Three races to go until NASCAR crowns a champion. It’s all come down to the driver from Rochester Hills, Michigan or the five-time champion from El Cajon, California, and with the way both drivers have been competing in this 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup we may not know until the final lap in Homestead-Miami.
On Sunday, Jimmie Johnson proved he is ready for another championship as he won his fourth race of the season at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson led 193 laps to become the points leader, just two points ahead of second place, Brad Keselowski. This was also the first race back for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who missed the last two weeks after suffering a concussion at Talladega Speedway earlier this month.
In this weekly segment, Total Sports Blog, will rewind the race from the day before and let you know where all the Chase contenders finished and where they are in the point standings.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne started the TUMS Fast Relief 500 from the 15th starting spot and quickly climbed through the field before the first caution 46 laps into the race. Kahne stayed in the top ten all day and even took the lead for 12 laps as green flag pit stops cycled through, and would finish the race in third position. Kahne would jump one spot in the points standings to fourth, just 29 points behind his teammate, Jimmie Johnson.
Clint Bowyer: Clint Bowyer finished fifth in the 500 lap race at Martinsville on Sunday. He started eighth and rove to the front leading the pack four times for 151 laps. This is Bowyer’s ninth top-five and 21st top-10 of the 2012 season. Bowyer would also move up one spot in the standings, to third, just 26 points out of first.
Brad Keselowski: While it wasn’t the perfect position to start the race, Keselowski knew just what he had to do. Keselowski made his way to the front in true championship form and was in contention to win but we all know that wasn’t the case. While he may have lost the points lead, he still isn’t out as we head to Texas next Sunday.
Jeff Gordon: The driver of the No. 24 Chevy looked to be the one to win on Sunday, but had to settle for seventh place. Gordon quickly rose through the field on Sunday after starting eleventh but a loose handling car would cause Gordon to struggle. Gordon would led 92 laps on Sunday and is now sixth in the points standings, just 54 points out.
Greg Biffle: Definitely a quite day in the Roush-Fenway Racing camp as both Biffle and his teammate, Matt Kenseth, finished 10th and 14th respectively. The only difference is that Kenseth led one lap. Kenseth gained one spot in the points and is now 8th, 66 points out of first; while Biffle jumped two spots and is now 69 points out of first.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr: NASCAR’s Most Popular driver moved to the front without little talk after starting 20th. However, it was a late race incident that would ruin his first race back in two weeks. Junior would finish 21st and is now 129 points behind his teammate, Jimmie Johnson.
Martin Truex, Jr: Truex finished 23rd on Sunday after starting 12th and ran most of the first half in the top 10; but would lose two laps to the leaders on lap 238 when he served a drive-through penalty for changing lanes before the restart. He would rally from 30th place regaining one of the two laps he lost. Truex will start the eighth race at Texas in seventh points, 63 points out of first.
Tony Stewart: It was a tough day for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ. He started in the back and finished there too. Stewart lost three spots in the points and is now in 10th, 71 points shy of first place.
Kevin Harvick: Something tells me that Kevin Harvick is ready to get out of Martinsville after the horrific weekend he had at the track. On Saturday Harvick would cut a tire during the truck race, and on Sunday he blew an engine. The new competition director over at Richard Childress Racing, Dr. Eric Warren, definitely has his work cut out for him. Harvick would finish the day 32nd and dropped one spot in the points standings to eleventh, 88 points out of first.
Denny Hamlin: While he may have won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday, Sunday at Martinsville Speedway was a completely different ballgame for the driver who had a chance to win his first Sprint Cup Series championship. While Hamlin may have led twice for 12 laps but also had to come back from two pit road penalties. Add insult to injury, on Lap 370, Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota started to sputter with electrical issues and 22 laps later, would have to be pushed to the garage after stalling on the track. Hamlin would drop two spots in the standings to fifth, 49 points behind the points leader.
The next race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is Sunday, November 4th, at Texas Motor Speedway.