Keselowski Now Top Chase Seed
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign reaching its halfway mark with Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Int’l Speedway, points are good but wins are better.
In fact, wins are best. Matt Kenseth leads Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by 11 points with nine races remaining before the top 10 in the standings plus two “Wild Card” qualifiers are seeded into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Seeding is key. Were the Chase to begin today, the 10th driver in points – Kentucky winnerBrad Keselowski – would be the No. 1 seed by virtue of his three victories.
All qualifiers begin the Chase with 2,000 points. Drivers one through 10 then are awarded three bonus points per victory, hence Keselowski’s current advantage.
“Wild Card” qualifiers, regardless of how many times they win, get no bonus points. Ironically, Keselowski qualified for his first Chase in 2011 as a “Wild Card” and got zero bonus points despite winning three times. What a difference a year makes.
Eight of the current top 10 drivers have at least one victory.
Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart have two victories apiece. Kenseth, Earnhardt, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer each have won once. Only Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have been shut out.
Keselowski’s Kentucky victory was crucial in another respect. Coupled with Carl Edwards’ 20th-place finish, it allowed the 28-year-old Michigan native to strengthen his grip on 10th place. His pre-Kentucky lead over Edwards grew from 11 to 34 points – or more than half what could be gained or lost in a single race.
There are no guarantees for anyone currently among the top 10 staying there, but the odds are becoming longer for others to race their way in. There is another reason you won’t see Keselowski and his Paul Wolfe-led Penske Racing No. 2 Dodge team taking their collective feet off the gas.
“Got to win races. Tony [Stewart] proved that last year,” said Keselowski in his post-race interviews.
A single victory can be the difference between winning and losing a championship. Had Edwards won more than once in the regular season, he would have captured last year’s title by three points instead of losing it to Stewart on a most-victories tiebreaker.
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