04 September 2013

Who will make the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup?

It has been a fun and wild Sprint Cup Series season and with only one race until the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off, the field is mostly set as six drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth) are locked into a top ten points finish as well as Kasey Kahne, who has clinched at least a Wild Card spot with his two wins. Therefore, there are five spots to be had. Who will get into the Chase field Saturday night at Richmond?

First, here is what the bubble currently looks like with the +/- regarding points above or below 10th. Clinched spot is in bold.

7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., +31 (0 wins)
8. Joey Logano, +10 (1 win)
9. Greg Biffle, +8 (1 win)
10. Kurt Busch (0 wins)
11. Jeff Gordon, -6 (0 wins)
12. Kasey Kahne, -10 (2 wins) Wild Card #1
13. Martin Truex, Jr., -15 (1 win) Wild Card #2
14. Ryan Newman, -20 (1 win)
15. Brad Keselowski, -28 (0 wins)
16. Jamie McMurray, -39 (0 wins)
17. Paul Menard, -61 (0 wins)

And here are the clinching scenarios, which I will not republish for the sake of time and space.

I think that we can just about knock out Keselowski, McMurray and Menard right off the bat because they have pretty high hurdles to climb to get into the Chase, although I could see Keselowski winning on Saturday night.

For those who control their own destinies in regards of sealing a top ten spot, I think Earnhardt is a lock and I feel pretty confident in Logano getting in with how strong he has run of late. Biffle should be at least a little bit worried about falling out of the top ten as he has not had a top ten at Richmond since 2006. Busch is solid at Richmond and finished in the top ten in the spring race.

The driver who is in a tough spot due to how this points system operates is Jeff Gordon, who would have gotten in under the old points system by being in eleventh. Gordon does not have a win and has not been in contention for victories that much this season. He will need either a strong run to hope to get into the top ten or a victory to seal a Wild Card berth, which will be no easy task as he has not won at RIR since the Clinton administration.

The drivers in the hunt for the Wild Card that already have wins, Martin Truex, Jr. and Ryan Newman, what they are hoping for is Kahne getting into the top ten or one of them getting another win of their own. That bodes well more for Newman, who has a solid track record at Richmond even with not winning since 2003, than for Truex, who has not had a top ten at that track since 2010.

Here is how I think the Chase field is going to look after Saturday night:
7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
8. Joey Logano
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Kasey Kahne
11. Greg Biffle (Wild Card #1)
12. Ryan Newman (Wild Card #2)

Biffle is going to struggle somewhat and just barely fall out of the top ten, but not enough to where he would miss the Chase altogether which would be an epic collapse. Gordon is going to run strong and play around with some strategy to get into the top ten, and Kahne will run strong enough to get out of a Wild Card spot. I think that Busch will wreck out late, ending his chances, and then Newman will outpoint Truex just enough to overtake him for the final Wild Card spot.

There is a reason why they call Richmond the "Action Track" and that should bode well for another excellent race under the lights.

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