Chase Field Taking Shape

Kyle Busch Wins at Michigan

With two races left before the Chase field is set, Kyle Busch maintains the NASCAR Championship points standings. Busch has four race victories in 2011 (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Two races remain before the complete 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set, seedings and all.

Here’s what we know: Five drivers have clinched a Chase spot in some fashion. Kyle Busch, five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards have locked up a top-10 spot. Kevin Harvick, on the strength of three 2011 victories, has clinched at least a Wild Card spot – and will likely cement a top-10 berth in this Sunday night’s race at Atlanta.

After Race No. 26 at Richmond International Raceway, the Top-10 drivers in points will fill out the first portion of the 12-driver Chase. Spots 11 and 12 go to those drivers outside the Top 10 with the most victories, provided they are in the Top 20. The Wild Card tiebreaker is points position.

A few words on bonus points: Only the top 10 get them. Once the Chase field is set, all 12 drivers will have their points reset to 2,000. Then, for those in the top 10, three additional bonus points will be tacked on for each win during the 26-race regular season.

Sunday’s race in Atlanta will likely further shore things up. The “magic number” for Atlanta is 49. Leaving Atlanta, any driver who has a 49-point lead over 11th-place clinches a top-10 Chase spot (Note: If the driver in question owns the tiebreaker over 11th of best-finish, that magic number shrinks to 48.). Here are the clinch scenarios going into the weekend…

Harvick and Jeff Gordon: Both 93 points ahead of 11th, Harvick and Gordon can guarantee a Top 10 spot with at least a finish of 40th; or 41st and at least one lap led; or 42nd and the most laps led.

Ryan Newman: Currently 73 points ahead of 11th, Newman can guarantee a Top 10 spot with at least a finish of 20th; or 21st and at least one lap led; or 22nd and the most laps led.

Kurt Busch: Currently 60 points ahead of 11th, Busch can guarantee a Top 10 spot with at least a finish of seventh; or eighth and at least one lap led; or ninth and the most laps led.

Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. (39 points ahead of 11th) and Tony Stewart (21 points ahead) can both mathematically reach that 49-point threshold but would need to help. No specific finish guarantees a spot.

There are Wild Card clinching possibilities for this weekend, but all depends on finishes from various competitors on Sunday.

Once the checkered flag waves at Richmond September 10, the field will be set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. 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.

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Race 25 at Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 4 (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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