Jimmie Johnson’s victory at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday not only locked him into the championship round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but it locked out at least one Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
JGR has four of the final eight drivers alive in the Chase and still could get as many as three in the final round, although there’s no guarantee any of the four will advance.
With two races left in the Chase Round of 8, here’s how the four JGR drivers stack up.
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Carl Edwards, 4005 points, 8th
After blowing a tire and hitting the wall at Martinsville, Edwards in all probability will have to win at Texas Motor Speedway or Phoenix International Raceway if he wants to make to the final round.
The good news is he has two good tracks coming up. Edwards has three wins and an average finish of 14.17 at Texas, and two victories and an average finish of 11.83 at Phoenix. In the spring Phoenix race, Edwards lost to Kevin Harvick in a photo finish.
But given that he’s 32 points out of fourth, anything less than a victory on the next two Sundays will knock him out.
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Denny Hamlin, 4039, 2nd
So far in the Chase, Hamlin has posted two top-five and five top-10 finishes, including third-place runss at both Talladega and Martinsville. A blown engine at Charlotte means Hamlin’s average Chase finish is 11.57.
Hamlin was won twice and posted an average finish of 12.14 at Texas, and has one victory and an average finish of 11.05 at Phoenix.
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Matt Kenseth, 4039, 3rd
The 2003 NASCAR Premier Series champion has a pair of runner-up results in the Chase so far, and a stellar average finish of 5.16 if you take out Talladega, where he raced out back with his teammates. All told, he has had top-five runs in four of the seven Chase races.
A two-time Texas winner, Kenseth has an average finish of 9.52 there and 16.12 at Phoenix, where he’s won once.
Kyle Busch, 4037 points 4th
Busch won his second career win at Texas in the spring, so he should be fast again this weekend. At Texas, Busch has an average finish of 11.90, slightly better than his 13.36 average at Phoenix, where he has one victory.
In the Chase so far, Busch has been impressive, with four top-finishes. And if you throw out Talladega, where the JGR cars ran out back all day, Busch’s average Chase finish is 4.83, best among the four teammates.