NASCAR Sprint Cup 2011 Chase Predictions

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIAugust 11, 2011

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 11:  (Back row from L-R) The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase contenders Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Crown Royal Ford, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kellogg's/Cheez-It Ford, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Ford, Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet,  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet, (Front row L-R) Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Caterpilliar Chevrolet,  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet,  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, pose following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 11, 2010 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

With the Chase for the Sprint Cup kicking off in just a few weeks, the battle for the two wild-card spots are heating up.  The new points system NASCAR adopted is working better than they could have ever envisioned.  It’s literally going to come down to wins for the two wild-card spots instead of consistent finishes.

It’s put up or shut up time for these teams on the bubble.  It’s time to get to victory lane.  The next few weeks offer almost every type of track to get into the Chase.  The two that get in will truly deserve it.  You have a road course this weekend, a high banked short track in Bristol, a high speed wide-oval in Michigan, a cookie-cutter track in Atlanta and a flat, short track going into the chase at Richmond.

If you want to prove you deserve to be in the Chase and in the Sprint Cup, it’s time to put together a good run on every type of track Cup offers now.

Any driver 11-20th is eligible for the two wild-card spots.  Spots 1-10 are automatically in.  The two drivers with the most wins not in the top ten get in.  That means realistically positions 8-20 right now need to be worrying.  Big named drivers like Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle will be on edge the next few month. 

Out of those drivers Earnhardt Jr., Kahne, Bowyer, Montoya, Stewart and Biffle don’t have wins so far in 2011.  It’s important for these guys to get in the top 10 comfortably and be running literally on all cylinders. 

Outside of Bristol and Richmond, the tracks left produce a lot of cars on the lead lap at the end of the race.  Typically, 30-34 cars will end up on the lead lap, so not only the driver, but the crew needs to be perfect for literally every lap of the race.  A bad pit-stop or a misjudged fuel strategy on the final lap can turn a great day into a horrifying one.

That’s why I feel the veterans who’ve been in tough situations will prevail and get in the Chase.  Yes that’s Dale Jr. in 12th.  He will get a win in Richmond and clinch a spot in the Chase.

CHASE Prediction for 2011

  1. Carl Edwards
  2. Jimmie Johnson
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Kurt Busch
  6. Jeff Gordon
  7. Matt Kenseth
  8. Ryan Newman
  9. Tony Stewart
  10. Denny Hamlin
  11. Brad Keselowski
  12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.