NASCAR Sprint Cup: Analyzing the Chase, Post-Race No. 1

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst ISeptember 21, 2010

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19:  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The first race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase to the Championship is in the books, and it provided lots of drama for all fans.

Clint Bowyer came out as the hero on top as he took the win, holding on at the end with enough fuel. Coming in at the bottom of the chart, Bowyer knew he needed a good run, and it turned out perfect, as now he sits in second, 35 points behind Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin stuck to the theory that consistency wins you championships, as despite getting spun out, he came back to finish second.

Kyle Busch played the same card. After his spin, he came back to finish ninth. He now sits fourth, 62 points behind Hamlin.

Between Hamlin and Busch in third is Kevin Harvick, who now sits 45 points behind Hamlin with his consistent fifth place finish. Harvick also proved during the regular season that consistency can equal being at the top, and he plans to continue that show.

Jeff Gordon is also following the theory, as he came in sixth and now sits fifth in points, 75 points behind.

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Following Gordon, you have got Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson sitting sixth and seventh, who both experienced an adventure at Loudon.

Kurt Busch, who sits 86 behind, said post-race that he was overdriving the car and as a result, caused some incidents. He added that he had a top-10 car, though due to trying to get that elusive top-five, he ended up 13th.

Johnson, meanwhile, experienced an adventure of a day as trouble seemed to find him no matter what spot he was in, relegating him to a 25th place finish. Nobody is saying the drive-for-five is over, however, as he’s started out the chase like this before and only now sits 92 points behind Hamlin.

Roush-Fenway drivers Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle sit ninth and tenth after finishing 11th and 17th, respectively.

Tony Stewart drops from sixth to fifth after running out of fuel while leading with two to go, which resulted in a 24th place finish.

Rounding out the top 12 is Matt Kenseth, who sits 136 points back after finishing 23rd.

So, who is going to win the championship this year?

Well, it’s still anyone’s game as a 150 point swing is possible in one race, so numerically, Matt Kenseth could be leading after Dover.

The next Chase race this weekend takes place at Dover International Speedway, known to most as the Monster Mile. Action is quick on this track, as a lot of people say that it’s Bristol on steroids. Drivers can quickly be caught up in wrecks and down and out of the Chase.

So, who’s got the best shot?

Statistically, Edwards is the best driver at Dover with an average finish of 7.9. In 12 starts, he has one win, five top fives and eight top 10s. Recall last year that it was Edwards and his teammates Biffle and Kenseth that put on the Roush-Fenway show with their entertaining battle for the lead. A good run at Dover could put him right back in the thick of things.

Another driver looking for a good run is Johnson, who has the second highest average finish of 10.2. In 17 starts, Johnson has five wins, seven top fives, and 11 top 10s. Also, if you look at the past three races at Dover, Johnson has gained the most points (+515), with Kenseth having the second most (+500). Johnson is also known for being hot in the Chase and going on a hot streak of top fives. With this being a good track for Johnson, he could very easily start that streak this weekend.

Points leader Denny Hamlin has the worst average finish of the Chasers at 22.8. In nine starts, he has two top fives and three top 10s. Hamlin has been doing a lot of talking and a lot of bragging about how good his team is. He’ll need to prove that and run better than average if he wants to show what he means.

The second-lowest ranked of the Chase drivers is Kurt Busch, who has an average finish of 19.6. In 20 starts, Busch has no wins, four top fives and six top 10s. Busch is in need of a good run as he now sits 86 points behind, so keeping in mind that he should take what he can get and not overdrive the car again will be key.

The other Chase drivers’ Dover averages go as follows:

  • Clint Bowyer – 14.7
  • Kyle Busch – 15.5
  • Kevin Harvick – 17.4
  • Jeff Gordon – 12.1
  • Greg Biffle – 10.5
  • Tony Stewart – 11.4
  • Matt Kenseth – 12.7

No clear favourite has been declared yet, as this year seems closer than any. Though if the past is any indication, look for Johnson to claim his spot back atop the standings.  


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