Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Atlanta Offers Multiple Clinch Scenarios
Five drivers have already punched their ticket to NASCAR's postseason. Kyle Busch and five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson are tied at the top of the current point standings, and have already locked-in a spot in the Chase. Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards also cannot fall out of the Top-10 before Chase time. Sunday's "Advocare 500" will further clarify the Chase picture, since any driver who leaves Atlanta with a 49-point margin over 11th place will automatically be locked into the Chase.
Drivers with opportunities to claim guaranteed Chase positions at AMS include:
Kevin Harvick -- Three regular season victories have already earned the Budweiser Chevrolet driver at least a Wildcard berth in the Chase. However, with a 93-point advantage over 11th place, he will likely cement a top-10 points position Sunday. All he needs is a finish of 40th, 41st with at least one lap led, or 42nd with the most laps led.
Jeff Gordon -- Like Harvick, the four-time series champion currently stands 93 points ahead of 11th place. His Top-10 clinch scenario is identical to Harvick's, needing only to finish 40th, 41st and at least one lap led, or 42nd with the most laps led.
Kurt Busch -- Currently 60 points ahead of 11th place, the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver can lock-up a Top-10 points finish with a finish of seventh Sunday; an eighth-place finish with one lap led; or ninth with the most laps led.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Earnhardt could clinch a Chase berth Sunday, but with only a 39-point edge over 11th place, he does not control his own fate. There is no specific finish that will guarantee the AMP/National Guard team a clinch, and they will likely need to go to Richmond next weekend to punch their playoff ticket.
Tony Stewart -- Stewart can clinch a Chase spot Sunday, but he can also fall out of the Top-10 if red-hot Brad Keselowski continues his torrid, late-season surge. Stewart's margin over 11th place Keselowski is just 21 points, and in order to clinch at Atlanta, he'll need Keselowski to have a bad day.
Brad Keselowski -- His three regular-season wins make him a virtual lock for a Wild Card berth, but the Miller Lite Dodge driver wants more. If he is able to unseat Stewart and claim the final spot in the Top-10, Keselowski will put himself in line for nine postseason bonus points; enough to send him to the Chase just three points out of the championship lead.