By Lindsay Owens
---- — The 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship all comes down to two. Two drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, and two tracks, Phoenix and Homestead.
With just seven points separating Johnson and Kenseth, the championship could go either way. Every position on the track counts. Every pit stop must be perfectly executed. Every mistake could jeopardize the championship hopes of these two drivers.
For those unsure with the scoring for NASCAR, when a driver leads a lap, they earn one bonus point. Each points race is awarded the same number of points and the maximum number of points that a driver can earn in one race is 48.
To earn the maximum, the driver must not only win the race but also lead the most laps. The winner essentially gets 43 points for winning plus one point for leading a lap plus three points for the checkered flag. If the driver can lead the most laps an additional bonus point is earned bringing the total to 48 points.
Since 43 cars start Sprint Cup Series races, the other points are based by the position the cars finish on the track but the bonus point for leading a lap still applies. Each position is worth one point. For example, if Dale Earnhardt, Jr., finishes 10th without leading a lap he would earn 33 points. If Junior finished 10th and led the most laps, he would be awarded 35 points. The driver that finishes 43rd without leading a lap would get one point.
Johnson, who would claim his sixth Sprint Cup Championship if it were all to end today, qualified third for the spring race at Phoenix International Raceway held in March. Kenseth, who qualified ninth in March, could win his second championship if he can overcome Johnson on Sunday.
Based on the results of the spring race where Johnson was second and Kenseth seventh, a similar result on Sunday would mean that Johnson would slightly extend his lead over the driver of the Joe Gibbs number 20.
If the tables were turned and Kenseth clinches the win and leads the most laps, Johnson’s lead could vanish depending on the performance of the 48 team. But there’s always a possibility the two could head for Homestead Miami Speedway in a tie for the top spot (a couple of races ago, the two both sat atop the standings).
If that happens prepare for an action-packed race in Florida, a track that Johnson has never won and that Kenseth won at in 2007.