Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Amid 14 different winners, Stewart, Biffle and Bowyer still looking for Victory Lane

The next three races might not be the three an average NASCAR fan would pick to attend if he or she didn’t live nearby Pocono, Watkins Glen or Michigan, but they are important weeks on the NASCAR schedule.

With the exception of Daytona, Pocono Raceway is the first track the Sprint Cup Series visits for a second time in the season. It always feels like the haulers just pulled out of the infield before they come rolling back in today.

Since Jeff Gordon won the first race at Pocono in June, five of the six races have been won by a driver who was winless on the season going into that race. Kyle Busch’s dominating performance at Kentucky was the only race where a driver picked up his second win of the season. Overall, there have been 14 different winners so far this season.

Will this trend of a different face in Victory Lane nearly every week continue? Probably not, but there are still several drivers who usually have wins at this point in the season yet are still winless in 2011.

Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle all have cars capable of running up front more weeks than not, but so far the perfect scenario it takes to win a race has not come together for these drivers.

That’s not to say they are in dire trouble yet this season. Stewart has several tracks coming up where he has had success in the past, and his cars have been better lately as he’s made his way inside the top 10 in the points standings to head to Pocono in ninth.

Biffle also has reasons to be optimistic as the midway point of the Race to the Chase approaches. He won the second Pocono race a year ago, and the Ford cars continue to be strong at the larger tracks on the schedule. It’s just a matter of time before the end of a race plays out in Biffle’s favor.

That leaves Bowyer. He might be in the most trouble of these three drivers. The #33 car consistently comes to the front of the field at short tracks and flat tracks.

Unfortunately, Bristol is the only short track until the cutoff race at Richmond, and Pocono is also as flat as the tracks get until Richmond. Like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bowyer will need good, consistent finishes the rest of the way if he wants to be a factor for the Chase come Richmond.

If these three drivers do win, that will push the total number of different winners to 17 before the Chase starts. That is remarkable, and it could go beyond that since the series will visit Chicagoland for the first and only time this year to start the Chase, and then Talladega looms later in the Chase. Anybody could win that one, and the way things have been going this year, somebody different likely will.

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