Big crowd jostling for spot in Sprint Cup chase

Associated Press Published: June 25, 2012

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Brad Keselowski started his Monday by studying the Sprint Cup Series standings.

Currently 10th in points with two wins this season, Keselowski should be in solid position for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Turns out he is just part of the logjam of talented drivers vying for one of the 12 berths.

"Looks like the wildcard race (9-12) is about to get crazy," he tweeted.

That's an understatement.

By Keselowski's count, there are eight drivers jockeying for four positions under the wild card element NASCAR introduced last season to its title-deciding, 10-race championship. Only the top 10 in points after the 26th race of the season are guaranteed a spot in the Chase, with the final two positions going to the drivers with the most wins who aren't already locked into the field.

There are 10 races left to set the field, and there are big names in danger of missing the cut.

Among them is Carl Edwards, who wouldn't be eligible if the Chase began today. A year after tying Tony Stewart in the standings and losing the championship on a tiebreaker, Edwards could very well be a spectator if this "hangover season" doesn't turn around quickly.

Recent history has shown that the driver who loses the championship battle suffers through a slump the next season. Nobody had it worse than Denny Hamlin, who lost the 2010 championship to Jimmie Johnson in the season finale and struggled most of last year.

Even Edwards has been through this before: He won nine races in 2008 as the runner-up to Johnson, and went winless the next year while finishing 11th in the Chase field. Mark Martin failed to make the Chase in 2010 after finishing second to Johnson, and Jeff Gordon wasn't nearly as competitive in 2008 — he went winless and finished seventh in the final standings — after going down to the wire with Johnson in the championship race.

So here Edwards sits, 16 races into this season, struggling to be a factor at the same time Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle sit 1-2 in the standings with one win apiece.

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