One race is all that remains between now and this year’s much anticipated Chase. While half of the top 12 head to Richmond with a win-or-lose mentality after locking in their place in the Chase, a number of teams must run smart and post a solid finish to simply make the playoffs. Clint Bowyer holds a 17-point lead over David Ragan for the final Chase spot, and both are on this week’s WARM list meaning something has to give this weekend.
With his win Sunday night, Jimmie Johnson proved he belongs in the same breath as Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch as championship contenders, but if you want a sleeper for the title, look no further than another driver from Johnson’s home state of California. To find out who, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup.
Greg Biffle: The entire Roush Fenway camp has shown vast improvement over the past two months and Biffle, a driver who nearly slipped out of the top 12 after a crash at Daytona in July, has been one of the team’s most consistent drivers as of late. Since the Coke Zero 400, Biffle’s worst oval finish has been 13th and he’s reeled together four top 10s over that stretch. Still winless this season, his second-place run this week at California equaled his best finish of the year and ranked him as the highest finishing Roush Fenway driver on the weekend.
Kevin Harvick: Want a sleeper for the Chase? Look no further than the Californian piloting the No. 29 car. Say what you want about Edwards, Lil’ Busch or Johnson, Harvick’s last seven races have been nothing short of impressive. Aside from an incident not of his making at Indy, Harvick’s worst finish in his last seven races has been eighth. Being winless this season, however, will leave the No. 29 in a bit of a hole when the Chase begins.
Matt Kenseth: Five consecutive top 12s and three consecutive top 10s is the type of consistency Kenseth will need to make a Chase run.
Busch: The favorite for the championship has four straight top 10s including two wins over that stretch. He has led standings for 16 straight races.
Edwards: Seven top 10s in last eight races including three wins. His sixth-place run this weekend was disappointing considering he won the spring race at the track earlier this season.
Johnson: Johnson had a rough two-race stretch with finishes of 17th and 33rd before winning this weekend at California. Considering he had four straight top 10s before his hiccup, those finishes at Michigan and Bristol are all that keep Johnson from making this week’s HOT list. Definitely one of the favorites to compete for the title.
Ragan: This week’s upcoming race at Richmond will be the most important race of Ragan’s young career. Just 17 points behind Bowyer and out of the top 12, Ragan must run the race of his life to secure a Chase berth. Fortunately for the second-year driver, a string of seven top 15s in eight races proves he and the No. 6 team are capable of such a race.
Denny Hamlin: Will secure Chase berth with solid finish. He must find consistency – while he has four top 10s in his last eight races, he also has finishes of 26th, 40th, 23rd and 39th in the other four events.
Bowyer: Three top 10s in last five races. A 10th-place finish in California leaves him just 17 points ahead of Ragan.
Robby Gordon: It’s been a disappointing season for Gordon and the team he owns and drives, with just two top 10s in 25 races. Lately, however, things have gone from bad to worse for the No. 7 team. A 40th-place run this week in California is Gordon’s sixth consecutive finish outside of the top 25 and third finish in a row outside the top 35.
Kurt Busch: Four finishes outside the top 35 in last six races leaves former champion looking for answers.
Michael Waltrip: Six finishes worse than 30th in last seven races.