Now we are heading to a six-week stretch that will bring us to the final off weekend before the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season ends.
In these six races we’ll go coast to coast and border to border. We’ll also have six very different-style racetracks.
It all starts this weekend at the triangle we know as Pocono Raceway. Then it’s up to Michigan for its 2-mile track. Road-course racing at Sonoma follows that. Then for only the second time, we will be at Kentucky Speedway under the lights at the end of June. From there we head to restrictor-plate racing at Daytona International Speedway for more Saturday night racing over the July 4 weekend and then wrap things up at the 1-mile track in Loudon, N.H.
From there, following a much needed off weekend, there will be only seven races to go until the field for the 2012 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is set. Quite honestly, after these next six races, the picture will be pretty clear concerning who our players will be in this year's Chase.
The races these last two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway have even more importance because both tracks are part of the Chase. While these drivers and teams are out there running hard and trying to win races, they are also collecting valuable notes to hopefully benefit themselves in the Chase. It will be like that at Loudon, too, which is also in the 2012 Chase.
Points leader Greg Biffle has been the model of consistency leading NASCAR for something like 11 straight weeks now. He knows, however, he has to start winning some races. He knows from simply watching his teammate Carl Edwards last year that consistency will not win you the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in the same boat. He is having a great season. He is third in the points. We’ve run 13 races so far this season, and in all but three of them he has finished in the top 10. He, too, knows he has to win races if he wants to win his first Sprint Cup championship.
Tension and stress are mounting on a number of teams out there. Those are the ones who know the clock is ticking and they have work to do. We know who is sitting pretty good to make the Chase. The key are those who need to start winning if they want to have a chance to make up ground and make the Chase.
Now sure, consistency will get you to the Chase. Carl Edwards proved that. Winning races is what will win you the championship. Tony Stewart proved that. I just think this season is going to prove out like last year. Remember, when it was all said and done, Carl and Tony tied in the points. However, the tiebreaker is based on wins, and Tony had Carl covered there.
The wins also play a huge role in who gets the final two slots in the Chase. Sure, we have a pretty good picture right now of who the top 14 drivers are that are vying for those top-10 points slots. The huge variable is who has the most wins that isn’t in the top 10 in points but is also in the top 20 in points. Those two drivers are the ones who make their way into the Chase thanks to the two wild-card slots. I still maintain that this year it will take two wins to get those two final spots.
I can’t wait to get to both Pocono Raceway this weekend and then Michigan International Speedway the following weekend. We’ve been going to both tracks now twice a year for a number of years. The difference in 2012, however, is both have new surfaces, and believe me, they are going to be bad, bad fast.