Loudon: In the loop

'In The Loop' At New Hampshire International Speedway Race to the Chase: The Run To Richmond DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 27, 2007) -- The playoff push has begun. Over the next 10 races, known as the Race to the Chase, the pressure and intensity...

'In The Loop' At New Hampshire International Speedway
Race to the Chase: The Run To Richmond

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 27, 2007) -- The playoff push has begun. Over the next 10 races, known as the Race to the Chase, the pressure and intensity are turned up a notch. Wins become even more important, as only 100 potential Chase bonus points are left to be had.

The competition will be ratcheted up as well, with drivers lurking outside the top-12 aching to qualify for The Chase.

These next 10 races feature some of the most unique and historic traces in all of auto racing: Daytona, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, Bristol and Richmond. All styles are represented.

The million-dollar question: Who will be left standing in the top 12 once the checkered flag flies at Richmond on Sept. 8?

Looking at the past performances at the next 10 tracks, one name stands out: Tony Stewart. If recent history is any indication, Stewart won't miss the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup as he did last season.

Stewart was in seventh place at this time last season. Right now, he's in sixth with a 339-point cushion from the Chase cutoff. He also has tremendous numbers over the last two years at the upcoming 10 tracks.

Check out Stewart's stats since 2005 at the 10 Race to the Chase tracks and how he ranks among the top 15 in points at the next 10 races:

Tony Stewart
Driver Rating: 107.2 (1st)
Avg. Running Pos.: 10.7 (1st)
Pct. Of Fastest Laps Run: 8.2 (1st)
Pct. Of Laps in the Top 15: 72.6 (4th)

The so-called "bubble" drivers -- Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray -- will most likely earn the most scrutiny over the next 10 races. Every move and finish will be under a microscope.

Of the four, Newman and Earnhardt own the best stats over the next 10 tracks.

Below is a breakdown of each of the four drivers and how their stats at the upcoming track over the last two years rank among the top 15:

Martin Truex
Current Points Position: 11th
Driver Rating: 72.5 (14th)
Avg. Running Position: 20.6 (15th)
Pct. Of Fastest Laps Run: 2.4 (12th)
Pct. Of Laps in the Top 15: 33.0 (15th)

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Current Points Position: 12th
Driver Rating: 84.9 (12th)
Avg. Running Position: 16.8 (12th)
Pct. Of Fastest Laps Run: 4.0 (T 7th)
Pct. Of Laps in the Top 15: 57.4 (11th)

Ryan Newman
Current Points Position: 13th
Driver Rating: 85.6 (10th)
Avg. Running Position: 15.6 (9th)
Pct. Of Fastest Laps Run: 2.2 (13th)
Pct. Of Laps in the Top 15: 60.7 (9th)

Jamie McMurray
Current Points Position: 14th
Driver Rating: 72.0 (15th)
Avg. Running Position: 20.2 (14th)
Pct. Of Fastest Laps Run: 1.0 (15th)
Pct. Of Laps in the Top 15: 35.3 (14th)

As for this Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Stewart and Denny Hamlin seem like the class of the field.

With finishes of sixth and fourth last season, NHIS proved to be a quick study for then-rookie Hamlin. Last year, he posted an average Driver Rating of 106.8, an Average Running Position of 8.8 and ran 548 of his laps in the top 15 (90%).

Stewart, with a New Hampshire win in 2005 and two runner-up finishes in the last three NHIS races, has earned an average Driver Rating of 122.9, an Average Running Position of 10.9 and a series-high 168 Fastest Laps Run.

Stewart had a near-perfect Driver Rating of 149.2 (maximum is 150.0) in his 300 win in 2005.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing