Junior Moment? No. 88 Moves into Top 12
Earnhardt Jr. moved into the top 12 with a fourth place finish in the Coke Zero 400, and could be poised for his first Championship in Miami (courtesy Chris Graythen Getty Images Sport).
We’re halfway through the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, and with a win at Daytona—Race 18 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 19-21) in Miami—Kevin Harvick has shown that he belongs in the Championship conversation. Ditto for Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, the Busch brothers and four-time reigning Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson. Lock in tickets to see the 2010 Champion crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.
Also among the NASCAR stars seeking Miami glory Nov. 21 in South Florida: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
With eight races remaining before the Chase cutoff at Richmond (Sept. 11), NASCAR’s most popular driver is on a roll. With a fourth-place finish at Daytona, Junior has three Top 10s and an 11th-place finish in his last four races. And after a six-week stint hovering outside the Top 12, he has moved back into a coveted Chase position.
Junior’s hot streak continued at Daytona, where he was able to salvage a Top 5 despite a rough night in the No. 88. He eluded “The Big One”—which claimed 20 drivers total—by dropping to the low side of the track and also avoided several late wrecks to capture his fourth consecutive Top 11 finish. He ran in the middle of the pack all night and at one point even radioed crew chief Lance McGrew that, "It ain't gonna drive good no matter what."
"We got lucky, real lucky to get what we got," Earnhardt said post-race. "I'm proud of the work the guys did, but you'd rather be good than lucky. Anybody wants to trade you some luck like they all did tonight, we'll take it."
Earnhardt entered Daytona just three points back of 12th place in the standings and certainly benefited from the many damaged racecars. His fourth-place finish moved him into 11th place in the all-important Chase for the Championship, which will culminate in South Florida Nov. 21. Lock in tickets to see the 2010 Champion crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.
NASCAR’s Top 12 drivers in the points standings as of Race 26 will qualify for the Chase “playoffs” that culminate with a Champion being crowned in Miami Nov. 21. Harvick and his Richard Childress Racing teammates, Jeff Burton (eighth in points) and Clint Bowyer (14th) are all in the hunt to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and all three were vying for the win on the final lap of a green-white-checkered finish in Race 18 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend in Miami
"All the cars ran really well, and from a team standpoint that's all you can really ask for," said Harvick, who extended his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lead to 212 points on Gordon with his second restrictor-plate victory of the season. Gordon finished third behind Kasey Kahne.
With eight races to go before the Chase “playoff” field is set, just 39 points separate points spots 12 (Carl Edwards) and 13 (Mark Martin), and just 49 points separate Edwards (12th) and Bowyer (14th). Kyle Busch—who led 23 laps at Daytona, second only to race-winner Harvick's 28—dropped three positions to sixth in the points standings after he demolished his car in a tangle with South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya (see sidebar) to finish 40th.
Contenders for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship will be unveiled after Race 26 at Richmond, with the 10-race Chase for the Cup to be decided in Miami Nov. 21. Lock in tickets to see the Champion crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.
NASCAR’s elite take another step toward Miami glory Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT-TV, MRN Radio), for Race 19 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). For tickets and more information, visit THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.
On The Move: South Florida's Montoya
“This is just the story of our year.”
--South Florida-resident Juan Pablo Montoya, caught up in “The Big One” at Daytona
South Florida-resident Juan Pablo Montoya captured his first pole of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series two weeks ago at New Hampshire, but rain showers washed out this past weekend’s qualifying session at Daytona. With Saturday night’s Sprint Cup drivers lining up per points standings, Montoya started from the 22nd position.
The Colombian-turned-Miami resident worked his way through the field and into the Top 5 by Lap 34. He even led 11 laps and looked ready to repeat his Top 10 performance from February in Daytona. That is, until a 20-car wreck collected the No. 42—the damage sending the Miami resident to the garage early en route to a 27th-place finish.
Said Montoya: "I saw cars piling up in front of me. I tried to get down on the track and clipped with the right front corner on someone. There is nothing you can do; it is just one of those deals. Again, this Target Chevrolet has been amazing all season. The team has done a really good job. This is just the story of our year."
Since the 2010 season opener at Daytona, Montoya has accumulated four Top 5s and eight Top 10 finishes and finds himself 183 points outside the Top 12 overall points cut-off to qualify for the Sprint Cup “playoffs.” He now has eight races remaining to qualify for the Chase, which culminates on Montoya’s “home track” Nov. 21. Lock in tickets to see the Champion crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.
He has started all 18 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: The driver of the No. 42 has finished in the Top 10 of all but one 2010 race in which he has completed all scheduled laps. Included in that run for South Florida’s hometown’er are four Top 5s. It is worth noting that one year ago, Montoya rattled off nine Top 10s in a span of 14 races to vault from 15th to a Chase spot.
Montoya’s next opportunity to gain points comes Saturday night showdown under the lights at Chicagoland (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT-TV, MRN Radio)—Race 19 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 19-21. Lock in tickets to see the Champion crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com or by calling (866) 409-RACE.
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