At Infineon, the battle for the final Chase spot heats up
It is getting interesting, the race for the final spot in the Chase. After 15 events this season, three drivers --
It's no secret that Richard Childress Racing is having a down season. Last year all three Childress drivers -- Burton,
On the track, the veteran Burton is solid, rarely making mistakes. But he won't dazzle you the way
Reutimann, to me, has been the biggest surprise of the Cup season. A year after finishing 22nd in the standings, Reutimann is now in 13th, and trails Burton by only three points. The two biggest reasons for Reutimann's rise this season have been an influx of new personnel at Michael Waltrip Racing (competition director
By his own admission, Reutimann is not a strong road course racer. But if he can author a top-15 run on Sunday and then another one at Watkins Glen (another road course) on Aug. 9, then he'll have an excellent shot at qualifying for his first Chase.
This has been something of a breakout season for Montoya. A former IndyCar and Formula One driver, Montoya has always excelled on the road courses, but this year he's proving that he can consistently finish in the top 10 on short tracks and intermediates. He has three top 10s in his last four starts and now he's in a position to qualify for his first Chase, as he trails Burton by only 43 points.
Montoya is Earnhardt Ganassi Racing's only hope of doing anything of substance this season. When this team was formed in the offseason -- DEI merged with Ganassi Racing -- it boasted four cars. But due to lack of sponsorship, this team is now down to two cars. What's more,
Can he make the Chase? Well, the schedule sets up well for him. He's the best road-course driver in NASCAR, and he should be good for a top-five finish on Sunday at Sonoma and for another one at Watkins Glen. He also thrives at Indianapolis (July 26), where he finished second in 2007. But given the state of his team, I nonetheless think Montoya is a long shot to advance to the Chase.
Currently in 15th place in the standings, Kahne is in danger of missing the Chase for the third straight year. I spent some time recently with Kahne for an upcoming story in the magazine about the pressure in the sport to make the Chase, and it was obvious that Kahne is feeling it. But there are two reasons for him to be optimistic: one, he's now using the new Dodge engine, which boasts more horsepower than the old one; and two, he's one of the best drivers in the series on intermediate tracks, which means he should be able to rip off a few top-fives before the chase starts at places like Chicago, Pocono, and Michigan. But Kahne needs to catch fire soon, because -- and he knows this better than anyone -- time is already running out.