By: Jason Schultz
Four down, six to go. In six races we will crown the 2012 Sprint Cup Series Champion. We expected a major shakeup in the Chase points after Talladega and we got one. The Chasers are now spread out and some drivers find themselves in deep trouble of falling out of Chase contention. Matt Kenseth took home the victory Sunday afternoon in Talladega but he finds himself dead last in the Chase standings. That shows how spread out the Chase standings have become. Kenseth is going to need a great six weeks if he wants to take home his second Sprint Cup Championship.
The top of the standing look very familiar. That’s because the top three in points didn’t move. Brad Keselowski is still on top followed by Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Keselowski was involved in the last lap twenty-five car pileup but he still managed to finish the race seventh. Keselowski is in very good position and he is exactly where you want to be going into the fifth race of the Chase. Keselowski leads Johnson in the standings by fourteen points. This is Keselowski’s second Chase and he’s currently beating a driver with way more Chase experience. Keselowski remains the Chase favorite going into Charlotte.
Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson currently sits second in the Chase standings. Johnson was also involved in the last lap wreck. Johnson took a major hit in Talladega. He lost nine points to Keselowski and now he’ll have to score fourteen more points than Keselowski in the final six races if he wants his sixth championship. If anybody can do it, Jimmie Johnson can do it.
Denny Hamlin was one of eight Chasers involved in the last lap wreck. Hamlin didn’t have as much damage as the other cars involved did but he was still involved and that hurt his chance of a decent finish. Hamlin now sits twenty-three points behind the leader. Hamlin came into the Chase with such high hopes and now with these rollercoaster emotions Hamlin needs some more good runs. Hamlin will go into Charlotte hungry and looking for victory.
The silent assassin Kasey Kahne is still looking good after four Chase races. Kahne has been running well and he sits comfortably fourth in the points. Kahne is just about ten points shy of being a full race out of first in the standings but with Kahne going back to Charlotte this weekend, the sight of his first win of the season, he is in win mode.
Clint Bowyer had the worst finish among the Chasers at Talladega but he still sits fifth in the points. Bowyer had previously won the last two October races at Talladega but after he got caught up in the last lap wreck, Bowyer’s hopes of number three went away. With a few great runs in the next six races, Bowyer can get to top three in points and contend for the championship.
The biggest mover in the Chase standings after Talladega was Jeff Gordon. Gordon brought home his third straight top three finish and that is the kind of consistency you need to win the championship. Gordon made it through the last lap wreck and ended up finishing second. Gordon is lurking in sixth in the standings and with more of his consistent finishes, he’ll be battling it out for the championship come Homestead.
Tony Stewart’s wild ride at Talladega plummeted him down two positions in the Chase. Stewart now sits seventh and he is about a full race out of first. Stewart needs some of his Chase performance from last year to kick in so Stewart can climb back up the Chase ladder.
Martin Truex Jr still sits eighth in the Chase standings after Talladega. Truex Jr was also involved in the last lap wreck. Truex Jr is likely not going to win the championship this year but we could see him in victory lane over the next six weeks. Kansas, Charlotte and Texas are all strong tracks for Truex Jr and he could end up in victory lane.
One of the best restrictor-plate racers this year is Greg Biffle. Biffle hung around the front all afternoon in Talladega until he got caught up in the last lap wreck. Biffle was pushing teammate Matt Kenseth for most of the day and he was a reason Kenseth came out on top. Biffle moved up to ninth in the standings and he is going to need a perfect six weeks if he wants to win the championship.
This 2012 season continues to be a problem for Kevin Harvick. Harvick was getting pushed towards the front on the last lap before he was caught up in the last lap wreck. Harvick continues to fall in the standings and he is looking forward to a fresh start in 2013.
At one point in his career, Dale Earnhardt Jr was the king of restrictor plate races. That has changed drastically. Earnhardt Jr was involved in the last lap wreck and he said after the race that he would rather not race at restrictor plate races anymore. That’s coming from a former king of the restrictor plate races. Some of those comments are from frustration but it’s mostly because of his lack of success at restrictor plate races recently. Earnhardt Jr is falling further and further from the top of the Chase standings and he will likely not be holding up a championship trophy in Homestead.
Talladega left a major shakeup in the Chase standings and it left some drivers on the verge of losing title hopes. Some drivers will take advantage of the next six races to rebound and some have given up hope. We are getting closer and closer to the end of the season and it’s shaping up to be a battle between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. Tune in next Saturday Night to see round five of the Chase contenders battle it out in Charlotte.