Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Players in the Chase



It's all about finishing in the top 12 in the standings -- the drivers in that group make the Chase -- when the checkered flag flies Sept. 8 in Richmond, Va. Although it is mathematically possible for Greg Biffle and Casey Mears to make the Chase, at 212 and 298 points out of 12th, respectively, they are likely racing for the $1 million bonus that goes to the driver who finishes 13th at the end of the season.

Here's how the drivers on the Chase bubble fared:

Clint Bowyer

9. Clint Bowyer
Position before race -- 10
Chase points safety margin -- 234
Breakdown -- All but a lock to make the Chase at this point, Bowyer got a 16th-place finish at Watkins Glen and heads to Michigan with the confidence of knowing the dreaded road courses are behind him.

Kevin Harvick

10. Kevin Harvick
Position before race -- 9
Chase points safety margin -- 222
Breakdown -- Collected in a late crash by Juan Pablo Montoya, Harvick had a car that could have contended for a top-5 at the very least. He's still a safe Chase bet.

Martin Truex Jr.

11. Martin Truex Jr.
Position before race -- 11
Chase points safety margin -- 154
Breakdown -- Increased his safety margin by 109 points with a solid sixth-place finish. He needed a good day to stave off not only Kurt Busch, but more importantly teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Truex got what he needed.

Kurt Busch

12. Kurt Busch
Position before race -- 12
Chase points safety margin -- 96
Breakdown -- He picked up a whopping 89-point cushion over last week, and now his nearest pursuer is teammate Ryan Newman, not Earnhardt. He cost himself a shot at contending with a speeding penalty on pit road on his final stop at Watkins Glen, but finishing 11th still got the job done.

Ryan Newman

13. Ryan Newman
Position before race -- 14
Points out of Chase -- 96
Breakdown -- Busch's Penske teammate actually lost six points on the 12th spot in the standings, but he did manage to pass another driver. Newman has four races to make up ground, and the Penske garage will be watching Truex very closely the next few weeks.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Position before race -- 13
Points out of Chase -- 100
Breakdown -- Disaster struck -- again. Needing a good day to hang with Busch (Earnhardt started the day a scant seven points out of the Chase), Junior blew a motor -- again. He was running as high as second in the race, and a good finish seemed in the cards. Now, the No. 8 team has little margin for error, and has to hope the worst for at least two other drivers.
K. Lee Davis is a motorsports editor at ESPN.com. He can be reached at kevin.davis@espn3.com.

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