For drivers looking to claw their way into the Chase for the Championship, time is running out. The AdvoCare 500 on Sept. 2 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of six races remaining prior to the field being set for the playoff format in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
For some of NASCAR’s biggest names, multiple race victories during the coming weeks may be needed, thus making Labor Day Weekend all the more critical for the likes of Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.
Edwards was blunt following the most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis, which further entrenched him into a position of needing multiple wins to qualify for the Chase.
"The silver lining is this kind of makes it official that we just go race for wins now for the next six races," he said. "I don't think there is much of a chance we are going to march back up there in the points."
In other words, its win or else for Edwards, and he'll likely need to do just that on Labor Day Weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The Chase field is comprised of the top ten drivers in the points standings following the 26th race of the season in addition to two wild card drivers. These positions are given to the drivers with the most wins ranked between 11th and 20th in the points standings.
Kasey Kahne currently leads that group with two wins, creating a mad scramble for the final spot. Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch currently have the upper hand with one win apiece so far.
Behind them are Gordon and Edwards. Both have experienced struggles this season and have not yet won a race. A victory, however, could get them back into the thick of the race for a Chase spot.
|Driver||Points Out of Top Ten|
|Kyle Busch||-55 (Holds No. 2 wild card spot, one win)|
|Kasey Kahne||-64 (Holds No. 1 wild card spot with two wins)|
|Ryan Newman||-70 (-15 points from No. 2 wild card, one win)|
|Joey Logano||-99 (-44 from No. 2 wild card with one win|
A victory in Atlanta could be the difference in making or missing the Chase for both Edwards and Gordon. That said, both drivers have history on their side at AMS. Edwards has three Atlanta wins with Gordon being the defending winner of the AdvoCare 500.
If a driver is to make the Chase, this is the time of year to go on a hot streak. It’s a proven formula. In 2009, Kasey Kahne won the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a win that got him into the Chase.
Last year, Brad Keselowski’s Chase hopes didn’t have much promise heading into the latter part of July. But he got going at the right time. During a six-race stretch, which began in August, Keselowski finished no worse than sixth, winning twice and earning five top-five finishes. That moved the driver of the Blue Deuce from a Chase hopeful to a solid championship contender within weeks.
Tony Stewart’s Chase hopes were also on life support at this time a year ago, with Stewart going so far as to suggest that his team didn’t deserve to be in the Chase. Whether Smoke was being serious or trying to inspire his crew, he also caught fire at the right time. His third-place finish at Atlanta in the AdvoCare 500 was his first top five since early in the season, a race that was the start of a torrid pace throughout the final ten races, which ended with Stewart as the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion .
The fight to get into the Chase is picking up steam quickly, and if the past few seasons repeat themselves, the hopes of Chase contenders will either move ahead or fade away on Labor Day Weekend.