Heading into the final off-week of the season, Chase bubble teams are hitting overdrive as they look for the edge that'll push them into the top 12.
As these drivers focus on the future, we'll take a look at the past -- at what they could have done differently, and how they could have avoided the bubble. Here's a quick look at each man's weak spot this season, and why it could leave him on the outside looking in after Atlanta and Richmond:
At Talladega, he was involved in the Big One (leading to a 36th-place finish), while Daytona ended with Kyle Busch's rear bumper smashing into his windshield. The Debbie Downer's trio of races gets worse when you consider he was 7th, 23rd, and 7th in those same events last year, a difference of 147 points, which, if added to his '09 total, would leave him a comfortable sixth in the standings. Instead, Kahne's left hoping to make some Atlanta magic, or else. Keep in mind, he had the worst finish of all the bubble contenders (29th) at Richmond in May.
Looking for an extra tenth of a second on pit road when he already had a lead of four seconds was a serious mental mistake for a veteran driver who merely needed to play it safe to win. After a pass-through penalty under green, the Colombian made a furious comeback to make it back to 11th place. But the 55 points he lost would have been helpful down the road, particularly since his track record at Richmond is worse than most of the other contenders (just one top 10 and an average finish of 27.8 in five starts).
Starting from the rear, he never had the necessary speed to contend, and spent most of the day languishing at the back of the pack in his Chevy. Then, an ordinary pit stop turned disastrous when the jack dropped on a pit stop, leaving the crew scrambling to lift the car back up to change tires. Newman finished two laps down in 36th, a 135-point differential from 2008. He followed up that performance with three straight finishes outside the top 20. All things considered, it's a small miracle this team is as high in points as it is.
Regarded as one of the sport's best road course racers (he won three straight at the Glen in the mid-'90s), Martin had high hopes at those places despite never having run them with NASCAR's new car. Yet finishes of 35th and 23rd were part of a larger trend in which Hendrick drivers combined for just two top-10 finishes in eight starts on road courses. Maybe the sport's biggest organization didn't focus much on turning right, since there's no road course involved in the Chase for a sixth straight year. But rest assured it'll be taking a second look if Martin ends up missing the playoffs because of them.
With both cars struggling to get the gas mileage they needed, running in overdrive caused them to run out over the final two laps. That handed the victory to Mark Martin while Biffle settled for fifth. Sure, that's only 40 points in the grand scheme of things, but considering the team followed that race with four straight runs of 18th or worse, it was the type of momentum killer that turns good times back into a pumpkin.
Rain tires in Montreal again? For those of you who loved stock cars running in a raging downpour in Canada last year, the forecast calls for at least a 30 percent chance of rain on Sunday in what could be a second straight year of
With Danica bailing on NASCAR and