Five Fighting for Chase Lives

Joey Logano and Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman and Joey Logano currently sit third and fourth, respectively, in the wild card standings with one win each. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Wild Card Standings

There are five drivers in the middle of the fight of their lives for a spot in this year’s Chase and odds are most of them won’t make the playoffs.

With seven races left in the regular season until the Richmond finale that will set the Chase field in September, some of NASCAR’s biggest names may need to put their championship hopes on the back burner until 2013. That could spell big disaster for the sport if so many of its superstars miss out on this year’s title picture:

CARL EDWARDS

The desperation move by team owner Jack Roush to move Bob Osborne off the pit box in favor of new crew chief Chad Norris may be too little too late.

Edwards is 11th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings and is a whopping 46 points behind Brad Keselowski for the 10th and final Chase spot. That means Edwards will need to find his way into the playoffs as a wild card and those odds seam long considering the way last year’s championship runner-up has been performing this season. Edwards hasn’t been in contention too many times for a trip to Victory Lane so far this season and it seems unlikely he’ll get at least the two checkered flags from now until Richmond to be in wild card contention.

However, Edwards is not throwing in the towel by any means.

"We just, we have to stick together as a team,'' Edwards said. "That is what Bob and I talked about last week. I hear it all. I hear everything. I hear, 'He is focused on the booth, he is tore up over Tony's deal last year, he needs a new crew chief'. None of that is true. We are having some bad luck and some bad communication here.”

JEFF GORDON

Like Edwards, Gordon has had his share of bad luck through the first 19 races of the season. But also like the driver of the No. 99 Ford, Gordon’s back is very much up against the wall.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is buried in the 17th spot of the Sprint Cup standings and a wild card is Gordon’s only hope of the Chase. However, winning at least two races also seems unlikely for Gordon. And after last week’s gamble at New Hampshire to stay out early while the rest of the leaders came to pit road, more gambles and rolling of the dice looks like it will be in Gordon’s future.

"Yeah, I’m really disappointed in today,” Gordon said after a sixth-place finish in New Hampshire. “I don’t feel like that we had the car that we needed to be more competitive which I thought we could. When we got track position we weren’t able to maintain it. It was just a disappointing day when you look at what our goals are right now. We’ve got to be up there battling for wins if we are going to make this Chase and then get those wins. At the beginning I thought we were equally as good as anybody. I don’t know from that second run on it just went downhill."

KYLE BUSCH

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is in better shape than Edwards and Gordon simply because Busch has one win in his pocket. But with a 68 points deficit to the 10th spot of the standings, Busch will have to hang on tightly to that precious wild card berth.

Kasey Kahne’s New Hampshire win put Busch into the number two spot of the wild card race.

“He obviously moves in front of us, but our goal is to go and win every race,” said Busch’s crew chief Dave Rogers. “It doesn't matter -- nothing matters. All we can control is the things we can control and try to win every race. You saw today that we were going for the 'W' -- we could have run around seventh all day long. I could have pitted when everyone else pitted, finished seventh and everything would have been fine. We want some wins under our belt so we gambled there and stayed out -- that paid off, but when we pitted that didn't pay off. I think you saw the mindset of the 18 car."

RYAN NEWMAN

While teammate Tony Stewart is a lock for the Chase thanks to his three victories, the same can’t be said for Newman. Although he does have a victory to his credit, Newman is also out of contention to work him into a guaranteed Chase spot inside the top 10 so the wild card is his only ticket into the playoffs.

“Winning is important for our sponsors, winning is important for our team and it’s important from a points standpoint, Newman said. “We are here to do that. We would like to be in the top 10 and not have to worry about that, but you look at somebody like Carl Edwards, who is not even in the Chase for the championship right now whether it’s a wild card or not, and he tied for the championship last year.

“We are in real good/bad company. There is a lot of guys that are very deserving to be in that top 10 or 12 right around, so we have to work our tails off.”

JOEY LOGANO

As if the pressure of trying to make the Chase wasn’t enough for Logano, he’s also dealing with a very uncertain Sprint Cup Series future.

Matt Kenseth is all but announced as the new driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 entry for next season but as the team continues to work diligently to find enough sponsorship to keep Logano in a fourth car in 2013, nothing has been officially announced.

But right now Logano’s focus is on adding another win to his Pocono triumph that will help his cause in making the Chase and in turn benefit his future plans.

“During the week, we’re trying to figure out what my future is going to be and I’m trying to prepare myself for the weekend and then when we get here, I put all that stuff in the back of my mind and then focus 100 percent on what I have going on this weekend in trying to win a race,” Logano said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I say it all the time—winning races will make all the other stuff come along a lot quicker.”

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