‘Chasing’ Miami Glory: 13 down, 13 to go

Tony Stewart celebrates win at Pocono

Tony Stewart reigns as 2009 winner at Pocono, though many of this year’s Chase contenders have had prior success at the event. Stewart sits just 27 points outside of that coveted 12th spot (photo courtesy: Getty Images Sport)

Thirteen races down, 13 to go before NASCAR launches into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship that will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 19-21. Tickets for NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend go on sale to the general public July 3 (renewal deadline is June 15). For more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

Kurt Busch took home his second win in as many weeks at Charlotte—in the process moving up to sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings—as the 2004 Cup Champion seeks a second crown this fall in Miami. Busch held off a charge from Jamie McMurray in the 600-mile race that came down to a two-man show.

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Busch.“It’s a prestigious race, it’s a tough race, and most of all it’s a team race. This was a fantastic job by my guys, they battled all day long to keep me up front.”

With 13 races left before the “playoff field” is set and just 176 points separating 12th place from 20th, many of the series’ top drivers remain in the hunt, including: Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya. The contenders for the Sprint Cup Championship—to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21—are unveiled after Race 26 at Richmond.

As such, Sunday’s Race 13 marked the half-way point to the Chase for the Championship cut-off. Although he took a back seat to his race-winning brother, Kyle Busch notched a third-place finish at Charlotte to close the gap to just 29 points on leader Kevin Harvick, who finished 11th.

"I feel really good about where we're at,” Kyle said post-race. “I feel we've had a lot of 20th-place finishes, teens, stuff like that. Now, recently, the last six or seven, we've clicked off some Top 10, Top 5s in a row….Now we go to the summer stretch.”

Next on NASCAR’s Road to Miami is Pocono, where Stewart reigns as 2009 winner, though many of this year’s Chase contenders have had prior success at the event. Stewart sits just 27 points outside of that coveted 12th spot, while three-time Chase participant Dale Earnhardt Jr. is just 54 points out of the final Chase spot.

Both Stewart and Montoya used Top 10 finishes last year at Pocono to help vault them into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, again this year to be crowned at THE Championship Track during Ford Championship Weekend Nov. 19-21. Tickets go on sale to the general public July 3 (renewal deadline is June 15). For more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

Another driver to watch at the halfway point to the Chase cut-off is 2009 Ford 400 champion Denny Hamlin, who with three Pocono wins looks to gain more momentum toward attaining his preseason goal of being the one to unseat four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson. With a 37th-place finish in Race 13, the No. 48 has dropped all the way to seventh in the Chase standings.

Montoya, Earnhardt Jr., Hamlin and all of NASCAR’s elite will look to gain points Sunday at Pocono (1 p.m., TNT)—Race 14 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). Tickets to see NASCAR’s Champions crowned go on sale to the general public on July 3 (renewal deadline is June 15). For more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.


On the Move: South Florida’s Montoya

Montoya Wrecks at Charlotte

South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya entered Sunday's race as the fastest car during Thursday’s practice for the Coca-Cola 600, but on Lap 61 he got loose and spun out on the backstretch, hitting the inside wall. The team went back to the garage for repairs and when leaving the garage area, the transmission broke, causing them to change out the transmission.

Montoya returned to the track on Lap 130 and stayed out there until approximately 30 laps remained in the race when they parked it and called it a night. Montoya finished in the 38th position (306/400 laps completed).

The No. 42 currently sits in the 20th spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, with 13 races to go before the Chase “playoff” field is set.

This year, Montoya has started all 13 races of the Sprint Cup season but has fallen victim to an inordinate amount of engine issues and on-track tangling—which makes the following stat all the more remarkable: In the six races in which he has completed all laps, South Florida’s hometown’er has recorded a phenomenal four Top 5s and two Top 10s to remain in the hunt for this year’s “playoffs,” which culminate with the 2010 Champion being crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21.

Montoya continues his points-race pursuit of the Sprint Cup Series Championship--to be crowned Nov. 21 on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway—with Race 14 of 36 at Pocono on Sunday, June 6 (1 p.m., TNT TV).

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