Three Races Left to Make the Chase for a Championship
If the Chase started today, Mark Martin would lead the the Championship points based on his four wins in 2009 (photo courtesy: Jason Smith, Getty Images Sport)
Simply by taking the green flag at Michigan for Race 23, Tony Stewart clinched a berth in the Chase race for the Sprint Cup Championship, which culminates at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22. But there are others still scratching and clawing for the same opportunity—among them Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, former Champion Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers, who with the Michigan victory climbed to 12 points back of the 12th and final Chase spot.
Juan Pablo Montoya of Coral Gables is seeking to become the first non-American-born driver to qualify for NASCAR’s “playoffs.” Prior to running out of fuel at Michigan to suffer a 31st-place result, Martin shed light on the prospect of Montoya making a run for NASCAR’s biggest prize, which will be crowned Nov. 22 after the season-finale Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"You look at Juan Pablo Montoya and the way they have been running the last few races, I would say they have a shot at winning the championship," Martin said as the Sept 12 Chase cut-off approached. "…You only have to put a roll together for 10 [races], and anyone that gets in the Chase is capable of putting that roll together."
Vickers took the checkered flag at Michigan when Jimmie Johnson—who will seek an unprecedented fourth-straight Sprint Cup Championship Nov. 22 in Miami—ran out of gas with two laps left in the race. Jeff Gordon—seeking a legendary fifth Cup Championship Nov. 22 in Miami, the only track at which he’s never won—finished second, followed by a revitalized Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards.
Current Sprint Cup points leader Stewart finished 17th at Michigan, but his three victories this season tie him with Johnson to trail only Martin’s four. Each “regular season” win is good for 10 bonus points once the Chase for Miami begins Sept. 20 in New Hampshire. After 23 races, Montoya sat seventh in the standings, a testament to the consistent driving that netted him nine Top 12 finishes in a 10-race mid-summer span.
"In every sport you are in, it is points racing," said Montoya. "At the end of the day, it matters who wins the Championship, it is not who wins the races."
Great seats are available for the Nov. 20-22 Ford Championship Weekend, featuring the series-crowning Championship finales of all three of NASCAR’s top circuits: the Camping World Truck Series (Friday), Nationwide Series (Nov. 21) and Sprint Cup Series (Sunday). For Friday night’s Truck Championship, all kids 12 and under will be admitted FREE; on Saturday for the Nationwide Championship, all kids 12 and under are just $15; and forSunday’s Sprint Cup Championship, adult tickets start at just $55. Click here to view great seats available for each race.