Bubble watch; Drivers on the verge of the Chase

Seems as though yesterday we were sitting through the rain-delayed Daytona 500. Now, we’re just past the halfway mark of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season.

From jet dryers exploding, Brad Keselowski tweeting in victory lane to Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally breaking his four-year winless streak, 2012 has been a season to remember for NASCAR fans.

As the race to the Chase for the Sprint Cup heats up, it’s time to take a look at some of the drivers on the edge of being in the Chase or on the outside looking in.

Martin Truex Jr. — Ten races ago, Truex Jr. was in the top-five in Sprint Cup points and looked to be poised to win a race. Now, he’s sitting in the ninth position still without a win.

Of course, he can play the consistency card with the best of them. But if Truex wants to assure himself a spot in the Chase before Richmond, winning his first race since 2007 is a must.

Clint Bowyer — Sure, the pride of Emporia,Kan. has won a race. But sitting ninth in points having one win with seven races until the Chase isn’t a good thing.

Bowyer’s team has shown at times they can outrun the best of them. They’re downfall; Those runs have been hit or miss as of late.

Kasey Kahne— By winning Sunday at New Hampshire, Kahne did nothing but help his chances of making the Chase; something many wrote off after the first five races.

While most—including myself—feel as though Kahne is a virtual lock for the Chase, his post-race press conference at New Hampshire hit the nail on the head when it comes to any driver gunning for a wildcard position in the Chase.

” I think three would put you in a real good spot.  Two helps, but three would put you in a real good spot.”

Carl Edwards— You would have thought after the Chase run Edwards put together would make him a lock for the Chase in 2012. Key word is “would”.

To say that 2012 has been a struggle for the No.99 team would be an understatement. 19 races and no wins since Las Vegas, 2011 have left many baffled at their performance issues and wondering if this team will figure out how to win a race in time to avoid the “runner-up jinx”.

With Tuesday’s announcement that Chad Norris will take over crew chief duties for Edwards for the rest of 2012, one wonders how much of a “spark” that will give the No.99 team.

Kyle Busch— Maybe the most talented driver in the entire NASCAR garage, yet no consistency on his or his team’s part in 2012.

Yes, he’s won a race back at Richmond. But since then, mechanical failures and miscues on the track have plagued the 27-year old.

We all know that Busch is more than capable of busting out his fair share of wins. The question however is; Will his next win happen in the next seven races?

Ryan Newman— The “Rocket Man’s’ worst enemy right now could very well be Kahne.

Before Kahne racked-up his second win of the season at New Hampshire, Newman was sitting in a solid position to make the Chase as a wildcard due to his bizarre win at Martinsville.

Now, Newman is outside of the wildcard position heading into a stretch of races that haven’t been too kind to the South Bend, In. native over the past few seasons.

With the recent distractions at Stewart-Haas Racing with sponsorship issues for the No.39 car for 2013, you have to wonder if that will play a role in Newman’s Chase chances.

Joey Logano— Let’s be honest here. Joey Logano needs to make the Chase to potentially save his job at Joe Gibbs Racing.

With the impending signing of series points leader Matt Kenseth all but a done deal, Logano’s hopes of attracting a sponsor to stay at Joe Gibbs Racing could depend on his ability to make his first Chase.

We all saw back a Pocono Raceway in June that the kid can win in Sprint Cup. Now, he needs to do it again to put a staple on his Cup Series future and future with JGR.

Jeff Gordon— Growing up in the era of dominance of the “Rainbow Warriors”, I almost feel dirty for even typing these upcoming words.

Jeff Gordon is a long-shot for the Chase.

Yes, he’s missed the Chase before, but with the way his Hendrick Motorsports teammates are running, this is baffling.

The best thing Gordon has going for him are the race tracks that are upcoming on the schedule heading into the Chase.

Four wins at Indianapolis, the road course of Watkins Glen, the Bristol night race, Atlanta Motor Speedway where many said one year ago that “Jeff Gordon was back”, and Richmond where he’s always been strong.

I call it unlikely that he’ll make the Chase, but I still can’t rule Jeff Gordon out.