Almirola, Menard Hang Tough Going Into All-Star BreakUnofficially, NASCAR Sprint All-Star break represents the closing in on the halfway point of the "regular season."
By no means set, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field does seem to be taking shape. Two races from the official midpoint of the 26-race regular season, the points suggest that only major stumbles should deter a number of drivers from missing NASCAR’s playoffs.
Jimmie Johnson remains the points leader for the sixth consecutive week, and currently enjoys a 108-point cushion from the Chase cutoff of 11th place. Likewise Carl Edwards (second), Matt Kenseth (third), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth) and Clint Bowyer (fifth) hold 30-plus points advantages over 11th. And if he needs it, Kenseth’s three wins should be enough for a Wild Card berth come regular season’s end.
After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski are each 11 points ahead of 11th, and Kyle Busch is 10 points ahead of the cut-off spot. Then there’s the curious cases of Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard, all separated by two points. Harvick, a six-time Chase contender, won his first race of 2013 at Richmond and comes off a fifth-place finish at Darlington. Neither Almirola nor Menard have made a Chase in their careers, but have enjoyed career-year starts to 2013. Almirola has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races; Menard has four top 10s this year and has been in the top 10 in points after six of the last eight races.