HUNTERSVILLE, NC – Eleven of the 16 drivers in NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff have a connection to the Lake Norman area. Look around, one of your neighbors could be racing for a championship.
The 10-race, elimination-based Chase will create a Final Four-like showdown heading into the season finale Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Here are the 16 competing racers, ranked by their seedings:
1. Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford) – Mooresville resident who drives for Mooresville-based Team Penske. His four victories lead the Sprint Cup Series this season, including a dominant win last weekend in Richmond, where he led 383 of 400 laps.
2. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet) – His splendid rebound season has included three wins, nine top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet) – He lives in Mooresville and drives for Hendrick Motorsports. He’s won three races this season and unofficially leads NASCAR in loyal, rabid fans.
4. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet) – He knows how to win championships and this year’s slate includes three victories, eight top fives, 16 top 10s and one pole position.
5. Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford) – Lives in Huntersville and drives for Mooresville-based Team Penske. Logano has won three races this season, finished in the top five 10 times and 15 times in the top 10.
6. Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet) – He’s won two races and ran well all season, but has struggled with pit-crew issues. Last week, Harvick commented “I can’t fix them.” Ouch !
7. Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford) – Twice he’s visited the winner’s circle this season. Edwards is one of those drivers who won’t wow you, but look up and he’s in the lead.
8. Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) – The Denver resident drives for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s dominated the Nationwide Series, but will that translate into a Sprint Cup title?
9. Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota) – He lives in Cornelius and drives for Joe Gibbs Racing. His one victory cemented a Chase spot, and he’s got six top fives and 11 top 10s.
10. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Chevrolet) – Mooresville resident has one victory and six top fives, but only an average finish of 19th place.
11. Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet) – Struggled much of the season, but he’s in the Chase and that’s all you need for a chance. He’s a Mooresville resident.
12. Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford) – With a average finish of 20th place this season, the Mooresville resident is definitely a longshot. But stranger things have happened.
13. A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet) – This Huntersville resident has only been in the top five finishers twice this season. Will need a major turnaround to contend.
14. Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota) – His zero victories don’t matter now. He’s in the field and has raced well enough with 10 top fives and 16 top 10s. Mooresville resident who drives for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing.
15. Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford) – It’s been an up-and-down season for the Mooresville resident, who has three top fives and 10 top 10s.
16. Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet) – He, like Biffle, didn’t win any races this season and qualified for the Chase by accumulating enough points.