NASCAR: Spots tighten up in Sprint Cup Chase
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Greg Biffle is back at Michigan International Speedway, where he has won the last two Sprint Cup races. It should be a comfortable spot — but then Biffle analyzes the standings.
“We are in the middle of the bees’ nest and we understand that,” Biffle said. “All we can do is get the best finishes we can the next four weeks.”
Biffle is in ninth place in the standings, and he’s not the only one in a precarious position as NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup approaches. There are four races left before the Chase, with the top 10 drivers qualifying along with two wild cards.
Even defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski isn’t secure. He’s in eighth place, but only 12 points separate him from 12th-place Kasey Kahne. The gap between Keselowski and 16th-place Joey Logano is only 36 points, and Logano won the pole for today’s race at MIS.
Martin Truex Jr. is 10th, and he’s as unnerved as Biffle — although he picked a different scary insect for his analogy.
“We’re kind of in that hornets’ nest there, which we’ve been in for the past month or so,” said Truex, who finished third in Michigan in June. “These type of tracks have pretty much been what we’ve been our best on the last few years, and hopefully that will be the case again this weekend.”
The two wild cards go to the drivers between 11th and 20th in the standings who have the most wins.
That’s why Kahne, who has two victories, is in solid shape. Elsewhere on the bubble, Biffle, Truex and Ryan Newman (14th place) have one win each. Keselowski, Kurt Busch (11th), Jeff Gordon (13th), Jamie McMurray (15th) and Logano have none.
Biffle’s lone win came at MIS, but he’s had only two top-10 finishes since then. He finished 24th at Indianapolis last month.
“Indy really killed us. That was the turning point for us,” he said. “We felt like we were really on some momentum and qualified 27th and finished 24th and never ran better than that all day. That buried us in the points.”
Busch, the 2004 Cup champ, is closing fast in a bid for what would be a surprising spot in the Chase. He’s only two points out of 10th place, and he qualified second for today’s race for Furniture Row Racing.
“We have four weeks to go and we’re in great position,” he said. “It’s been neat to feel the energy from the team.”
Busch has finished in the top 10 in five of his last seven races. Of course, he finished 35th at Michigan in June after an early spin.
The MIS track has been a feast-or-famine experience for Busch over the years. He has two Cup wins at Michigan, the most recent in 2007. But in 25 starts, he’s finished 30th or lower 11 times.
That includes showings of 35th, 30th, 30th and 34th in his last four Cup starts at MIS. He did finish third in a Nationwide race there in 2012.
The stakes are higher now, because of the year Busch is having and the opportunity that could await if he can finish strong in the last few races of the Sprint Cup’s regular season.
“Michigan has been real good or real bad. So, if you go by the law of averages I hope this time around is pretty good,” Busch said. “I look at this one as the toughest out of the next four weeks — this week here at Michigan. If we get through this, then I think we’ve got a really good shot at things.”