Chicagoland Race 2012: Start of The Chase

We are currently about a month and a half away from the start of The Chase. 2012 will be the second consecutive year that Chicagoland Speedway will play host for the first race of The Chase for the Cup. With just six races left before The Chase, Dale Jr. currently leads the standings for the first time since 2004 and might be in position to capture his first ever points championship. Junior has put himself in a good spot and he seems to be driving with the more confidence than ever before.

Last week Jimmie Johnson returned to his winning ways with his fourth career victory at the Brickyard. Junior and JJ are in good position but the final few spots are still up for grabs. If The Chase were to start today, this would be the list of qualified contenders for the Sprint Cup championship.

1Dale Earnhardt Jr.731Leader
2Matt Kenseth717-14
3Greg Biffle709-22
4Jimmie Johnson704-27
5Denny Hamlin667-64
6Kevin Harvick653-78
7Martin Truex Jr.653-78
8Tony Stewart652-79
9Brad Keselowski649-82
10Clint Bowyer643-88
W1Kasey Kahne579-152
W2Kyle Busch588-143

The top ten look to be locked in barring any major collapse by one of the bottom 5 drivers. At this point all of the top 10 should feel comfortable and might race relatively conservative over the next 6 races. That could open up the competition for the final 2 Chase qualifiers.

Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard, and Joey Logano are the drivers on the outside looking in at this point. Logano is currently the only one in this group who has a win this season and would need to win another race or catch Busch in points. Logano is trailing Busch by 44 points in the standing so he will need some really good luck to catch him in points. Logano, like his fellow bubble drivers, needs a win to give himself a shot at making The Chase.

If The Chase were to start today, Jimmie Johnson would be tied for first with Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski (all have 3 wins). Denny Hamlin is the only driver in the top ten with 2 wins and the rest have just 1 win or none. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. are the only drivers in the top ten without a win this season.

We have reached crunch time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Pocono this weekend will bring us one step closer to NASCAR "playoffs". Look for Denny Hamlin to take the victory and make it a four way tie at 3 for most victories this season. For the first time in a while the championship looks completely up for grabs. Hard to say at this point who the favorite is but Jimmie Johnson appears to be heating up and we all know what that could mean for everyone else.... Championship #6? Sentimental favorite right now is absolutely Dale Jr.

Written by: Craig Kibler

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