NASCAR: Pepsi 500 at Fontana California Preview

Richard DeveauCorrespondent IAugust 25, 2008

Two races away from The Chase for the Sprint Cup and we got ourselves a very exciting race for the 12th and final spot in the standings.

Clint Bowyer currently holds 12th, but David Ragan is only 12 points behind and looking strong lately.

Ragan has shown great improvement this year and is a likely candidate to make The Chase. His last outing at the Auto Club Speedway earlier this season was a 14th place finish. His three races at Fontana have all seen top twenty finishes, as he finished 16th and 12th in 2007.

He has had five top ten finishes in the last seven races, three being top fives; he has  a total of eight top ten finishes this year. He has only had two DNF's all season, which impressive for the sophomore.

I feel a win coming for this young guy either during the chase or during the 2009 season.

Clint Bowyer has had two top ten finishes at this track in five races during his career. He finished 19th in the race earlier this year. He's been struggling a bit lately though, with only four top ten finishes in his last fourteen races.

But he's coming off a fairly good weekend at Bristol finishing seventh.

Clint has nine top tens in the 2008 season and will need a couple more before the Chase starts to secure his spot. Bowyer also has no DNF's this season and cannot afford any more. He won one race this season at Richmond where he will hope to be strong in two weeks time.

Kasey Kahne holds the 14th spot in the standings going into California, only 56 points behind Bowyer.

Kahne has had some strong runs at Fontana since his rookie year in 2004, including a win in 2006. He finished ninth earlier this year and looks to be strong again as he is trying to rebound from last year's miseries and make the Chase. But, Kahne has finished 40th in the last two races at Bristol and Michigan for his only two DNF's this season.

Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers are still in the hunt as they hold the 15th and 16th positions in the standings. Newman is 181 points behind Bowyer and Vickers is 183 points behind.

Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Gordon are all eligible drivers who can be easily knocked out of the Chase if they're not consistent. Gordon has always been strong at Fontana, posting three wins and a third place finish earlier this season.

He also finished second and twenty-second at the Auto Club Speedway last year. He has an average finish of 11.2 at this track.

Kenseth has been very strong at Fontana also with two wins and a 9.9 finishing average. He also has ten top ten finishes in the last fourteen races.

Hamlin on the other hand, has been fairly poor in the last couple of years at Fontana, posting a 17.8 finishing average and a best finish of sixth in 2006. He finished a disappointing 41st finish earlier this season.

Hamlin has had an up and down season scoring one win at Martinsville. He just hasn't been able to pull off top ten finishes on a weekly basis, mostly because of mechanical failures.

There are many drivers who are capable of winning this weekend.

Carl Edwards has got to be one of the favorites, as he is on a hot streak lately in winning the last two races, including Michigan, which is very similar to Fontana.

Edwards also won at this ealier this year and is looking for the Fontana sweep as he attempts to close Kyle Busch's lead in the Chase standings.

Speaking of Busch, he is a contender for the win every week and we should definitely expect to see him out front.

Dale Jr. has a fairly good chance as he as won the Michigan race earlier this year. But, he has been on a cold streak lately with only one top ten finish in the last nine races. His last was at Daytona this July.

It should be very interesting to watch how the Busch/Edwards rivalry will play out this weekend and in races to come. This should be no doubt very exciting to watch and I look forward to it.