Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 4, 2012

de la Bastide: Chase wild-card spots are up for grabs

Rain washes out several weekend events

By Ken de la Bastide
Racing columnist

— With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heading to Richmond this weekend for the final race of its “regular season,” it is crunch time for drivers still hoping to make the 10-race Chase for the Championship.

Some of the biggest names in NASCAR are on the verge of missing the run for the title including four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

The top 10 drivers in the points standings are locked into the Chase with two wild-card spots eligible for the run.

The reality of the situation heading to Richmond is that Gordon and Edwards have to win to even have a remote chance at making the Chase.

Right now the two drivers in the wild-card positions are Kasey Kahne and Busch. Kahne is only 18 points out of the 10th spot, which is held by Tony Stewart.

Should Kahne overtake Stewart, then “Smoke” is assured of a spot in the Chase on the basis of his three wins this season. The problem for Stewart in that scenario is that wild-card teams in the Chase lose their bonus points from their wins.

Kahne is probably a lock for the Chase with his two wins. Drivers with one win include Gordon, Busch, Marcus Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.

If none of the drivers with one win score the victory at Richmond, then Gordon would need to accumulate in the race 13 points more than Busch and 28 points more than Ambrose in order to make the Chase.

To make things more interesting heading to Richmond, Denny Hamlin could be sitting on the top of the points standings going into the Chase based on his four wins. Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski both join Stewart with three wins.

In other racing news

• It was no surprise Tuesday to learn that Matt Kenseth, who announced earlier this year that he was leaving Roush/Fenway Racing, has signed to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Home Depot-sponsored car.

Also Tuesday, also as expected, current Gibbs driver Joey Logano signed to drive for Penske Racing in 2013 when the team switches from Dodge to Ford.

• Rain played havoc with racing in central Indiana over the Labor Day weekend.

The NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway postponed the final two days of action until this coming weekend. The “Stock Car Festival” at Winchester Speedway has been moved to Sept. 23. And, the 65th anniversary of Anderson Speedway also has been scheduled for Sept. 23 with fireworks added to the program.

• The Izod IndyCar Series heads to California on Sept. 15 for the final race of the year and American Ryan Hunter-Reay is in a position to possibly become the first U.S. champion since Sam Hornish Jr. won the title in 2006.

Hunter-Reay heads to California just 17 points back of Will Power. Power could be looking at losing the championship for the third consecutive year as the series concludes on an oval.

Power is not at his best on oval tracks and Hunter-Reay has run strong on the ovals this season.

In Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore, Hunter-Reay used an aggressive move on a restart to take the lead and record his fourth win of the year.

• Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8580.