The Race to the Chase is Heating Up
With a seventh-place finish at Daytona, Kevin Harvick (in the No. 29) took the top spot in the NASCAR Championship points standings with nine races left to determine the Chase field. The winner of which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend Nov. 20 (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, Getty Images Sport)
Over the next nine races – aptly coined the Race to the Chase – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are scheduled to run 2,443 laps totaling over 3,306 miles in the hopes of becoming part of one much smaller number: 12.
Though this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver field remains at 12, the makeup has changed a bit. After race No. 26, the top 10 drivers in the series standings will qualify for the 12-driver 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Spots 11 and 12 – the Wild Cards – go to those drivers outside the Top 10 with the most wins, provided they are in the Top 20. Ties go to the driver with the highest points position. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
NASCAR’s Chase For The Sprint Cup Championship “playoff” system—the winner of which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend for a 10th consecutive season this fall. Expect intensity boosts – and more than a few ‘wow’ moments – during this stretch, as the two Wild Card spots make for a drama-filled subplot during the playoff push.
But don’t forget the potential Chase bonus points. After race No. 26, all 12 Chase drivers will have their points reset to 2,000, but only the Top 10 drivers earn three bonus points for each win tallied over the course of the regular season. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
Nine unique tracks make up this vital portion of the upcoming schedule, and the roster befits the importance. No two tracks are alike, be it in distance or in layout.
A rundown of the upcoming nine tracks, a list that includes some of the most historic and interesting venues in motorsports:
Kentucky Speedway (1.5-mile tri-oval): Long awaited, and much anticipated, this is the debut of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at the popular Midwestern track. Wild Card Implication: This race, by definition, is a wild card in itself. No history equals anybody’s guess.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway (one-mile oval): A preview of the second Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Wild Card Implication: There have been six different winners in the last six races.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval): Ever since the series’ inaugural race at the legendary track in 1994, the Brickyard 400 was immediately slotted as one of the sport’s “Crown Jewels.” Wild Card Implication: Defending champion Jamie McMurray likely needs a Wild Card-spot to land a Chase berth. Same goes for his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, who has run well there – and boasts an Indianapolis 500 victory.
Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile triangle): Simply put, there’s no track like it in NASCAR racing. Three unique turns give way to three straightaways of varying length. Wild Card Implication: Denny Hamlin, currently in 11th, has four Pocono victories. Another would likely lock him into the Chase.
Watkins Glen International (2.45-mile road course): One of two road courses on the series schedule (and the only one during the Race to the Chase), new faces often appear in The Glen’s Victory Lane. Wild Card Implication: Montoya won last year’s event. Also, road-course savvy Marcos Ambrose could immediately become a Chase contender with a victory.
Michigan International Speedway (2-mile tri-oval): Wide open and multi-grooved, the visit to the Irish Hills of Michigan often results in big passing numbers. Wild Card Implication: Four of the last five races have been won by drivers currently outside the top 10 (Denny Hamlin, two; Brian Vickers and Mark Martin, one apiece).
Bristol Motor Speedway (.533 oval): The first of two short tracks during the Race to the Chase, the “Bristol Night Race” is considered one of the must-see-live events for any sports fan. Wild Card Implication: Tight Bristol confines could wreck – literally – any contender’s chances.
Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-mile tri-oval): Considered one of the fastest tracks in the series, this race has become an anticipated Labor Day tradition. Wild Card Implication: The last two winners of the Labor Day Weekend event – Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart – both currently sit outside the top 10.
Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile tri-oval): It all comes down to this, the Chase cut-off race. Once the checkered flies, the 12-driver Chase field will be set. Wild Card Implication: This one occasionally comes down to an all-or-nothing strategy. That blueprint should be the case again – even more so – with the Wild Card in play.
What: The nine races prior to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
July 9 – Kentucky Speedway
July 17 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 31 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug. 7 – Pocono Raceway
Aug. 14 – Watkins Glen International
Aug. 21 – Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 27 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 4 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 10 – Richmond International Raceway
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Kentucky on Saturday, July 9 (6:30 p.m. EDT, TNT). Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.