Cup half full

Midway through the Sprint Cup season, stats say top-ranked drivers will make Chase

Updated: July 12, 2012, 3:31 PM ET
By Ryan McGee | ESPN The Magazine

Jeff GordonTyler Barrick/Getty ImagesJeff Gordon had one of his worst starts this year, but he may still have a shot at the Cup.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's July 23, 2012 Body Issue. Subscribe today!

ACCORDING TO THE CALENDAR, NASCAR's Cup season reached the halfway mark on July 7 at Daytona. But for postseason hopefuls, the more important date was June 3 at Dover -- the 13th race and midpoint to the Chase, which begins after Race 26 with the top 10 drivers and two wild cards.

History says the order of the top drivers will shuffle from June to September but that most of the names will stay the same. Since the Chase was established in 2004, 85 percent of racers above the cut line at the midway point made the postseason. That's good news for drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., who's been in the top five nearly all season. (In 2011, Junior sat in third at the midpoint and entered the Chase in 10th.)

But all is not lost for drivers like Jeff Gordon, who got off to his worst start (20th at the turn). One of last year's wild cards, Brad Keselowski, proved that a summertime hot streak can vault a driver from points purgatory into the Chase.

Infographics by Martin Salazar

Follow The Mag on Twitter (@ESPNmag) and like us on Facebook.

Ryan McGee | email

ESPN The Magazine, NASCAR