Tracking The Chase: From The Charlotte Oval To The Martinsville Paperclip
While Jamie McMurray stole the show with the win, the beast of the southeast took her turn at mixing up the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Multiple Chase drivers took a turn in the blender experiencing issues, which has now changed the complexion of the Chase heading into Martinsville Speedway.
12th: No. 33 Clint Bowyer
After a finish of 17th, Clint Bowyer keeps his seat as the last place man in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship standings, 300 points behind points leader Jimmie Johnson.
Bowyer struggled all night with an ill-handling car and even got into a pit road discussion with Johnson. Coming off of pit road, Johnson cut Bowyer off, in Bowyer's mind, when he was leaving his stall. In return, Bowyer made contact with Johnson before they went back green.
Bowyer has a long fight ahead of him, something he knew he would have after the 150 points penalty following New Hampshire.
Going into Martinsville, Bowyer has an average finish of 12.8 with one top five and five top 10s in nine starts.
11th: No. 17 Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth had a consistent night as he finished sixth after running in the top 10 for most of the night. Though if Kenseth is going to have a shot at the championship, Kenseth will have to pull off some wins and hope the others run into some misfortunes, as he currently is 256 points behind.
In the past at Martinsville, Kenseth has two top fives and six top 10s, with an average finish of 16.3 in 21 starts.
10th: No. 31 Jeff Burton
After a finish of 20th due to an ill-handling car and a spin, Burton drops back two spots to 10th in points, 239 points back of Johnson. Burton is known for his consistency, however like Kenseth, he will have to go above that and hope for some misfortune.
In the past at Martinsville, Burton has one win, 10 top fives and 14 top 10s with an average finish of 14.8 in 32 races.
9th: No. 2 Kurt Busch
Busch had just as good of night as Burton did as he spun early in the race, and was lucky nobody else made contact with him. From that point on, it was all downhill as the team could never get a handle on the car, which resulted in a finish of 30th. This, in return, caused him to drop three spots in the championship standings where he now sits 237 points back of Johnson.
In the past at Martinsville, Busch had one win, two top fives and four top 10s with an average finish of 21.6 in 20 starts.
8th: No. 16 Greg Biffle
Eighth: No. 16 Greg Biffle, 225 points back of Johnson
With both Busch and Burton having issues, Biffle was able to gain two spots in the standings after finishing fifth. Biffle is known for being good on the mile-and-a-halfs, so it'd seem to be no surprise that he was in the top 10 most of the night. Biffle now sits 225 points back of Johnson, so he'd still have a lot of work to do if he'd want a shot at the title.
At Martinsville, Biffle has two top 10s and an average finish of 22.3 in 15 starts.
7th: No. 99 Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards is another Roush Ford that had a decent night as he finished 12th to stay seventh in the standings, now 200 points back of Johnson. If Edwards wants to live up to his tough competitor edge and win the title, he's going to have to pull off some top fives.
In the past at Martinsville, Edwards has one top five and three top 10s with an average finish of 17.3 in 12 starts.
6th: No. 14 Tony Stewart
After receiving damage in an early race incident after slowing down to avoid a wreck, Stewart's night didn't get better as he finished 21st and dropped one spot in the standings, now 177 points back of Johnson. Stewart had hopes that he'd be able to get back in the championship picture following his win at Auto Club Speedway. However, this sets him further back, and makes the chances of that happening slimmer.
In the past at Martinsville, Stewart has two wins, eight top fives and 13 top 10s with an average finish of 12.6 in 23 starts, so this could be a track where he could make his chances greater.
5th: No. 18 Kyle Busch
After a finish of second, Busch gains four spots in the championship, now sitting 177 points back of Johnson. Last week, Busch wrote himself off saying that he was done after they blew the motor, however, he looks to be entering back into the picture.
Following his second-place finish, Busch was still disappointed as he felt that he should've won after dominating. Truthfully, Busch is going to have to pull off some wins if he wants to gain the points on his fellow competitors as right now, he looks to be just outside of the gate of being in the picture.
In the past at Martinsville, Busch has four top fives and five top 10s with an average finish of 17.8 in 11 starts, so therefore Martinsville may not be the track that Busch wants.
4th: No. 24 Jeff Gordon
Fourth: No. 24 Jeff Gordon, 156 points back of Johnson
Gordon was running in the top 10 and looked to gain points after starting on pole, however alternator issues, which brought on a change of the batteries, caused him to finish 23rd. Gordon is barely in the picture as a swing of 161 points is possible in one race, if all the circumstances fall in place, and he is currently 156 points back.
Though this race also represents Gordon's luck this year as whenever he seems to be in the spot to get a shot at winning, something happens that causes that chance to disappear.
In the past at Martinsville, Gordon has seven wins, 23 top fives and 29 top 10s with an average finish of 6.7 in 35 starts so therefore this could be the perfect track for that win.
3rd: No. 29 Kevin Harvick
After looking to be the most consistent driver following the first 26 races, Harvick now sits third in points after finishing eighth, 77 points back. Harvick has the ability to pull off some wins so it wouldn't be a surprise if Harvick made the charge.
In the past at Martinsville, Harvick has seven top 10s with an average finish of 18.1 in 18 starts, so therefore he will need to up the way he's run in the past if a charge is to be made.
2nd: No. 11 Denny Hamlin
After finishing fourth, the disappointment was clear on Hamlin's face as he knew he fell short of his goal—beating Johnson. Hamlin has officially declared that he is after Johnson, and is ready to win the championship so look for these final five races to be exciting.
Sitting back 41 points, the battle will certainly be on at Martinsville as they've both fought each other there for wins in the past. In the past at Martinsville, Hamlin has three wins, seven top fives and nine top 10s with an average finish of 6.6 in 10 starts. Hamlin also has scored the most points in the past six races at Martinsville, so it'd seem that he has the upper hand.
1st: No. 48 Jimmie Johnson
Following the Bank of America 200, Johnson deserves the "biggest comeback" award as a lot of people thought it was going to be a poor finish for the No. 48 team.
At the beginning of the race, Johnson had a really loose car, which caused him to spin. Once he was stuck back in traffic, it was thought that he'd be done. However, like many times before, crew chief Chad Knaus pulled out the magic wand and got the car to where it was the quickest car on track. Johnson drove from the back to lead the race for awhile, and then eventually settled for second.
Performances like these are what win championships and Johnson proved why he is a four-time champion. Look for the No. 48 team to put out these types of performances from here till Homestead.
Although Hamlin has gained the most points in the last six races at Martinsville, Johnson has gained the most points in the past 10 races, and also has the best average finish of 5.4. In 17 starts, Johnson has six wins, 12 top fives and 16 top 10s.
Each week brings a new challenge to the Chase for the Championship drivers and each week, you see drivers that lose hopes to being the 2010 Sprint Cup Champion.
Next Sunday, the drivers will head to Martinsville Speedway, a tough half mile paperclip. Look for Johnson and Hamlin to battle for the win and the title as they've both been battling the track lately to determine whom is king. Although while they're at it, don't forget to watch the other 10 as they may sneak in and spoil their party.