Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Chase field is set - NASCAR's playoffs begin

The 12 Chase drivers
The standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup's annual Chase play off system was decided last night, with Carl Edwards' victory at Richmond bringing the curtain down on the regular season.

The Chase takes the top ten drivers from the standings, plus two 'wild card' entries. These wild cards get into the chase by winning races - The drivers with the most wins outside the top ten in the standings get into the chase. If more than one driver has the same number of wins, the total of second places is used as a tie breaker.

The top ten drivers then have their points reset to 2000, with an additional three points per race victory.

Kenseth tops the standings
Matt Kenseth begins the chase at the top of the standings. The Wisconsin racer has made a great start to life at Joe Gibbs Racing, securing five victories so far this season - More than anyone else.

Next up is Jimmie Johnson. The five time champion ended the regular season first in the points standings but is relegated to second on account of having four wins to Kenseth's five.

Kyle Busch has had a strong season so far
Third, but on equal points to Johnson after winning in Fontana, Texas, Watkins Glen and Atlanta, is Kyle Busch. 'Rowdy' didn't make The Chase last year despite winning at Richmond early on in the season. This year he's been a lot stronger and will be looking to make the most of his strong place in the standings. Often thought to be one of the strongest drivers in the field, many will be expecting him to be fighting for the Sprint Cup title

Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are next up with two wins apiece, Edwards securing his Chase spot by winning the final regular season event.

Joey Logano and Greg Biffle are the only other race winners in the top ten. The Ford drivers sit sixth and seventh courtesy of their single race wins. Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch also qualified for the chase and round out the top ten despite having no wins this year as of yet. Bowyer could be seen to be the biggest looser out of all the chase contenders, dropping from second to eighth - a story that could've been very different had he made a visit to Victory lane in 2013. After finishing runner up in 2012, the Michael Waltrip Racing man will be doing all he can to go one better.

Khane and Truex Jr. share the wildcard spots
The two wild card spots, 11th and 12th, go to Kasey Khane and Martin Truex Jr. Khane easily claimed 11th with two regular season wins whilst Martin Truex Jr.'s Sonoma win wasn't enough to guarantee him a chase spot with Ryan Newamn also having one win. It was a tiebreaker that got it for Truex meaning that despite a broken wrist, he'd qualified for two consecutive Chases for the first time in his career . Neither are eligible for the three points per victory that the top ten are rewarded with.

Several big names didn't make the grade either with Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski being the most notable absentees.

Logano makes the chase, but not Keselowski
Keselowski won the 2012 championship after qualifying for the chase at only his second attempt. However, a move to Ford from Dodge for 2013 hasn't been as fruitful as BK would have liked. He's failed to secure a single win so far this season whereas his new team mate Joey Logano has one win and a chase spot to his name.

Gordon will not be in the chase for only the second time since the system was first implemented in 2004. He's also set to secure his worst final standings finish since his first full season (1993) where he finished 14th.

Other big names to miss out were Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya and three time champion Tony Stewart.

Ambrose has never made the chase in his six years in NASCAR's top level. His best placing in the standings was 18th last year. On the other hand, Juan Pablo Montoya has made the chase in the past, albeit only once when he finished ninth in 2009. Recent strong results for the Colombian didn't do enough to guarantee him a Chase spot, or indeed a drive for next season after Earnhardt Ganassi announced he would be replaced by Kyle Larson for the 2014 season.

Injury brought an early end to 'Smoke's campaign
Tony Stewart wont be competing for the title this year after breaking his leg in a sprint car accident in August. The incident ruled him out for the rest of the season and as a result, Mark Martin will take the wheel of the #14 Chevrolet SS for the rest of the season.

Denny Hamlin is another driver who's had his campaign ruined by injury. After sustaining a compression fracture to his back at Fontana, the 2010 runner up was forced to sit out of four races. At the end of the regular season, he lies 26th in the standings and well out of championship contention.

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