Sunday, August 5, 2007
The Bubble Boys: Pennsylvania 500
By K. Lee Davis
LONG POND, Pa. -- It's all about finishing in the top 12 in the standings -- the drivers in that group make the Chase -- when the checkered flag flies Sept. 8 in Richmond, Va. It's not mathematically impossible for Jamie McMurray or Greg Biffle to make the Chase with five races remaining before the cutoff, but with rough days at Pocono, it may be wait-until-next-year time for the No. 26 and No. 16 teams. Here's how the drivers on the Chase bubble fared:
11. Martin Truex Jr.
Position before race -- 11
Chase points safety margin -- 45
Breakdown -- The other Junior on the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team led a lap to get the 5-point bonus and finished a respectable 22nd to stay in front of his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., by 45 points. It may not be much of a margin, but at least he's in a position that forces two drivers have to perform better than he does over the next five races.
12. Kurt Busch
Position before race -- 13
Chase points safety margin -- 7
Breakdown -- The most dominating performance of the season -- actually the most dominating in many seasons -- puts Busch in the driver's seat to make the Chase. Busch has put together three top-10s in six races since Pat Tryson -- fired from Greg Biffle's team earlier this summer -- came aboard as crew chief.
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Position before race -- 12
Points out of Chase -- 7
Breakdown -- Finishing second and getting the bonus points for leading a lap is about as good a day as any driver can hope for -- short of the one turned in by Kurt Busch. Earnhardt didn't seem nearly as disappointed about falling below the Chase cutoff as he did about the fact that he is driving for a 12th- or 13th-place team. He said he believes the team is much better than that.
14. Ryan Newman
Position before race -- 14
Points out of Chase -- 90
Breakdown -- Kurt Busch's Penske teammate continued his string of good finishes, bringing in the No. 12 in seventh at Pocono. With Busch's and Earnhardt's 1-2 result, however, Newman still lost ground on the Chase cutoff.
15. Greg Biffle
Position before race -- 16
Points out of Chase -- 216
Breakdown -- Three weeks of consistently solid finishes ended just when he needed to maintain momentum. While 22nd and a lap led was acceptable for a driver who is already inside the Chase cutoff, like Truex, Biffle needed to make up ground. He did pass Jamie McMurray, but finished 23rd, worse than the other three drivers he needed to pass to reach 12th in the standings. He needs to make up 44 points per race on Kurt Busch to make the Chase, but he would need Earnhardt and Newman to falter as well. That's a long shot at best.
16. Jamie McMurray
Position before race -- 15
Points out of Chase -- 252
Breakdown -- A long way to go and a short time to get there. It's all but over for the Roush Fenway Racing's scrappy No. 26 team after an accident on Lap 177 ended an already miserable day in Pennsylvania.
K. Lee Davis is a motorsports editor at ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.