This Sunday, the Coca-Cola 600 marks our 13th race of the 2010 season and also the halfway point of what we call the regular season. History has shown us that after this race that eight, nine or even 10 of the drivers in the top 12 will be there at the end of the 26th race in Richmond in September.
To me, the guys that really have to step it up to make this year's Chase are Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer. Also, if you look at the points right now, from eighth place to as far back as 16th is probably the tightest the points have ever been. That's a product of the competition. I believe the competition is tighter than it was a year ago.
We have guys that look to be players this year that weren't players a year ago. Roush Fenway Racing is still missing a little something to have a breakthrough year, but let's face it: Right now, there are still three out of four of their teams in the top 12. You also have two of the three Richard Childress Racing cars in the top 12.
On the other side of the equation, both of the Stewart-Haas cars that were in last year are currently out of the top 12 in points. I don't think both of them will make it this year, but I do think one will make the Chase. Tony Stewart really has step it up over this stretch of summer races and find that missing something they have lost from last year.
Now you can't say the Coca-Cola 600 is a make-or-break race, because like we said there are still 13 races to go after this weekend. What's interesting is the next six races, following Sunday's event are coast to coast, border to border. Within that the next five races are at totally different race tracks. You go from a wide two-mile track, to a road course, to a superspeedway, etc.
My point is you really can't take anything from any of those tracks and relate them to the other.
So again, Sunday really isn't a make-or-break race. But for folks like Montoya, Kahne and Stewart, well they have just about used all their mulligans up for 2010. Those guys need a good run. They need to leave Charlotte with some positive momentum.