|Smile, Biff! You're in!|
Point leader Greg Biffle, five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson and perennial Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. all received the black-and-yellow hats indicative of clinching a spot in the Chase Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. A fourth driver, former champion Matt Kenseth, locked-up at least a Wild Card berth, and can officially clinch his spot this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
If the 2012 title were contested only among those four drivers, it’d be one heck of a battle.
It won’t, of course, leaving eight additional positions to be filled by the time the Sprint Cup Series rolls out of Richmond International Raceway two weeks from Saturday.
Five drivers have at least a mathematical chance to claim a non-Wildcard spotin the Chase this weekend at Atlanta Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. It is unlikely that all will do so, however, meaning that we’ll likely go to Richmond with at least a handful of Chase spots still undecided.
A win at Atlanta will lock up at least a Wild Card spot for Hamlin, Harvick and Stewart. Depending on the Sunday’s final results, Bowyer, Keselowski, Hamlin, Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch could all clinch at least a Wild Card spot.
For what it’s worth, here are the clinch scenarios for the four drivers whose destinies are entirely in their own hands this weekend.
40th and no laps led
41st and at least one lap led
42nd and most laps led
Martin Truex Jr.
14th and no laps led
15th and at least one lap led
16th and most laps led
11th and no laps led
12th and at least one lap led
13th and most laps led
7th and no laps led
8th and at least one lap led
9th and most laps led
With any luck, we’ll spend most of next Saturday night at RIR with calculators in hand, trying to discern who’s in -- and who’s out -- of the Chase, based on a position lost (or gained) on the race track.