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Leading runners can look to power of seven


There is some good news for Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch as they prepare for this weekend's Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix.

With one exception, the first five years of the Chase for the Sprint Cup format have seen the top seven drivers after seven races maintain a position in the top twelve after the 26th race of the season, the Chase cut-off. Although only ten drivers qualified for the Chase in the first three years of its existence, the field will be shooting for the top dozen spots again this year, not that that should matter for the leading septet if history is to be believed.

The one exception to the rule is Sterling Marlin, who was sixth after seven races in 2005, but skipped the 22nd event of the season - the road course race at Watkins Glen - to be with his father, Coo Coo, who died on the day of the race. By then, however, Marlin already had fallen out of the top 20 in the standings.

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service


Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin leads Jimmie Johnson late in the Goody`s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, has an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, rookie driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS captures the pole Sunday, February 14, 2016 during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Elliott, who takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon, is the youngest driver ever to win the pole. He will lead the pack at the start of the February 21 race. (Photo by HHP/ Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and his crew members pose in Victory Lane after winning the pole award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, pose with the Daytona 500 Pole Award and Front Row Award after qualifying for the pole position and front row for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, advances to the Championship 4 with his fourteenth place finish Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Truex, Jr. is joined with Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS, advances to the Championship 4 with his sixth place finish Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway (renamed Jeff Gordon Raceway for the day to honor the four-time champion) in Avondale, Arizona. Gordon is joined with Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS  and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS advances to the Champion 4 with his second place finish. Harvick is joined with Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase contender Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, November 13, 2015 for Sunday`s final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase contender Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eighth position Friday, November 13, 2015 for Sunday`s final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase contender Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, November 13, 2015, for Sunday`s final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase contender Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Friday, November 13, 2015 for Sunday`s final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Pole winner Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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