It’s that time of the year. One championship contender – Jimmie Johnson – can clinch a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sunday at Watkins Glen International.
The five-time Sprint Cup champion is the sole driver holding a clinch scenario this weekend. Johnson has to leave The Glen with a 193-point lead over the 11th place driver. Currently, he holds a 178-point lead over 11th, which is occupied by Tony Stewart.
Stewart will miss Sunday’s race after breaking a leg in a sprint car race on Monday night, and will be replaced by Max Papis in his No. 14 Chevrolet on Sunday. Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski is 12th, 180 points behind Johnson. Johnson is the only competitor to have qualified for the Chase field in all nine seasons.
A win at The Glen will guarantee Johnson at least a Wild Card entry into this year’s post season. He has won four times already – as has Matt Kenseth. But mathematically – and officially – speaking, Kenseth cannot lock up a Wild Card spot just yet. There are other Johnson finishes that would give the five-time champion at least a Wild Card clinch depending on finishes from other competitors.
While Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick, who rank second through fourth, appear to be “locks” for a Chase appearance, each is several races away from an official clinch. Bowyer leads 11th by 101 points; Edwards has 94 points in hand and Harvick is 81 ahead of 11th.
Harvick has two victories and Edwards one. Harvick won at The Glen in 2006. While Bowyer has yet to visit Victory Lane in 2013, the driver of the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota has a Sprint Cup road racing win – at Sonoma in 2012. He finished fourth in last year’s Cheez-It 355.