Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

And the driver with the best record at the eight championship playoff tracks this season is......

 Red-hot Brad Keselowski (L), with the guy who gave him his big NASCAR Sprint Cup break, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski ripped off the hottest lap of the day Friday, at 187.722 mph in practice for Saturday's 5:10 p.m. ET pole runs for Sunday's Atlanta 500. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Brace yourself --- Here's something very interesting to ponder.
   If Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes the playoff cut, as looks likely (though still not assured), and if Junior performs as well at the chase tracks as he did earlier this season, then he appears to have an excellent chance at winning the Sprint Cup championship.
   So here's a toast to Junior Nation!

   If Junior makes the cut….
   Okay, let's look at the numbers.
   NASCAR has already played this season at eight of the 10 tracks in the championship playoffs – New Hampshire, Dover, Kansas City, Charlotte, Talladega, Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix. (The other two chase tracks are Chicago and Homestead-Miami.)
   At those eight chase tracks, Earnhardt this season has had the best finishing average of the men likely to make the playoffs.
   By far.
   A better record than even Jimmie Johnson.
   And that might be one good reason that team owner Rick Hendrick just signed Earnhardt to a new five-year contract, which will keep them paired through 2017. Earnhardt, who turns 37 next month, has a contract which runs through the end of 2012, but he wanted to renew it a year ahead of time to avoid distractions.
   Leaving Chicagoland and Homestead-Miami out of the equation, the eight-race 'standings' for the 12 or so men likely to make the chase looks like this:

   1 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.     (average finish of 7.625)
   2 – Jimmie Johnson         (9.0)
   3 – Kevin Harvick           (9.125)
   4 – Jeff Gordon               (10.5)
   5 – Kurt Busch                (11.125)
   6 – Denny Hamlin           (11.625)
   7 (tie) – Matt Kenseth      (12.0)
       – Carl Edwards           (12.0)
       – Clint Bowyer*          (12.0)
   10 – Tony Stewart          (15.75)
   11 – Ryan Newman        (16.5)
   12 – Kyle Busch              (17.5)
   13 – Brad Keselowski**  (19.125)

    * no wins; needs to win to have a shot at the wild card
   ** three wins; wild card for sure

   That's based on Earnhardt's runs of 15th at Loudon, 12th at Dover, second at Kansas City, seventh at Charlotte, fourth at Talladega, second at Martinsville, ninth at Texas, and 10th at Phoenix.
   Now that includes bad finishes by Kyle Busch at New Hampshire, Charlotte and Talladega…a bad finish by Johnson at Charlotte…mediocre finishes by Harvick at New Hampshire and Texas…mediocre finishes by Gordon at Dover, Charlotte and Texas…and a bad finish by Edwards (28th) at Phoenix.
   Over those eight races, Kenseth won twice (Dover and Texas), Harvick won twice (Charlotte and Martinsville), Gordon won once (Phoenix), Johnson won once (Talladega), and Keselowski won once (Kansas).

   Of course historically, Earnhardt's numbers aren't nearly that good.
   Looking at all 10 chase tracks, historically, over the past three years or so, Johnson has by far the best record, with Kenseth and Stewart second-best, and Edwards fourth-best.

   Another way of judging who's got the best shot at winning the championship, among the men likely to make the cut, is to compare the best average finishes so far this season:

   1 – Jimmie Johnson      10.125
   2 – Kyle Busch             10.625
   3 – Matt Kenseth          11.583
   4 – Carl Edwards          11.625
   5 – Kevin Harvick         12.250
   6 – Jeff Gordon             12.375
   7 – Ryan Newman         13.0
   8 – Kurt Busch              13.583
   9 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.   14.0
   10 – Tony Stewart        15.0
   11 – Brad Keselowski   16.125
   12 – Clint Bowyer         15.917
   13 – Denny Hamlin      16.750

   Two races to go, six men locked in the playoffs, and the battle is furious to make the cut by Saturday midnight next weekend at Richmond.
   The six now resting comfortably: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon.
   All but certain to clinch a spot are Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch. Keselowski, with three wins, just needs to avoid a collapse; Newman needs to finish at least 20th here, and Kurt Busch needs at least a seventh here. Earnhardt, Stewart and Bowyer still have no wins, making them vulnerable.

    Earnhardt, reflecting on his 3-1/2 years with Rick Hendrick, says "I'd barely give myself a passing grade. I've had some good opportunities."
    Earnhardt has won only one tour event with Hendrick, at Michigan in the summer of 2008.
   "I'm nowhere near satisfied with what I've accomplished so far....but that motivates me," Earnhardt said.

