NASCAR: It's Not About Winning, It's About Making It To The Chase

Melissa Bauer-HerzogCorrespondent IJune 15, 2010

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 13:  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, race side by side during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 13, 2010 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

In most races, Ricky Bobby’s famous, “if you’re not first, you’re last,” quote fits right in.  But apparently Ricky Bobby never tried to race for the No. 12 spot in the chase where drivers only care about racking up points even if it doesn’t mean winning races. 

In this new Chase era, the most coveted point spot in the Sprint Cup series during the regular season is not the first spot but rather the 12th spot. 

Last year in the last "regular season race," all the drama was on who was in and out of the chase.

In the end, Kyle Busch lost that final spot by a mere eight points to Brian Vickers.  Those eight points cost him a chance at the Championship and guaranteed he would finish no better than 13th in the points.

Only 93 points separates 12th place Mark Martin from the 16th spot with 11 races left in the "regular season."  Some of the drivers in contention for the last chase spot may surprise you.

Clint Bowyer sits in the 13th position, only 43 points away from making it into the chase. He is currently the only RCR car currently out of the chase. 

Teammate Kevin Harvick is the points’ leader and Jeff Burton is sitting in eighth.  If Bowyer makes the chase, it would be an epic comeback after RCR’s horrible 2009 season.

The big surprise on the list may just be Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Jr Nation is jumping up and down with excitement at seeing him so close to the chase and if he can repeat his performance in Michigan, he may be farther up than 12th by the time the chase rolls around.  

Have Lance and Jr., finally figured out how to work together?

Ryan Newman nabbed his first win as a Stewart-Haas driver this season and is currently sitting 91 points out of 12th. He finished the 2009 season ninth in points but is struggling to make it this year with only five top ten finishes. 

The Stewart-Haas organization sophomore slump seems to be affecting their drivers with the same disease as teammate Tony Stewart just snuck back into the chase after last weekend.

The move to MWR seemed to be the right one for Martin Truex Jr. He finished 23rd in the points last year but currently sits sixteenth this season. 

He is leading the MWR crew in their charge for the Chase and seems to be a great addition to making the organization competitive with other teams. 

He is 93 points out of that final spot and will have to keep throwing out good performances to make it into the chase. He would be the first MWR driver ever to make it into the chase.

The 2010 season has been full of surprises but if one of the four men on this list bump Mark Martin from the chase, I know I won't be surprised. 

Fans should expect the points gap to shrink going into the final few weeks of regular season racing and another exciting battle for the last spot when we roll into Richmond on September 11th.