Go-or-go-homers on pins and needles

Share This Story

Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.



Michael Fatback McSwain holds the cheat sheet in his hand.

The laminated index card lists the differential in points between the go-or-go-homers and the bubble boys. Let's define. The go-or-go-homers have to qualify on time or go home. The bubble boys are points away from falling into the former category. A miscue or two and drivers in either group are forced to race off a sizzling lap in qualifying or pack up and try again next week. When qualifying was rained out Texas, McSwain's driver Ken Schrader started 38th. As closely as McSwain monitored the No. 21 car's progress last Sunday, he was equally in tune with the drivers ahead of Schrader and behind. "It's just so close," McSwain said. "You need to know where you stand." There's not a contest as costly as those outside the top 30. Fall out of the top 35 in owner points and there will be a lot of sleepless nights between Sunday at Texas and Thursday at Phoenix.

Drivers who must qualify on time
*Has a champion's provisional
Car no. Driver
No. 00 David Reutimann
No. 02 Brandon Ash
No. 4 Ward Burton
No. 10 Scott Riggs
No. 15 Paul Menard
No. 21 Ken Schrader
No. 22 Dave Blaney
No. 36 Jeremy Mayfield
No. 37 John Andretti
No. 44 Dale Jarrett*
No. 49 Mike Bliss
No. 55 Michael Waltrip
No. 78 Kenny Wallace
No. 83 Brian Vickers
No. 84 A.J. Allmendinger

After seven races, only 105 points separate Ricky Rudd, who is 30th in the point standings, from 40th-place Brian Vickers. But check this out: only 30 points divide Rudd (562) and 35th-place Johnny Sauter (532) — the last driver guaranteed a starting position for the Subway 400. Two points separate Rudd, Sterling Marlin (561) and Casey Mears (560), while Kasey Kahne (556) and Kyle Petty (537) are in the mix. The drivers in the top 40 forced to qualify include Schrader, Scott Riggs, Dave Blaney, Dale Jarrett and Vickers. Jarrett can exercise his right to use the Champion's provisional, but those opportunities are running out fast. Now take a look at the guys racing to get in the Chase. Jeff Gordon tops the list with 1,136 points. Jeff Burton is second — eight points back. Then, it's off the cliff. Matt Kenseth is 125 behind Gordon. But another point battle to watch this weekend is eighth-place through 18th. Only 100 points separate Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. While there's a 357-point gap to David Stremme in 12th-place from Gordon, Stremme's Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya trails him by 12 points. If the Chase began tomorrow, Kevin Harvick, winner of the Daytona 500, would fall 16 points short. Sure it's devastating for the drivers that don't make it into the top 12 following the first 26 races, but for the guys outside the top 35 attempting to make the field, the call to their sponsor saying that car won't be racing that week is even more demoralizing — especially if there's a clause in the contract expecting a rebate in sponsor money for events not raced. The King of the go-or-go-homers, Michael Waltrip, has finally selected a crew chief. Waltrip, who is 54th in points, has promoted Buddy Sisco to crew chief of the No. 99 NAPA Toyota. Sisco had been the car chief on the No. 00 Toyota with rookie David Reutimann before the move. Scott Eggleston had been the interim crew chief for Waltrip following David Hyder's suspension at Daytona. Lee Spencer is a senior NASCAR writer for

Tagged: Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Scott Riggs, Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Kevin Harvick, Casey Mears, Kasey Kahne, Dave Blaney, Juan Pablo Montoya, Johnny Sauter, David Reutimann, Carl Edwards, David Stremme, Ken Schrader, Michael Waltrip, Brian Vickers

More Stories From Lee Spencer

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Chase Authentics Danica Patrick Big Rig Tri-Blend T-Shirt - Charcoal 26.95 Chase Authentics Danica Patrick Big Rig Tri-Blend T-Shirt - Charcoal
    Kyle Busch One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black 19.95 Kyle Busch One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black
    Matt Kenseth One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black 9.99 Matt Kenseth One Spot Gauge T-Shirt - Black
    Chase Authentics Carl Edwards 2013 Driver Schedule T-Shirt - Ash 24.95 Chase Authentics Carl Edwards 2013 Driver Schedule T-Shirt - Ash