by Garrett Horton
Despite being considered just a two man race for this year’s Sprint Cup championship, there are only two of the 12 Chasers that have been mathematically eliminated from the title hunt. With two races left, any driver within 96 points of the number one spot still has a shot to win, even if it’s a long shot. Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are the only Chase drivers that are further back than 96 markers.
Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Jimmie Johnson are in a three-way tie for the series lead in wins with five apiece. Tony Stewart was the only driver last year to have more than four victories.
In last week’s Numbers Game piece, it was mentioned how Brad Keselowski had never scored a top-10 finish at the Texas Motor Speedway. He was able to buck that trend on Sunday, and it was the sixth track this year he has earned his first top-10 at, joining Charlotte, Dover, Daytona, Phoenix, and Richmond.
Kurt Busch finished eighth at Texas, his first top-10 in just his fourth race with Furniture Row Motorsports and only his third top-10 all year after spending most of the year driving in James Finch’s unsponsored No. 51 entry.
Kevin Harvick finished ninth on Sunday, which was not only his best finish in the Chase this year, but also his first top-10 in the last eight races.
There are ten drivers who already have at least ten top-10 finishes or more in 2012 with still two races to go. There were only six drivers who had double digit top-10’s last year.
Jimmie Johnson has won the pole and the race for the last two weeks, marking the first time in the last 204 races that a driver has done so. Teammate and co-owner Jeff Gordon was the last driver to accomplish this feat, when he won the pole and race at Phoenix at Talladega in the spring of 2007.
Johnson’s win on Sunday marked a historical accomplishment for the Chevrolet, as it was the manufacturer’s 700th overall in NASCAR competition, more than any other automaker in series history. Their first win in the sport come over 50 years ago, when Fonty Flock first brought them to Victory Lane in 1955 at Columbia Raceway.
The race winnings for Sunday’s last place finisher Reed Sorenson. He completed just six laps before retiring due to “electrical” issues, yet still made over $20,000 more than Saturday night’s Nationwide series winner Kevin Harvick, who collected $66,175 for his efforts.