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NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368204 Brad Keselowski Brad+Keselowski NASCAR

Team: Penske Racing

Points position: First

Gained/lost this week: Keselowski entered and left Talladega atop the standings, but after finishing seventh following the epic last-lap crash, he picked up nine more points to extend his lead to 14 over Jimmie Johnson.

Analysis of Chase to date: Keselowski had his worst Chase finish, of seventh, Sunday. He has two wins and two other top-10 runs in his Chase run to date. Hard to beat that type of consistency.

Outlook in coming races: Keselowski isn’t heading to his strongest track – but that hasn’t seemed to slow him anywhere else in the Chase. In six Charlotte starts, he has one top-five finish. He has an average finish of 16.5 at the track and has led 10 laps there.


Watch: Hammond on is this Penske's best shot at title?

Nick Wass File - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G2_20121010132005485_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G2_20121010132005485_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31365840 Jimmie Johnson Jimmie+Johnson NASCAR

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Points position: 2nd, 14 points back

Gained/lost this week: Johnson finished 17th at Talladega after being caught up in the last-lap crash at Talladega. Many Chase drivers were also caught up in the incident, and while he held onto second overall he gave up nine more points to Keselowski.

Analysis of Chase to date: Johnson has, for the most part, enjoyed consistency in the Chase. He has three finishes of fourth or better, including two runnerup performances, combined with the 17th Sunday. If that’s his worst finish of the Chase, Johnson should be in good position come the season finale.

Outlook in coming races: There was a time when Johnson owned Charlotte. Not so much now. He had his last top-10 finish at the track in October of 2010. But overall, he has six wins there with 14 top-10 finishes, 10 of them top fives, for an average finish of 11.818. He has led 1,386 laps at the track.
 


Watch: Hammond on Johnson's chances at Charlotte.

Dave Martin - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G3_20121010132005484_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G3_20121010132005484_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368200 Denny Hamlin Denny+Hamlin+ NASCAR

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Points position: Third, 23 points behind Keselowski.

Gained/lost this week: Hamlin finished 14th at Talladega. He remained third in the standings, but fell back seven more points behind the leader.

Analysis of Chase to date: Hamlin has been a bit inconsistent in the Chase. He ran out of fuel on the final lap at Chicagoland, finishing 16th, won the next week, was eighth at Dover, then 14th at Talladega. He needs to smooth that out if he’s going to have any chance to catch Keselowski and Johnson.

Outlook in coming races: Hamlin is looking to regain lost ground this weekend. He has never won at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but has seven top-10 finishes, two of them top fives for an average finish of 15.0 at the track. Hamlin has led 123 laps at Charlotte.
 

Kevin Liles - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G4_20121010132005483_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G4_20121010132005483_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368199 Kasey Kahne Kasey+Kahne NASCAR

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Points position: Fourth, 36 points behind Keselowski

Gained/lost this week: Kahne finished 12th in the wild Talladega race, boosting him two spots in the standings. Still, though he moved from sixth to fourth, he netted out at a loss overall and now trails Keselowski by an additional four points.

Analysis of Chase to date: Kahne enjoyed a strong start to the Chase with back-to-back, top-five finishes. He has finished 15th and 12th after setbacks in his two most recent races, though, and needs to rally quickly to get back into contention.

Outlook in coming races: Kahne is the series’ most recent winner at Charlotte. In 17 points races at the track, he has four wins. He has nine top-10 finishes, seven of the top fives, for an average finish of 12.706.
 

Rainier Ehrhardt - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G5_20121010132438508_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G5_20121010132438508_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368202 Clint Bowyer Clint+Bowyer NASCAR

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

Points position: Fifth, 40 points behind Keselowski

Gained/lost this week: Bowyer finished 23rd at Talladega as he was one of the 25 caught up in a last-lap crash. Bowyer dropped one position in the standings, and 15 more championship points, with the setback.

Analysis of Chase to date: Bowyer’s Talladega run brought his first finish outside the top 10 in the Chase. He had been holding firm just outside the lead trio until that setback.

Outlook in coming races: In 13 starts at Charlotte, Bowyer has three top-10 finishes, one of them a top five. He has an average finish of 17.538 with 86 laps led at the track. Now he’s going to need to fight back as he’s almost a full race behind.
 

Autostock, Matthew T. Thacker - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G6_20121010132005487_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G6_20121010132005487_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368188 Jeff Gordon Jeff+Gordon NASCAR

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Points position: Fifth, 42 points back.

Gained/lost this week: Gordon (pictured, right, with crew chief Alan Gustafson) finished second at Talladega after making his way through the last-lap melee, moving him up five spots in the standings and cutting another six points off his deficit to the leader.

Analysis of Chase to date: Gordon has been the most consistent competitor in the Chase, but he’s spent the last three races trying to overcome finishing 35th after a mechanical failure caused him to crash late at Chicagoland Speedway. Since then, Gordon has finished no worse than third. He’s not going to make up ground, though, unless the frontrunners falter as well.

Outlook in coming races: In 39 starts at Charlotte, Gordon has five wins. He has 21 top-10 finishes, 16 of them top fives, for an average finish of 15.667. He has started from the pole position eight times and has led 677 laps in points races at the track.
 

Autostock, Nigel Kinrade - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G7_20121010132332490_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G7_20121010132332490_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368190 Tony Stewart Tony+Stewart NASCAR

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

Points position: Seventh, 46 points behind Keselowski.

Gained/lost this week: Stewart entered the Talladega race fifth in the standings, 32 points off the pace. He left it seventh and 46 back after finishing 22nd after flipping back through the field in the final-lap crash.

