There are 12 Chase Contenders heading to Talladega Superspeedway, but only eight Elimination Round drivers will remain when the checkered flag drops in the GEICO 500 (Sunday, Oct. 19, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Five drivers are within 26 points of the cut-off spot to advance to the eight-nation Eliminator Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

With wins in the first two races of the Contender Round, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick have automatically advanced to the third round.

Kyle Busch (+26), Ryan Newman (+21), Carl Edwards (+20), Jeff Gordon (+18) and Denny Hamlin (+17) all look to be in a comfortable position heading into Talladega, barring that they perform consistently well at the Alabama track.

Kasey Kahne (+1), Matt Kenseth (-1), Brad Keselowski (-19), Jimmie Johnson (-26) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-26) are sitting eighth through 12th now in the standings and are on the bubble of missing their chance to continue in the Chase at Talladega.

Of the drivers on the bubble, Earnhardt Jr. has the best average finish of 15.7 at Talladega. The No. 88 driver has five wins, 10 top-fives and 14 top-10s in 29 career starts.

Next best at Talladega on the bubble is Johnson with an average 17.2-place average finish. The six-time NASCAR champion has two wins, six top-fives and 10 top-10s in 25 career starts.

Also with two wins, but less starts (11) Keselowski has an average finish of 16.4 along with three top-fives and six top-10s.

If the eighth position comes down to a tiebreaker, only the three races in the Contender Round matter. Wins and finishes in the regular season won't, so these five drivers will need to run up front to challenge for the win. If they can't win, they'll need to have more second-place finishes, third-place finishes, etc. than their competitors in order to break the tie and advance. If two drivers have the exact same finishes, the tie-breaker then goes to the driver who scored the best finish first.

The new Chase format goes to show that wins are best and consistency is key. It doesn't matter how many wins the drivers have in the regular season or even in the previous Chase round because points reset and wins clear every time drivers advance. If Keselowski, Johnson and Junior want to keep their championship hopes alive, they'll have to bring back what got them into the Chase in the first place: victories.


1 Joey Logano --
2 Kyle Busch +26
3 Kevin Harvick --
4 Ryan Newman +21
5 Carl Edwards +20
6 Jeff Gordon +18
7 Denny Hamlin +17
8 Kasey Kahne +1
9 Matt Kenseth -1
10 Brad Keselowski -19
11 Jimmie Johnson -26
12 Dale Earnhardt Jr. -26