Crunching numbers after Pocono

August, 3, 2010

Greetings, my brothers and sisters in NASCAR. Today, because I feel so close to each and every one of my readers, I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

But also, because this is a public column and all (it comes free with the Internet), I'm going to randomly drop my name in there occasionally so people just can't copy and paste my idea and steal my millions of dollars.

OK, here we go, a multimillion dollar idea from your friend, Matt Willis (that's one).

We've got SAFER barriers at many of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit now, and they leave some space between the old wall and the new wall.

Why not put some tarps in there that could be released and would roll down the track in the case of rain? Remember, that idea is from Matt Willis (that's two).

I'm sure there's a lot about the engineering I don't understand. Let's leave that one to the eggheads. Sure, I'm a researcher, but just a sports researcher.

It's probably not feasible, and that is a lot of tarp to buy. But think of the track-drying time it would save. The cost? Offset eventually by the cost of that jet fuel and the amount you have to pay track workers to come in on a Monday.

Genius? Please, I'm just your old friend, Matt Willis (that's three).

Now on to some of my favorite post-Pocono notes.

Tale of Three Seasons

In a word, Greg Biffle's season started off hot. Five top-10s in the first five races left him fourth in points and in the championship picture.

Then, in the next 14 races, Biffle failed to record a top-5 finish and led only 17 laps, putting up the 19th-most points in the Sprint Cup Series over that time.

Flash forward to the past two races. Biffle had one of the cars to beat at Indy, eventually finishing third. Then the drought-breaking win Sunday at Pocono. Two top-5s in a row after just two in the first 19 races of the year.

All of a sudden, The Biff is looking like a title contender.

Trivia break: That was win No. 15 for Biffle. Of his teammates at Roush Fenway Racing, who has the most Sprint Cup wins?

Ford the River

I've written about Ford's winless streak to start the season on this little ol' blog before, but let's wrap it up once and for all after Biffle put Ford in Victory Lane.

The final count was a 20-race stretch to start the season without a Ford win, the second longest over the past 35 seasons.

The longest in that time came in 1977, when Ford didn't win a race.

Trivia break: Before Biffle, who was the last Ford driver to win a race?

Floating On the Bubble

So here we are, five races before the Chase. A road course, two short tracks and two intermediates.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we might be devoid of a wild race for the last Chase spot. However, there are still a couple of drivers who could make things interesting.

After Pocono, only Mark Martin is within 100 points of the final Chase spot among those currently outside the Chase field.

Don't give up hope for those currently outside looking in, though. Three drivers have come back from more than 100 points outside the Chase with five races left. List time!

Drivers making up 100+ point deficit to make the Chase with five races remaining
Season -- Driver -- Points deficit to cutoff
2005 -- Matt Kenseth -- 168 points
2004 -- Mark Martin -- 123
2009 -- Brian Vickers -- 104

Trivia break: Who is the only driver to fall out of the Chase despite being 100 points ahead of the cutoff with five races remaining?

Trivia Break Answers

1. Matt Kenseth has 18 wins, two ahead of Carl Edwards and three ahead of Biffle.

2. Jamie McMurray won last year's second race at Talladega, the last Ford to win before Biffle.

3. Last year, Matt Kenseth was 102 points ahead of 13th but failed to make the Chase.



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