Monday, August 8, 2011

Predictions: The cream will rise to the top in final five races of who gets into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, but one will surprise.

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams pack up and head home before heading north to the 2.45 miles road course at Watkins Glen for next Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. I thought that I would take this opportunity to discussion the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup outlook and make a few predictions as to who is in the chase and who will be out. Who makes the chase will have a number next to their name.

With five races to go before the cutoff point after the final race at Richmond, I believe that these drivers will make the chase for sure.

1. Carl Edwards (1 wins)
2. Jimmie Johnson (1 win)
3. Kyle Busch (3 wins)
4. Kurt Busch (1 wins)
5. Kevin Harvick (3 wins)
6. Matt Kenseth (2 wins)
7. Jeff Gordon (2 wins)

All seven drivers above have shown all season long that they are truly Cup Series Championship contenders including Jeff Gordon who is trying for his fifth Cup Series Championships.

However not everyone is comfortable right now with five races to go. These two drivers I believe will make the chase, but wouldn’t be locked in until Atlanta or the cutoff race in Richmond.

8. Ryan Newman (1 win)
9. Tony Stewart (no wins)

Both drivers are having a pretty good year, but I am surprised to see Tony Stewart in this group. I would have thought that he would have been higher up in points and have one win by now. But it is the summer months and this is where Smoke shines. So I’m not going to hit the panic button on him.

Now comes the in trouble drivers. These three are not only on the bubble, but could get bumped out at anytime. The next five races will determine whether they make the chase or not. I have to say that while I do like the slots when it comes to gambling every now and then especially 7’s, I wouldn’t gamble when it comes to this type of risk. However two drivers do at least have 1 win this season, if not two.

10. Brad Keselowski (2 wins, 18th in points. Brad must continuing climbing into the top 12 in points to really make this one work for him.) Wild Card Spot and surprise.
11. Denny Hamlin (1 win, but he has no real luck) Wild Card Spot.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No wins, but is 10th in points and 20+ over 11th Denny Hamlin)

All three drivers have to have good finishes to seal the deal at Richmond and for Dale Jr., he has to either move up in the points or at least score one win before Richmond to be in the running for one of the two wild card chase spots. But I have to say that Dale Jr. is having a good season and his best with Hendrick Motorsports so far since he started in 2008.

Now if only Dale Jr. and his team can figure out how to close the deal at the end of each race, he would be in a better position.

Finally, here are two drivers to watch for that last minute shot at making the chase, but I really don’t see it unless one of the three drivers above take a hard hit in points and either one can make a charge.

- Clint Bowyer (11th in points, no wins)
- Greg Biffle (12th in points, no wins)

And of course, even with one win each on the season, I don’t see David Regan, Paul Menard, or even Mark Martin or Kasey Kahne making the chase at all, even if they win another race. Sorry. But mark my words, we haven’t seen the end of one drivers coming out of nowhere to make a run at the chase.

(Image Credit: NASCAR)