News & Media


Drivers concerned about being on Chase bubble

July 16, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Carl Edwards admits he faces an uphill battle to make it into the Chase field after finishing 18th at New Hampshire. (Autostock)

LOUDON, N.H. -- Bowyer won't relax until he makes field, while Edwards' road in gets tougher

The two drivers sitting closest to the Chase for the Sprint Cup dividing line solidified their positions with top-five runs in Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 301. But even with a 47-point advantage over 11th-place Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer isn't close to making any pronouncement of victory.

"No, not until we go to Richmond," Bowyer said. "Until you're in, put one of them Chase hats on, that's when the pressure quits.

"Until you're in, put one of them Chase hats on, that's when the pressure quits."

--CLINT BOWYER

"Hopefully we'll be far enough ahead. Before then, you don't have to worry about it. I've been on that bubble before going into Richmond. It's a nerve wracking time."

There are still too many races -- and too many things that can go wrong -- for Bowyer to feel comfortable about where he sits in the points right now, even after rallying to finish third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

With his fifth-place finish, Brad Keselowski slipped to 10th, one point behind Bowyer. With three wins in 2012, he's sitting pretty, even if a series of serious issues plague the No. 2 Dodge over the next seven races.

Still, Keselowski felt like he could have gotten more Sunday, if not for poor track position.

"We drove from the back to the front and had a really strong last run," Keselowski said. "You hate to not be happy about it, but being happy for us is winning. It was pretty much all we had there, but I'm proud of the effort."

Keselowski made up 20 positions in the first 90 laps, moving into second place behind Jeff Gordon. But starting from the inside lane on restarts seemed to kill Keselowski's momentum from that point forward.

"I think we really had good long-run speed, but we weren't quite as good as we needed on the short runs," Keselowski said. "It was more track position: the further up you are, the better the air you've got, and we never really had that.

"At the end, we were coming really hard and were probably a second- or third-place car. But we just didn't have the track position."

Edwards struggled to finish 18th and wasn't ready to concede, but he admits he's facing an uphill battle. Not only is Edwards almost an entire race worth of points out of a Chase position but also he has no victories on which to fall back.

Crew chief Bob Osborne did everything he could to give Edwards the opportunity to gain ground in the points, but the car never responded.

"The pit stops were great, and I thought the strategy was great, but we just missed something in the setup," Edwards said. "It's really frustrating because, obviously, we needed a good run here [Sunday] for the points, but we'll keep fighting and make something happen."

Bowyer appears to be in a perfect position right now, but he's been there before, with decidedly mixed results. That's one reason why he's been stealing glances at the standings every week since the season started.

Tony Stewart proved last season that each point is crucial because one might be the difference between making the Chase -- or winning the championship. And Bowyer doesn't want to come out of Richmond with any regrets.

"It's never too early to worry about points, unfortunately," Bowyer said. "We were talking about points in Daytona: 'Got to have a good points day so we can get the year started off on the right foot.'

"The almighty point is so important in this sport to making that Chase, because you can win three races and have a great season, have a couple engine failures or something like that [which] puts you out of that shot at a championship, then find yourself that last 10 races making more points than anybody and not having a shot at it."