It's on, now!
As the weather has heated up, so too has the NASCAR Race for the Chase. In the past three weeks, two 2012 Chasers have broken out of slumps to win races and declare their candidacy for the Sprint Cup Trophy.
Both Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart have picked up wins in June, and both have now propelled themselves into the top-10 in the standings. I'm not positive with the way both have struggled for much of the season that they'll stay up there after they cool off from their hot streaks, but for now, let's lock in the top-10 and take a look at five drivers that are currently vying for one of the final two Wild Card spots.
For reference, Tony Stewart sits in 10th with 417 points. That is the cutoff to make the Chase with an automatic bid, and the final two spots will go the drivers with most wins ranked 11-20. The tiebreaker is points.
Paul Menard (415 points, 11th place) - I've had a hard time believing he'll go to the Chase, but he's only two points out of an automatic bid. However, he doesn't have a single top-five this season through 15 races and doesn't seem to be a true championship contender. He's more likely to go down than up by the end of the regular season.
Chase Odds: 15%
Kasey Kahne (407 points, 12th place) - He's been the opposite of Menard, having scored five top-fives, including a win and three second place finishes, but seemingly spins most every other weekend. I continue to stick by my pick for the 2013 championship. He has a win in his pocket and another one should clinch it for him. Plus, if he can eliminate the bad luck, he's raced well enough to finish in the top-10.
Chase Odds: 90%
Joey Logano (405 points, 14th place) - His seven top-10s are tied with Ryan Newman for the most of any driver outside the top-10, and his four top-fives trail just Kahne. He's only 12 points out of an automatic bid and seems to be pushing for a win this season. I'm cautiously optimistic for the No. 22.
Chase Odds: 40%
Jeff Gordon (398 points, 16th place) - The Wonder Kid is raising some concerns. He faced the same struggles last season and snuck into the Chase. He can't bank on the same scenario as last season, when he needed a good finish in the final regular season race; he needs to pick up a win soon.
Chase Odds: 25%
Ryan Newman (389 points, 18th place) - The Rocketman is usually very strong here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and our race is less than a month away. He does well on some tracks, but struggles on others, so he's going to need to pick up a win sooner than later before he runs out of opportunities.
Chase Odds: 15%
Kurt Busch (384 points, 20th place) - It can't be understated how strong Busch has raced for Furniture Row Racing. It is a single-car garage, but he's put them in contention on a weekly basis. To overcome a deficit in points, he'll probably need two wins and I doubt he gets that over the next 11 races. I could definitely see him winning once, but that likely won't be enough.
Chase Odds: 10%
Denny Hamlin (299 points, 26th place) - I was adamant when he got injured that he'd battle his way back into the top-20 and win a few races to make the Chase, but he's 85 points behind Kurt Busch (who sits 20th). He's finished 30th or worse in two of the last three races and might be about out of time. He now needs two race wins and a little luck to make the top-20.
Chase Odds: 5%
For the sake of the article, the odds add up to 200%, as that's the equivalent of two drivers. It's certainly not to suggest that someone like Martin Truex Jr., who sits 13th with 405 points, has a 0% chance. He just wasn't one of the drivers I really have my eye on to take one of the final two spots.