A Look to the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup
• The top 12 drivers following the 26th of 36 events are eligible to compete for the series title during the season’s final 10 events, or the Chase.
• The format debuted in 2004.
• Drivers have their point totals reset to 5000, and are seeded according to the number of wins they accrued over the first 26 races. Each win during that 26-race span is worth 10 bonus points.
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), the standings leader after 26 races, also is this year’s top Chase seed with a series-high eight wins (80 bonus points).
And he’s undoubtedly aware of New Hampshire’s propensity for action.
Brother Kurt Busch (No. 2 Dodge) won the inaugural Chase event there in September 2004 to establish himself as a contender. The elder Busch didn’t win another Chase race, but the momentum helped propel him to that year’s series title.
Also in that race, Chase participants Ryan Newman (No. 12 Dodge) and Tony Stewart (No. 20 Toyota) suffered engine problems and an accident, respectively, that handicapped their title chances.
The reverse held in 2005, when track troubles limited then-defending champion Kurt Busch to a 35th-place finish at New Hampshire. Stewart finished second in that season’s first Chase race, en route to his second series title.
Witness last season’s Chase kick-off at New Hampshire - a career-changing event for defending race winner Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet).
The then-second year driver was participating in his first Chase as the lowest, and 12th seed, and considered a title afterthought by many prognosticators.
Not only did Bowyer win his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup and Chase race, he did so from the pole, eventually finishing third in the final Chase standings.
Chasing History: Johnson Eyeing Third Consecutive Victory; Series Title
Two-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet) isn’t leading the pack as the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sunday at New Hampshire.
He’s third behind top seed Kyle Busch (5,080 points) and second seed Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford), who has 5,050 points.
But Johnson - with 5,040 points - may be the frontrunner in the momentum department.
He’s fresh off two consecutive victories: two weeks ago in California and last week at Richmond - the cutoff event that set the 12-driver field for the Chase.
And he’s putting both out of his mind.
"I'm trying to show up at next week's race scared, worried about 11 other guys, and worry about doing my part," Johnson said. “And the thing is I have confidence in what my abilities are and what my team is capable of and the packages we have put together in the last five or six months - short track, big track, all of it.”
In addition to consecutive series titles, Johnson also has won 11 Chase races since the format’s 2004 debut, more than any other driver.
“With the way the pack is running, especially the 99 (Edwards) and the 18 (Busch), you can't show up and run at 80 percent and just hope that a top 10 is going to get the job done,” Johnson said. “You have to show up and bring your A Game each week. I feel confident that we are
there now and that we can run with these guys.”
Point Standings (through 0 of 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup events)
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||5010|