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Head2Head: Who will clinch the Chase's final wild card spot?

July 30, 2012, ,

There are just six races left before the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and the competition is heating up. Sure, the points entries are all but locked up coming into the "regular-season" homestretch, but the real race continues to fire up behind them in the hunt for those two wild-card spots into NASCAR's postseason.

Who will clinch the Chase's final wild card spot?


There's no beating around the Busch here (had to do it), it will be Kyle getting that second win and chasing the Cup.

Currently in pole position behind Kasey Kahne for the last of two Chase wild cards should NASCAR's postseason start today, Busch should be the odds-on favorite to get in as the last driver going for the Cup.

Sure, this would have been a moot point if Jimmie Johnson would have been on vacation last weekend, as Five-Time's was the only car close to as good as Busch's. And sure, Busch has more career wins than both of his closest competitors (Joey Logano and Ryan Newman) combined, but that's not even the real reason Rowdy will clinch a Cup Chase spot.

It's the schedule. Busch couldn't have arranged the tracks leading up to the Chase cutoff better if he penciled them in himself.

Here are the last six races leading up to the Chase, in order: Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta, Richmond. Here are the sites of Busch's last 11 wins, in order from most recent: Richmond, Michigan, Kentucky, Richmond, Bristol, Bristol, Dover, Richmond, Bristol, Richmond, Bristol.

That's right, Busch has a staggering nine wins in the past two-and-a-half seasons at three of the remaining six races before postseason play. And at Richmond, where he's already won this season, he's won at least one race at the track in each of the past four years. The writing is on the wall, race fans, and Kyle Busch will probably put one or two more drivers into it en route to his 2012 Chase berth.

Nick Margiasso, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Ryan Newman will get his second win within the next six races. It's just a question of when.

His first victory came at Martinsville, just six races into the season. During the next 11 races, Newman did not crack the top 10. His highest finish during that stretch was 12th at Pocono. Two races were especially abysmal: He had engine problems at Talladega, finishing 36th, and crashed at Kentucky, ending up 34th.

But that was then, this is now. Newman has been on a roll, with three top-10s in the past three races. That should continue.

Newman has fared well at the tracks that remain before the Chase begins. He has wins at three of those places -- two at Michigan. He also has earned 14 poles at five of the tracks, with seven at Atlanta. He should make up ground in points at all of them, which could be important, even with a second win.

While Michigan and Atlanta are good bets for where Newman will win, the smart money is on Richmond, where he has an average finish of 11.8, second-highest during his career.

Newman also has a not-so-secret weapon that could make the difference between being in the title hunt and being left out. Remember Tony Stewart? Newman's teammate proved he knows a little something about winning when it counts during last season's championship run. As his car owner, Stewart will be more than happy to share any secrets he has to make sure he has two cars in the Chase.

Deanna Engel, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Yeah, Kasey Kahne (he of two wins, leading the wild-card race) might be already getting his racing pants on for the Chase opener at Chicagoland, but there are still a pack of wild dogs behind him with a solitary win. And they're sniffing out that elusive second victory that will surely seal up the wild-card race. But which guy will it be? Who will clinch the Chase's final wild card spot? Deanna Engel and Nick Margiasso have their bets. Read their thoughts and weigh in with your own in the comments below.