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Which NASCAR Sprint Cup driver will wrap up final place in Chase for the Championship?

As the Sprint Cup series takes its final week off this season, and with just two races left until the 12-driver Chase for the Championship field is set, we take a look at the fight for the final spot. Only the top two in points, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, have officially clinched spots. But realistically, those in spots 3-11 are all but in. So who's fighting for No. 12, and what are their chances heading into the races Sept. 5 at Atlanta and Sept. 11 at Richmond?

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The good news The bad news Chase chances
No. 12: Clint Bowyer, 2,920 points

Bowyer has the inside track to be the third Richard Childress Racing driver in the Chase, joining Harvick and Jeff Burton, who's in seventh.

Richmond is his best track, with an average finish of 10.2, including one of his two career Sprint Cup victories in the 2008 spring race. He also owns one of his eight Nationwide series wins there. He has finished sixth at Atlanta four times but in his other five races there he has finished 20th or worse. If the race Sept. 5 doesn't go well, he's likely to be under the gun. 80


No. 13: Jamie McMurray, 2,820 points

He has moved up from 19th place in the past six weeks and will be one to watch if he does find his way into the Chase.

This season, his first with the rebranded Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, has been better than he could have dreamed, with victories in two marquee races, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. This quote from last week: "I'm really fortunate … that we were able to win those two big races because if we don't make the Chase, it's not going to be devastating." Tell it to your sponsors. Oh, and he has just four top-10 finishes in 16 tries at Atlanta. 7


No. 14, Mark Martin, 2,819 points

The sentimental favorite at age 51, Martin was in the top 12 for most of the season but fell back out two weeks ago at Michigan.

Martin's powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports team can focus on his efforts with Gordon already in, Jimmie Johnson very comfortable in ninth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. again out of the running. His form has been poor lately with just one top-10 finish in his past 11 races, and his glory at Atlanta (two wins, most recently in 1994) and Richmond (one win, in 1990) has faded. Dealing with rumors about his future has not helped. 10


No. 15, Ryan Newman, 2,802 points

He made the Chase last year, his first with Stewart-Haas Racing.

A bright side is hard to come by considering his deficit, but he has 11 top-10 finishes in 17 starts at Richmond, including all three of his races there with Stewart-Haas. At Atlanta, Newman has five top-10 finishes in 17 starts and just one top-five — and a top-five is likely what he'll need by the time the regular season finale rolls around. He has two top-fives this season, which would tie a career low. 3


Drivers who are almost certain to be on the outside looking in barring a huge turnaround are Kasey Kahne (2,784), David Reutimann (2,765), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,750) and Juan Montoya (2,728).

Which NASCAR Sprint Cup driver will wrap up final place in Chase for the Championship? 08/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 8:14pm]
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