Fontana II: In the loop

Mission Possible: Despite Long Odds, Earnhardt Jr. Can Make Chase DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2007) -- One story will dominate the thoughts of NASCAR drivers and onlookers over the next two weeks: Bubble drivers. There's a four-driver...

Mission Possible: Despite Long Odds, Earnhardt Jr. Can Make Chase

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2007) -- One story will dominate the thoughts of NASCAR drivers and onlookers over the next two weeks: Bubble drivers.

There's a four-driver battle for the final three spots in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Though currently only five of the 12 spots have been clinched, a four-for-three scenario looks likely to play out come Richmond.

The four: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Currently, Harvick is the most secure, but not by much. He is 167 points up on Earnhardt. Truex is next at 166, then Busch at 158.

Though an Earnhardt comeback seems improbable, the stats say a "one race at a time" approach might prove successful.

California, which is notably tough on engines, has caused headaches for at least two of the three drivers he is attempting to catch.

Though his finishes don't exactly impress, Harvick's stats show that he's performed well. Over the last two California races, Harvick has averaged a solid 95.4 Driver Rating despite an average finish of 16th. A third consecutive solid finish should solidify Harvick's Chase spot.

Busch and Truex are a different story. Over the last two races, the two have struggled. Busch did score a finish of seventh in February, but had only an 87.3 Driver Rating and one Fastest Lap Run.

Truex, though inarguably an improved drive since February, suffered a DNF and 42nd place finish in February and hasn't finished better than 15th in three career California races. His best Driver Rating at California was a 74.6 at this race last year.

Clearly, what Earnhardt needs is a Labor Day repeat of last season. By far his best California performance, Earnhardt scored an impressive Driver Rating of 119.1 (second-best in that race to winner Kasey Kahne), an Average Running Position of 6.5 (fifth-best) and a race-best 56 Fastest Laps Run.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Kasey Kahne , Martin Truex Jr.