Cookie cutters dominate Chase for the Cup tracks
Here's a quick primer to get ready for the 10-race Chase for the Cup, which begins Sunday in Loudon, N.H.
NASCAR's Chase for Cup finally begins Sunday. Here's a look at important facts and figures for the sprint to the finish.
Sylvania 300 at Loudon, N.H., 2 p.m. ET Sunday, ABC.
Many measurements will help formulate the 2007 Nextel Cup championship -- research, qualifying position, fast pit stops, quick laps and circuits led. But the most telling number may be this: 7,920 feet.
That's the length of five of the 10 Chase tracks, though they're more commonly referred to as 1.5-mile super speedways -- cookie-cutters, if you will -- rather than by their distance in feet. And success on these five tracks likely will make or break the title contenders.
Of the five tracks, four of them have clonelike similarities. Tracks in Kansas City, Charlotte, Texas and Atlanta -- four of the first eight Chase races -- all feature a dogleg on the front stretch and good banking. The final 1.5-miler, Homestead-Miami Speedway, is a true oval and features progressive banking, making it distinctive from the others.
While the quintet of Chase super speedways have slight nuances, one variable remains constant: All will use the near-extinct current model car rather than the boxier Car of Tomorrow, which should give Hendrick Motorsports an advantage.
Super speedway superstarsEight of this year's 12 Chase drivers have won on the five 1.5-mile tracks that are hosts to Chase races. Here's how they stack up:
Jeff Gordon, 10 wins.
Tony Stewart, 7.
Jimmie Johnson, 7.
Jeff Burton, 4.
Carl Edwards, 3.
Matt Kenseth, 2.
Kurt Busch, 2.
Kevin Harvick, 1.
Quiet chasersFor the fourth year, NASCAR will use the Chase's 10-race playoff format to determine its champion. Here are three drivers who quietly get the job done and could become major players in the title hunt.
No. 17 DeWalt Tools Ford
No. 31 AT&T Chevrolet
No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet
And the 2007 champion is ...
No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet
Switch-a-rooThree of the 12 Chasers will be on the move in 2008. Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin will join Toyota, and Kyle Busch will partner with them to drive the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs. How will the three lame-duck drivers fare and will they receive the resources necessary to win a title? And does Dale Earnhardt Jr. draft with future teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson or current teammate Martin Truex Jr.?
X factorMartinsville, the only short track in the Chase, always serves as a wild-card race where anything can happen, but the distinction for the biggest unknown rests with Talladega this year. For the first time at a restrictor-plate track, the COT will be used; it's anyone's guess as to how the tough-turning car will do at the draft-oriented Alabama track.
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