Countdown to the Chase and the wild cards are in the spotlight, but last night, the tables turned on the three-time champion when Tony Stewart crashed racing a sprint car.
With the Chase for the Sprint Cup coming in just five weeks, Kasey Kahne added his name to the list of near virtual locks after he made a daring pass around potential Chase contender Jeff Gordon to claim his second victory of the 2013 season at Pocono. Kahne’s win could not have come at a better time, as he had been slipping back in the points after a string of unfortunate finishes put him in the latter half of the top 10.
The door for the final wild car spot has been thrust open with the news that Tony Stewart broke his leg in Iowa last night. This injury is devastating for Stewart’s Chase hopes. From what I have always understood about NASCAR contracts, drivers were very limited to what they could do outside of NASCAR sanctioned events. For Stewart, since he is majority owner of Stewart Haas Racing, those rules do not apply. I think Stewart is often his own worst enemy and this crash proves my point.
With the unfortunate news about Stewart, here are the four drivers who will be the serious contenders for the final two spots if they are not able to enter the top 10:
Martin Truex Jr
Three of the four are pretty solid drivers at road courses. Keselowski contended for the win at Watkins Glen last year and was passed by Marcos Ambrose on the final lap. Kurt Busch has been a contender at many road course races throughout his career, but has always found a way to ruin his shot at a win. Martin Truex Jr. won at Sonoma this year and will be a contender this weekend.
Since Stewart will be missing Watkins Glen, the final two wild card spot after this race will be most likely be Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr because they are the only two with victories of the drivers outside the top 12 (excluding David Ragan since he is outside the top 20). Even though reports say Stewart will miss at least one race, I expect him to be out 2-3 races and that will end his chance to make it into the Chase.
The driver who needs to win the most this weekend is Kurt Busch. I have been picking him all year to finally break through into the win category and this is the last weekend where I will be picking him. Watkins Glen is his best shot at winning and since he is out of the points needed to make the Chase, he desperately needs a win to keep his name in the mix of being good, but not good enough to make the top 10. If he can get a win this weekend, I think he will solidify his name as a Chase contender and will at the very least, be a wild card.