Parker's Points - Pocono | Sports & Recreation
Junior Nation has come alive! Dale Jr. is riding high on the top of the Sprint Cup chart, and our man Adrian Parker is all over it. So, without further stuff, here's the former South Rowan Raider Football Flash, PR Guru to NASCAR's top stars, and Communications Director at Charlotte Motor Speedway Adrian Parker with another sterling edition of that must see internet we call Parker's Points!
DW: Let's talk Indy. Jimmie Johnson must not be getting tired of planting his lips on the bricks. His fourth win seems to only further cement his reputation as one of the best, and most accomplished drivers in the sport's history.
Adrian: No doubt. Jimmie Johnson’s fourth win at Indy places him in a tie with teammate Jeff Gordon for the most NASCAR victories at the Brickyard.
If history is any indication, Johnson’s win on Sunday is an ominous sign for the rest of the field. After winning his previous three Brickyards, he and the No. 48 team went on to win the Sprint Cup Series points championship. His dominating performance on Sunday will have many in the media placing him as the favorite heading into the Chase, and it’s hard to argue that this week.
As for Johnson’s legacy, it’s really all about championships at this point. He’s done about everything there is to do in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He’s won five straight Cup titles, a feat once thought impossible and, had we not just witnessed it, would still be thought impossible.
He’s won three Coca-Cola 600s, three Sprint All-Star Races, a Daytona 500, two Southern 500s and now four Brickyard 400s. What more is there to do other than win eight championships and become the greatest NASCAR champion of all time?
DW: So as big as the win was for Johnson, which was the bigger story of the weekend? Johnson winning, or fan fave Dale Earnhardt, Jr., coming out of Indy as the points leader for the first time since 2004?
Adrian: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship point standings and, as a track promoter, that certainly feels good saying and needs to be repeated as many times as possible. But, the reality is, with the points reset for the start of the Chase in six weeks, a points lead right now is nothing more than a slight morale boost.
Johnson’s convincing win and the ominous foreshadowing that accompanies that win is the bigger of the two stories.
If this was 2003 BC (Before Chase), then maybe Junior taking the points lead would be bigger news, because he would be leading early in the second half of the season and it was little easier to hang on to that lead with consistent finishes over the remainder of the season. But, that’s no longer the world we live in.
DW: It's looking critical now for several top drivers who really need wins in order to make the Chase. Of those drivers "on the bubble," who has the best chance of sneaking in, and who will be on the outside?
Adrian: Here’s a quick look at those on the bubble with six races remaining before the start of the Chase. The tracks remaining are: Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. The top-10 drivers in the Sprint Cup Series points standings make the Chase along with the two drivers with the most wins between positions 11th and 20th.
Good chance of making it:
Clint Bowyer: Currently 10th in points with a 55-point advantage over 11th. That’s more than a full race, which seems rather safe until you consider that four of the next six races are at tracks that where his average finish is 17th or worse. Thankfully, he has that Sonoma win, which could come in handy if he slips to 11th or 12th.
Kasey Kahne: Currently 13th in points, 64 points out of 10th, but he’s the only driver between 11th and 20th with two victories. He would occupy the first wild card position if the Chase started today. Kahne seems to be in the catbird seat unless one of the drivers with three wins, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski, eighth and ninth in points respectively, fell outside the top 10. Plus, Kyle Busch is sitting in 11th with one victory. If he wins again, which is always a possibility, Kahne may not be as safe as he currently seems.
Kyle Busch: Currently 11th in points and 55 out of 10th. He could get in a number of ways, including racing his way into the top 10 in the standings. The next six tracks stack up very favorably for him. Busch has won at five of them including five times at Bristol and four times at Richmond. Of the ones on this list, it would be most surprising to me if Busch did not qualify for the Chase.
Carl Edwards: Currently 12th in points, but has no victories on the season. The driver that needed only one point to win the 2011 championship is in desperate need of a spark to keep his Chase hopes alive. Edwards has had great success at some of the upcoming tracks and has multiple victories at Pocono, Michigan, Bristol and Atlanta. While it is possible he could race his way back inside the top 10 as he’s only 61 points out, it is likely he’ll need to win at least once over the next six weeks to make the Chase. That could be a tall task for a team whose best finish in 2012 is fifth and hasn’t won in 54 races.
Ryan Newman: Currently 14th in points, with one win and 70 points out of 10th. While he has won at three of the next six tracks, they were all in 2003 and 2004. It’s going to be difficult for Newman who hasn’t finished higher than 12th at the four tracks during this upcoming stretch where they’ve raced at already in 2012.
Joey Logano: Currently 17th in points, with one win and 99 points out of 10th. Why is Logano on this list? Pocono. Logano won at Pocono in June and it’s not unusual for a driver to sweep at the 2.5-mile tricky triangle. If Logano wins this weekend, you can come celebrate with him at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Parade of Power on noon Wednesday—and he’ll have put himself in terrific position to score a wild card spot for the Chase.
DW: Remember that Beach Boys song about our next track? You know..."take me down to Pocono, we'll get there fast and we'll take slow, that's where I want to go, way down to Pocono." Okay, not really. The three turn track is usually best known for gas mileage gambles and last lap anxiety. Who does that track usually favor?
Adrian: Ladies and gentlemen, how about another round of applause for David Whisenant! He’ll be here all weekend so come on back and see him perform live. Be sure to tip your waitress and don’t drink and drive.
This track usually favors the powerhouse teams with lots of speed, which I suppose most tracks favor. But, I suspect Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports to battle for the win in Pocono on Sunday. If anyone will crash the party, it may be Stewart, who finished third in June or Mark Martin, who nearly won that race.
Logano will be going “all in” on Sunday to keep his Chase hopes alive, as will Jeff Gordon, whose only hope is to start winning some races, which he did at Pocono last year.
All that considered, I’m going with Earnhardt, Jr. this weekend. He had the car to beat at Pocono in June but fuel mileage didn’t work out in his favor. This time it will, igniting a flame on Junior Mania that will burn far and wide over the next seven days.