With two races left on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, the championship will likely come down to a dogfight between points leader Jimmie Johnson and second-place Brad Keselowski; the big question is where that dogfight will take place.
While Clint Bowyer is still mathematically in the running, Johnson and Kesleowski would have to suffer extraordinary bad luck over the next two races to turn the lead over, and Keselowski reasons he’s due for a change in luck. Had it not been for last weekend’s final caution and green-white-checkered finish, the Penske driver would now have the points lead.
Heading in to this weekend’s AdvoCare 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway, it’s hard to say if any one driver in the Chase has an advantage over the others. Sure, Jimmie Johnson has won here four times, but each was prior to the track’s resurfacing and reconfiguration in 2011.
Since then, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin have won Sprint Cup races in Phoenix, though that’s hardly enough data to give the advantage to either driver. The new track is quickly earning a reputation for being fast, but also unforgiving of mistakes.
To stay alive in the Chase, Clint Bowyer needs a victory on Sunday. To regain the Sprint Cup points lead, Brad Keselowski wants a win, and to stretch his lead heading into the final race at Homestead, Johnson wants to take the checkered flag first.
There are plenty of other drivers with something to prove, too, like Kyle Busch, who’s been consistently fast in recent races, and Matt Kenseth, who’s earned two wins in this season’s Chase for the Championship. On Sunday, it will come down to one thing: which driver and which team makes the fewest number of mistakes.
Look for race time temperatures to be in the mid-60s, with virtually no chance of rain. If you’re watching from home, ESPN will air the race beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
Image credit: Paul Dubbelman, CC2.0