We’ve got four races remaining until NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship begins with a couple good battles going on to be one of the final 12 drivers.
Jeff Gordon dropped out of the 12th position last week with Ryan Newman holding the final position among drivers that have one win. Kyle Busch is only six points behind Newman, but missed a golden opportunity last week at Watkins Glen to get his second win of the season. He was leading on the last lap, but held on to finish seventh.
Carl Edwards has more points than Newman, Busch and Gordon, but doesn’t have a win on the year and isn’t in the top-10 in points. His only chance to make it is by winning one of these next four races. Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose each have one win and could make the Chase by winning one of these next four races.
We should be in for a treat this week at Michigan not only because of all the Chase implications making a few drivers a little more aggressive, but that it’s the site where Dale Earnhardt Jr ended his 144-race winless streak.
The June race actually turned out to be one of the more memorable of the season. The Junior storyline was huge, but the newly resurfaced track created great racing at speeds never seen before on the track by stock cars.
Between the test and practice sessions prior to the race, it was kind of easy to tell Junior had his best chance at finally winning. Now that’s he’s got that monkey off his back, all he’s trying to do now is win and gain bonus points for the Chase.
The seeding for the Chase is determined by how many wins a driver has on the year. Junior has only one, but he’s coming in this week as one of the favorites, something we rarely say about him.
Jimmie Johnson took the points lead away from Junior last week, but comes to Michigan with it being one of five tracks on the circuit that he’s never won. There’s no way to explain it. He’s one of the best at the sister track of California, but can’t seem to get it done at Michigan.
Johnson was runner-up in last fall and finished fifth in June. Like Junior, JJ is just trying to accumulate more wins for the Chase. He’s currently tied with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski for the most wins with three each.
Carl Edwards has two career victories at Michigan and on paper, should have his best chance of winning among the four tracks remaining until the Chase. Based on his performances on horsepower tracks this season, Edwards doesn’t look so good this week.
The two other Roush Racing drivers also fare very well at Michigan. Unlike Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth were both strong in Michigan testing and practices and each finished with top-5’s.
It’s been a long time since Tony Stewart won at Michigan (2000), but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t performed well. Over his last 20 starts he’s finished with an average of ninth-place, including runner-up on the new fast version of the track in June.
Another star performer from the June test and practice sessions was Mark Martin. He finished 29th in the race, but only Junior was rated higher than him prior to the race. He’ll be fast again this week.