And then… there were 12. Now that the field for the Chase has been decided, all the questions of who will make it in and who will fall out have been answered. But plenty of questions still remain ahead, especially for fantasy team owners. Normally, there are a few drivers who make the Chase that fall on hard times early, while other drivers left behind realize they have nothing to lose… laying it all on the line. Well, to take your Fantasy team to the next level in the next 10 races, you need to be able to separate the contenders from the pretenders… luckily for you, that’s what we’re here for!
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won here twice, and has top-10 finishes in 17 of 29 starts… but his track record lately at RIR is worrisome. His fourth-place finish in the spring arrested a streak of four straight finishes of 30th or worse, including a disastrous performance in 2005 that locked him out of NASCAR’s “playoff.” Some would argue since Gordon is solidly in the Chase, he has little incentive to finish on top this weekend; however, that also gives him the option to go for the win, something he hasn’t hesitated to do over the past month or so.
For 12 drivers, it all comes down to this. OK, that’s overstating the drama heading into this Saturday’s race at Richmond; but by the end of the night, the remaining positions in the Chase will be filled before the points are reset for the top 12. Unfortunately, for most fantasy owners, there isn’t a redo button that you can hit after week 26; you have to gut it out for the entire 36-race schedule. Obviously, different drivers will have various goals heading into Richmond: some are looking to win bonus points for the Chase, some are looking to run well enough to maintain their positions, and some are just looking to survive. Hopefully, you can emphasize with position number one rather than number three… otherwise, your team may be in serious trouble!
Jeff Gordon – Gordon won the inaugural race at Fontana in 1997, and has won two additional Cup races here. He finished second at the track this spring, and has top-five finishes in half of his 14 Cup starts.
After the bullring that was Bristol, the series heads out to the west coast for another race on the wide open California Speedway. Your fantasy team could be taxed, as the race to the Chase winds down to its inevitable conclusion. No question about it, the pressure’s on. Drivers on the bubble will be running conservatively but intelligently, while the drivers on the outside looking in will simply be going for broke. Then, there’s that strange category of drivers already locked in – they’ll be going for the win to try and garner those extra bonus points for the Chase. As the racing community heads straight for the desert heat, can Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards continue their own current hot streaks? Will Kevin Harvick be able to finish solidly enough to ensure a place in the Chase? This week’s edition of Picks ‘n’ Pans offers our insights into which drivers offer the best and worst for your fantasy team this weekend.
For some, the racing at Bristol Saturday night was the best it has been in years. For others, it was a Bristol race in name only, with no fireworks and little excitement. But no matter which side of the fence you are on, there were plenty of winners and losers coming out of the annual madhouse that is Thunder Valley in late summer. Carl Edwards added another 10 bonus points to his Chase count, and should get extra points for sticking the backflip on Bristol’s high banks after his second win of the season. On the flip side, Denny Hamlin’s fried engine left him with just his second career DNF. In between, what could have been a big night for a points shakeup amongst the Chasers instead never materialized, with no driver falling out of, or moving into, the playoffs.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won five Cup races at Bristol, but only one of those wins was in the August Night Race. Still, with 18 top-10 finishes in 29 starts here, Gordon figures to be a factor Saturday night.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has two wins at Michigan, with the most recent triumph coming in 2001. Overall, he has 20 top-10 finishes in 29 Cup starts in the Irish Hills, with an average finish of 10th… not too shabby.
This weekend’s race featured a spin to win, two drivers putting in their NASCAR best effort to pull each other’s hair out after a wreck, and a crazed fan making his way onto the track during a red flag… just to ask for an autograph. Makes it sound like an August Cup race at Bristol, doesn’t it? But instead, this was what transpired from what began as a tranquil Sunday afternoon in western New York. Shocked? So were many of the fans who watched this year’s edition of the Centurion Boats at the Glen. But they weren’t the only ones happy to see a surprising series of twists and turns that matched the road course’s 2.45-mile layout. Perhaps the biggest smile on the day came from stunned race winner Tony Stewart, who inherited the top spot as NASCAR’s winningest road racer, Jeff Gordon, spun in turn 1 with just two laps to go, relinquishing the lead and 10 bonus points to his longtime rival in the process.
Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race to capture the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find; the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what some select few were thinking after the Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen International.