   The season's scorecard of driver wins (with ties broken by top-fives, then top-10s):

   1 – Kyle Busch                     4
   2 – Kevin Harvick                  3
   3 – Brad Keselowski             3
   4 – Matt Kenseth                  2
   5 – Jeff Gordon                     2
   6 – Jimmie Johnson              1
   7 – Carl Edwards                  1
   8 – Ryan Newman                1
   9 – Kurt Busch                     1
   10 –Denny Hamlin                1
   11 – Paul Menard                 1
   12 – Marcos Ambrose          1
   13 -- David Ragan                1
   14 – Regan Smith                1


    Looks like more bad news for team owner Jack Roush, who may be losing significant sponsorship from UPS at the end of the season.
    UPS has been a major NASCAR sponsor for years, going back to its time with team owner Robert Yates and Dale Jarrett.
    If UPS does cut back its backing of Roush and driver David Ragan, who won Daytona in July, it would be the second major sponsorship loss for Roush, following the decision by Diageo/Crown Royal to drop backing of Matt Kenseth at the end of the year.
    UPS could still remain a part-sponsor for Roush, but most likely with Carl Edwards, rather than Ragan. UPS has watched corporate rival FedEx' success with Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs the past few years, while Ragan struggled.
    This newest UPS-NASCAR story comes just days after UPS announced a major expansion of its sponsorship deals with college sports programs, valued at some $100 million.
    Ragan took the news in stride, saying it was important to keep UPS in this sport.
   "I've read the same things that everyone else has read….and I think we all knew that UPS was going to cut back some," Ragan said.
   "But their marketing dollars are going elsewhere, to other forms of sports, college sports. But they're still going to be a part of NASCAR; there are still some details to be worked in what capacity.
   "But we knew times were tough and they were going to cut back a little bit.
   "We've had a good time working with them, and enjoyed the relationship with them. And I see that continuing in some capacity, we just don't know what."
   A UPS move of marketing dollars to college sports is somewhat curious, since UPS' long-time target market has been 40-somethings, the people who actually make decisions on how to ship.
   And Ragan conceded such a change was to a curious new, much younger demographic. "Yes, that says 'demographics,'" Ragan says.
   "But every few years companies change management, and change positions, and reconsider the needs the company has….not just with race teams but with the world in general.
   "It's disappointing to lose them as a full-time sponsor. But if we can keep that relationship, who's to say that over the next three to four to five years things don't change again.
   "It's just important they stay in the sport in some capacity."



This is a joke column right?

This is a joke column right? Hendrick signed him for the non racing income. It's a win/win situation for him. I think it is important to always remember its all about the money.

As to the likelihood that Jr takes the whole enchilada, well that is very selective massaging of the numbers. It was a funny column though. Thanks for the smiles.

Whats wrong with you? Why

Whats wrong with you? Why must you jump on the Jr. bandwagon?
This is such an old topic and you guys in the media want soooo bad for Jr. to do well. I got news for you Mike, its more than likely never going to happen. Dale Jr. is not the superstar that everyone had hoped for, nor does he have the talent you give him credit for. The man has shown repeatedly he does not have the desire to win like many of the other drivers. Hendricks keeps him for one reason...money. T-shirt sales is the main order of business for them, and you know it, you just wont accept it. The MOST Hendrick can expect is a top 10 finish and maybe a win or two a season, thats it, why is that SO DAMN HARD TO ACCEPT??

I think I can safely speak for thousands of race fans...Let it go, do yourself and every other media writer a favor and quit beating this dead horse. Both you and Dale will be much happier.

Well, maybe so (lmao). But

Well, maybe so (lmao). But you have to admit, it is interesting that of all these hotdog drivers, the guy with the best record at the eight chase tracks we've run this year it happens to be Junior that has the best record. figured it was worth noting. besides, Junior's a good guy.....

Wondering what all the haters

Wondering what all the haters will say if Jr. does well in this Chase. Will they eat crow? Doubt it. It'll be some new excuse as to how it was handed to him by NASCAR or Hendrick. Jr. may be a marketing dream who comes pre-packaged with sponsorship dollars, but I guarantee you if I handed Rick Hendrick $40,000,000 and asked him to field a car for me for one season the answer would be a flat out NO. The talent has to be there too. I've never thought Jr. was a "superstar" and I don't think the bulk of he is fans do either, he's a good guy and we like him. He has the talent to justify being where he is. We would like to see him win a championship or 2. That being said, I don't know ANYONE, fan, media, or otherwise whe EVER claimed he had the talent of Dale Sr. Seems like some people just have to hate.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com