Two to Go: Drivers 7th through 14th separated by just 89 points
Martin finishes second and moves to 10th in the Championship standings with two races left before the Chase (photo courtesy: Jason Smith, Getty Images Sport)
Just two races remain before the Chase contenders’ field is set—which culminates with Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 20-22—and the sense of urgency was evident in Race 24 at Bristol, where Kyle Busch edged out pole-sitter Mark Martin in his quest to qualify for NASCAR’s “playoffs. Busch and Brian Vickers currently sit on the outside looking in, while fan-favorite Martin (10th) and Miami-resident Juan Pablo Montoya (9th) are in.
Martin is chasing the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship of his heralded 27-year career, while Montoya seeks to become the first non-American-born driver ever to qualify for NASCAR’s “playoffs.” Martin leads Cup contenders with four victories in the first 24 races and recently pondered Montoya’s prospect of 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."
With nine Top 12 finishes in his last 10 races, Montoya is indeed heating up at the right time in his attempt to secure a berth in the Chase. He started from the 11th position and fought back from on-track damage to salvage a 25th-place finish, while Martin snared a second-place finish to bolster his hopes of a berth in the Race to the Championship during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 20-22.
The Top 12 drivers make the Chase “playoffs,” and with two races left to qualify, the Sprint Cup rankings reflect a star-studded field of contenders for the Nov. 22 Sprint Cup Championship in Miami (click here for tickets). While current points leader Tony Stewart has already qualified and Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch appear headed for the postseason, the eight drivers separated by a mere 89 points also include some big names: Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Montoya, Martin, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth all sit within the Top 12, while Kyle Busch and Vickers continue to scratch and claw their way into the Top 12 territory.
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