Analysis of Chase to date: Stewart is another driver that opened the Chase on a high note, but has faltered of late. He posted back-to-back finishes of seventh or better in the first two Chase races, then has two finishes of worse than 20th in the last two. Now he, too, is almost a full race back of the leader. He needs a boost if his title defense is going to be successful.

Outlook in coming races: In 27 starts at Charlotte, Stewart has one win. He has 12 top-10 finishes, six of them top fives, for an average finish of 14.037 at the track. He has led 695 laps there.
 

Rainier Ehrhardt - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G8_20121010132333494_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G8_20121010132333494_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368191 Martin Truex Jr. Martin+Truex+Jr. NASCAR

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

Points position: Eighth, 48 points behind Keselowski.

Gained/lost this week: Truex was charging toward the front when the wreck happened in front of him, but still escaped with a 13th-place finish. He remained eighth in the standings, but surrendered six more points to Keselowski.

Analysis of Chase to date: Truex has two top-10 finishes in the Chase, as well as ones of 17th and 13th. At exactly one race behind, Truex needs a stellar outing this weekend to stay on track.

Outlook in coming races: Truex has 14 starts at Charlotte. He has two top-10 finishes at the track with an average finish of 19.357 – leaving it as not exactly the best place for a race in which he is trying to make up ground.
 

Jerry Lai - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G9_20121010132333493_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G9_20121010132333493_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368189 Greg Biffle Greg+Biffle NASCAR

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Points position: Ninth, 49 points behind Keselowski.

Gained/lost this week: Biffle finished sixth at Talladega after leading intermittently in the race. That pushed him two positions forward in the standings – and two points closer to Keselowski.

Analysis of Chase to date: Biffle has struggled in the Chase. He earned his first top-10 finish at Talladega after a series of runs that saw him finish 13th, 18th and 16th.

Outlook in coming races: In 19 Charlotte starts, Biffle has seven top-10 finishes. He has four top fives for an average finish of 17.053. He has led 366 laps at the track. At this point, Biffle is dependent on the misfortune of others in order to gain ground.
 

Jerry Lai - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G10_20121010132332489_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G10_20121010132332489_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368192 Kevin Harvick Kevin+Harvick NASCAR

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Points position: 10th, 49 points behind Keselowski.

Gained/lost this week: Harvick finished 11th at Talladega, dropping him one spot in the standings. He also lost three more points to Keselowski.

Analysis of Chase to date: Harvick has been consistent in the Chase, just not in the area he would like. He has finishes of 12th, 11th, 13th and 11th in the four races to date.

Outlook in coming races: Now more than one full race out, Harvick not only needs to step up his pace, but he also needs the frontrunner to stumble. In 23 starts in Charlotte points races, he has one win. He has seven top-10 finishes, two of them top fives, with an average finish of 18.087.
 

Dave Martin - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G11_20121010132333492_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G11_20121010132333492_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368187 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale+Earnhardt+Jr. NASCAR

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Points position: 11th, 51 points behind Keselowski

Gained/lost this week: Talladega dealt a crushing blow to Earnhardt Jr.’s Chase hopes. He was continually moving up to the front and looked in position for a top finish before the last-lap crash erupted. He not only dropped four spots in the standings, but went from 39 points back and poised to gain ground to more than a race behind Keselowski.

Analysis of Chase to date: Earnhardt Jr. has been keeping close to the top trio in the Chase. He had three finishes of 13th or better to usher him into Talladega, a track on which he generally races well. But his 20th-place finish there will be tough to overcome.

Outlook in coming races: Earnhardt is seeking his first points-race win at Charlotte. In 26 starts, he has 11 top-10 finishes, five of them top fives, and an average finish of 18.846 at the track. He has led 324 laps.
 

Autostock, Brian Czobat - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G12_20121010132333491_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G12_20121010132333491_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31368194 Matt Kenseth Matt+Kenseth NASCAR

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Points position: 12th, 62 points behind Keselowski.

Gained/lost this week: Not even a win at Talladega could pull Kenseth out of the Chase cellar, though it did trim 10 points off his deficit to the leader.

Analysis of Chase to date: Kenseth was having quite a frustrating Chase prior to his Talladega win. He had a shock fall-off in the opener at Chicagoland, then followed that up with a 14th at New Hampshire. At Dover, he was trapped down a lap when a caution came out during a green-flag series of stops, then had a mechanical failure that put him in the garage late in the race. Then came the Talladega win.

Outlook in coming races: If Kenseth can win more, he could pick up ground and easily move back into the top 10. In 26 starts at Charlotte, he has two wins. He has 14 top-10 finishes, seven of them top fives, with an average finish of 14.192. Can he win back-to-back races in the Chase?

Rainier Ehrhardt - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G13_20121010132359497_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G13_20121010132359497_107_80.JPG
NASCAR 167 43 Figure it out: Several Chase drivers in a big hole now 31365841 Trying times Trying+times NASCAR

For some top drivers, the Chase for the Sprint Cup has been a stellar span of races, a chance to showcase just how consistently and easily one can challenge for wins. For others, it’s been a dismal stretch of parts failure, crashes and various setbacks that have stymied any effort to gain ground on the leaders.

So who has stepped up in the four Chase races? Who has faltered? And how much could Charlotte change it all?


WATCH: Hammond previews Charlotte.

Autostock, Russell LaBounty - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G1_20121010132005488_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/10/10/101012-NASCAR-chase-analysis-EN-G1_20121010132005488_107_80.JPG
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