Half way through the regular season and four are locked into the Chase
The other drivers who have a single win so far this season are Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, his brother, Kurt, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon. Of those drivers, Kurt Busch sits back in 27th, three positions above 30th, a requirement for the Chase. Of course, the standings will no doubt change before the regular season is done. Remember, the drivers with a win are almost guaranteed a berth in the Chase, but there are so many variables, with this being the first season with the revamped system, we can only speculate what we will see come September.
The non-winning driver sitting highest in points at the stage of the game is Matt Kenseth, then rookie, Kyle Larson. Kyle has had an incredible season so far this year, and could very well get a win before the season is done. In the top twenty, there are ten drivers who do not have wins. Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers and Greg Biffle are among those drivers. In my opinion, those are the drivers who are likely to score the elusive wins before our regular season ends, if indeed, we do see more first time winners, rather than repeat winners.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the season who our winners would be at this stage, I'm not certain I could have put Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch or Joey Logano in that group. Yet each of those gentlemen has a win, and Dale Jr. has two. Steve Letarte is in his final season with Hendrick Motor Sports, having decided to move into the broadcasting booth for NBC next year. He is certainily doing his best to go out with as many wins, and perhaps a championship, as possible.
As I mentioned above, Matt Kenseth is the highest sitting non-winning driver. He is second in points, and last year in his freshman season at Joe Gibbs Racing, he managed a whopping seven victories, yet did not win the Championship. By this time last year, he already had three wins. It almost seems he is in his "sophmore slump" with the new team. He is Matt Kenseth, however, so he should never be completely counted out.
The teams are in Michigan this weekend, a favorite track for many, including myself. In fact, we could definitely see Matt Kenseth in Victory Lane at the end of the race on Sunday. The track is wide and fast. Passing is definite as there are so many lanes that can be run. However, we can expect fuel mileage strategies to be utilized as well. Those who run the inside lane don't travel as many miles as those who run the top groove. Dale Earnhardt Jr. used fuel mileage strategy to win in 2012. We could definitely see that strategy in effect this weekend.
Jr. Nation is predicting two in a row for Dale Jr., and they could be right. What about you?
Who ya got?