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A five-point update on NASCAR's Chase for the Cup playoff

June 10, 2013|By Jim Peltz
  • Jimmie Johnson celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Jimmie Johnson celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the Party… (Jeff Zelevansky / Getty…)

There are 12 races left to decide which drivers make NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff. So how does the Chase stack up now?

Here are five items of note. Remember, 12 Sprint Cup Series drivers qualify for the 10-race Chase: The top 10 in points after 26 races and two wild-card drivers with the most wins among those 11th to 20th in the points.

1) In the no-surprise department, Jimmie Johnson has a sixth championship in his sights. His dominant win Sunday at Pocono was his third victory of the season, and he leads the standings by 51 points over second-place Carl Edwards.

2) The most intense battle is among the drivers 11th to 20th. Only 32 points separate No. 11 Jeff Gordon from No. 20 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (A driver can earn up to 48 points in a single race.)

3) But so far, Tony Stewart is the only driver among those 11th to 20th who has a victory needed to be a Chase wild card. The three-time champ won at Dover two weeks ago and, with a fourth-place finish at Pocono, he's climbed to 13th in the points.

4) The pressure now is on Gordon, Paul Menard (12th), Aric Almirola (14th), Kurt Busch (15th) and the others either to get into the top 10 in the standings or win a race to bolster their wild-card chances.

5) Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains comfortably in Chase contention -- he's fourth, 82 points behind Johnson -- and Junior Nation expects more good news Sunday when the series returns to Michigan International Speedway. That's where Earnhardt scored his last two wins, including Michigan's race a year ago.

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