With just four races to go until the finalists in the NASCAR Chase for the Championship are determined, as many as five drivers can punch their tickets for title fight with a good performance this weekend.
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for the Pure Michigan 400 and any driver that ends Sunday with a 145-point lead over the 11th-placed driver will clinch a spot in the top 10 and a berth in the Chase.
Five-time champ Jimmie Johnson is 124 points ahead of the 11th spot heading into the weekend and is the only driver that controls his own destiny this weekend. A victory for the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet clinches at least a Wild Card spot for Johnson according to NASCAR mathematics, as it would be his fourth win of the year. Interestingly, defending series champ Tony Stewart would also earn his fourth win of the year with a Michigan victory, but the win – while useful – would not be enough to seal the trip to the Chase.
All other drivers that can clinch this weekend will need good finishes combined with trouble for Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman, who are currently holding down the 11th through 13th spots in the standings.
Greg Biffle , Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski are the other drivers that can clinch Chase spots, although Earnhardt and Keselowski have only remote possibilities to do so. Keselowski’s only chance to lock up his berth this weekend only comes if he wins the race, and then he would still need some misfortune to befall some of the others that are chasing him.