Chase for the Sprint Cup begins with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson sputtering

Posted Saturday, Sep. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Schedule
DateSiteTime, TV
SundayChicago1 p.m., ESPN
Sun, Sept. 22New Hampshire1 p.m., ESPN
Sun, Sept. 29Dover1 p.m., ESPN
Sun, Oct. 6Kansas1 p.m., ESPN
Sat, Oct. 12Charlotte6:30 p.m., WFAA/8
Sun, Oct. 20Talladega1 p.m., ESPN
Sun, Oct. 27Martinsville12:30 p.m., ESPN
Sun, Nov. 3TMS2 p.m., ESPN
Sun, Nov. 10Phoenix2 p.m., ESPN
Sun, Nov. 17Homestead-Miami2 p.m., ESPN

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The Chase for the Sprint Cup starts Sunday in Chicago. There are 10 races in the playoffs. There is time to recover from a slow start. But not much. Might as well avoid a slow start. “There is some basic math involved,” said driver Carl Edwards, the Chase runner-up in 2011. “If we start well, you don’t want to give up any points ever throughout these 10 races. If you think of it that way, the perfect 10 races would be whatever it is, 48 points a race, the closer you can be to that every event the better.” NASCAR’s postseason will wind up at TMS in November before crowning a champion no later than the weekend before Thanksgiving, in Miami. But first, Chicago.

Stock up

Kevin Harvick. He enters as the No. 4 seed in the Chase, as solid and steady as any driver over the last four months. Except for a bad weekend in Bristol in August, he has been in the top 10 or close every week.

Stock down

Jimmie Johnson. It’s hard to imagine the five-time champion sputtering into the Chase, but that is what is happening. In the last four weeks, he has been 40th, 36th, 28th and 40th. Once a runaway for the No. 1 seed, he enters as No. 2.

Notable

No favorite: The opening Chase track may not give the top three seeds a boost. Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have only one win among them at the 1.5-mile track. It belongs to Busch, from 2008, but he has an average finish of 19th since.

The new: Five new faces are in the Chase field this year, including brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch. The others are Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman. Logano is in his first chase.

Couldn’t get in: The four drivers who are out this year include defending champion Brad Keselowski, plus Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewartand Martin Truex Jr.

Youngest champ: Bill Rexford was 23 years, 7 months and 15 days old when he won the championship in 1950. That’s the record for youngest champion. Joey Logano has a chance to beat it. He’ll be 23 years, 5 months and 24 days on the day of the final race.

Quotable

“Mistakes I've made, crashes I've gotten myself into, engine failures — things like that — have taken away from our ability to show how strong we are to get consistent finishes like we did last year. I feel like we belong in the Chase, feel like if we can put 10 races together, I think we can do it as good as anybody when it comes down to it.”

— Dale Earnhardt Jr.

22 Wins in Chase races for Jimmie Johnson, by far the most in the format’s 10 years. Next is the seven of Greg Biffle.

Chase standings

DriverPoints
1. Matt Kenseth2,015
2. Jimmie Johnson2,012
3. Kyle Busch2,012
4. Kevin Harvick2,006
5. Carl Edwards2,006
6. Joey Logano2,003
7. Greg Biffle2,003
8. Clint Bowyer2,000
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.2,000
10. Kurt Busch2,000
11. Kasey Kahne2,000
12. Ryan Newman2,000
13. Jeff Gordon2,000

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