Jimmie Johnson (six) and Brad Keselowski (one) have accounted for seven of the last eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.
The two drivers better hurry if either hopes to increase that figure to eight-of-nine.
With one race left in the in the Contender Round, Keselowski (-19 points below the cutoff) and Johnson (-26) rank 10th and 11th respectively on the Chase Grid and are in danger of failing to make the eight-man Eliminator Round. Each competitor only controls his destiny by winningSunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). Otherwise, they must hope for colossal misfortune to the drivers ahead of them and record their own strong performances in the process to vault into the top eight.
Two factors are working in Keselowski and Johnson’s favor, but both come with major disclaimers:
1. The duo knows what it takes to clinch victory at the 2.66-mile restrictor plate track. Both Keselowski and Johnson have won twice at Talladega (Johnson in the spring 2006 and spring 2011; Keselowski in the spring of 2009 and spring of 2012). Their problem is that no one in the Chase era has won consistently at the Alabama track, which has seen different victors in its last seven races.
2. Talladega has a knack for treachery and unpredictability. It is a tough track to finish a race unscathed for even the most talented of drivers. Take Gordon for example – he leads all active drivers with six wins at Talladega, but has failed to finish nine times in 43 starts at the track. Johnson and Keselowski can gain huge chunks of ground with the high likelihood that someone currently ranked ahead of them suffers a rough day. Their problem? They have to avoid turmoil as well.
Keselowski ranks tied for the series lead with five victories this season and entered the Chase as the No. 1 seed. Johnson earned the fourth seed in the Chase with three wins and is the defending NSCS champion. He is attempting to win his seventh overall NSCS title, which would tie him with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the most all-time.