwards had a strong run at Chicago with a second place finish. He has the potentional to stay in the chase but the drivers in the back half need wins to really give it a go at Richmond. Edwards, like Kenseth, can do it, but will need just a little more to be a top contender.
- Greg Biffle has also been winless in 2010 and can't seem to catch a break. Biffle has had some good runs throughout the year but no wins and only strong potential to show for it. Consistency used to win you a title and some would say it still does. I beg to differ and say that wins have become more important than anything with the chase format.
- Clint Bowyer had a top five finish at Chicago and has been on the move, hoping to lock all three RCR cars into the 2010 chase. Bowyer had a strong run at Daytona and came close to victory in the final laps only to spin out. Bowyer rebounded to a solid top five finish on Saturday night and can stay in with only six races to go before the chase.
Driver's Outside Looking In
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems to have good weeks, then bad ones. Earnhardt Jr. has a shot at the chase but with no wins and no consistency from week to week, does he have a shot at the top 12? He is only 15 points out of the cutoff after Chicagoland.
- Mark Martin is also another driver who had a dream season in 2009, winning five races and finishing second in the standings. Martin has yet to win in 2010 and the results haven't been there either. The No. 5 team seems to be having the same issues as the No. 88 team. Martin is only 37 points out looking in, and I believe he can do it.
- David Reutimann has been the biggest mover in points over the last month and scored the win at Chicago. I believe Reutimann can get into the chase and be a solid top 10 contender in the points at the end of the season. Reutimann is now only 96 points from the cutoff.
- Ryan Newman has had a couple of poles and a win at Phoenix, but the team seems to have trouble with staying consistent. Sometimes, things are out of teams and drivers hands but Newman could make a late season charge at the chase if things work out.
Kasey Kahne and Juan Pablo Montoya were both in the chase last season but this year sit outside the top 15 with Kahne in 17th and Montoya in 21st. Kahne has been strong and came close to a few wins but just hasn't had luck on his side. Montoya has had a disappointing season and I would've thought he would have been in the top half of the point standings by this time.
The Nascar Sprint Cup Series will now focus on Indianapolis for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Points will be on everyone's mind but when you get to Indy, it's just one of the races you want to win.
Who will risk it the most to get a victory at Indy while possibly costing themselves points? Who will earn a big payoff going to the Brickyard? Find out in two weeks.