By Steve Mickey
The Sprint Cup Series is a ten-race marathon that is broken up into three short sprints that are used to narrow down the field of drivers that will eventually get the opportunity to be one of the championship four that goes to Homestead with a chance to win the title. Sunday at Dover the first of the three short sprint stretch of three races came to an end when Martin Truex Jr. captured the checkered flag in the Citizen Soldier 400.
Chris Buescher, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson and Tony Stewart all saw their championship hopes taken away as they were the bottom four drivers in the Chase standings after Sunday. It was Stewart’s last opportunity to win his fourth series title as he has already announced that this will be his last season competing in the series but he will continue as part owner of Stewart-Haas Racing that also fields teams for Danica Patrick and Chase drivers Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.
The remaining twelve drivers that now advance will all start out on an even playing field as every driver’s points will be reset to 3,000. Unlike the opening round of the Chase there are no bonus points awarded to drivers for the number of victories that they have posted on the season. Any ties in the standings during this round will be broken by the number of 2nds, 3rds and will continue until the tie is broken.
Every round is made up of a unique trio of races and the Round of 12 is no different. Charlotte will be contested under the lights and like the following week at Kansas, both of these are one and a half mile tracks that race very similar. Races on the mile and half-tracks can become fuel mileage events as it is not unusual for the racing to feature very long stretches of green flag racing that can put the outcome into the hands of the crew chief that must come up with a pit strategy that will ensure his driver is in position at the end of the race to run for the win.
This round also features what may be the real wild card race of the entire 10-race Chase schedule with the final race at Talladega Superspeedway. It is not unusual for any race at Talladega to feature at least one and sometimes more than one “Big One” which is a multi-car wreck that can take out a large portion of the field and often times it is some of the best cars that get caught up in one of these rolling road blocks.
Talladega is the one Chase race there will be favorites before the race but once the race starts, every Chase driver knows that if he can stay in the lead pack of cars that he will have a chance in the closing laps to put himself in a positon to not only have a good points day but also to run for the win. Even when you put yourself in a position to win at this track, you can’t do it by yourself as you need to have another driver on your bumper to take advantage of the draft. All of this makes it the wild card race because there is so much of what it takes to win that is not in the hands of either the driver or the crew chief.
CHASE NOTES: Martin Truex Jr. enters the Round of 12 as the driver with the momentum with his two wins at Chicagoland and Dover. He will enter the Bank of America 500 Saturday night at Charlotte as the favorite as he posted the most dominant win in the history of Charlotte Motor Speedway when the series stopped there for the annual Memorial Day running of the Coca-Cola 600 earlier this season. He won that race from the pole and led 392 of the race’s 400 laps on his way to setting a NASCAR record of leading 588 miles in a race.
Event: Bank of America 500
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad oval, 24o of banking in the turns)
Date: Oct. 8, 7:00 pm
Defending Champion: Joey Logano