By: Adam Niemeyer
SPARTA, KY (FOX 19)—Since the announcement of the new NASCAR points system, fans and drivers have wondered how the Chase, NASCAR's version of a playoff, would work out.
In the system used up until last season, the top 12 drivers in points after the 26th race of the year in Richmond would qualify for the Chase. Before this season started, NASCAR said that the top ten drivers would be guaranteed a spot, and spots 11 and 12 would go to the first two drivers in the top 20 in points with the most wins.
So how many wins will it take to earn a so-called "Wild Card" berth in the Chase?
A.J. Allmendinger, who sits 11th in Sprint Cup Series points thinks he knows the magic number.
"I think you're probably going to have to have two wins, honestly," he said. "You might get a guy with one win in there but it's probably going to take a couple wins."
Currently, Allmendinger would qualify for the Chase since only one driver between 11th and 20th has a victory (17th place Jeff Gordon has a win). In Allmendinger's fifth season behind the wheel of a Cup car, he feels he's got the best chance yet to qualify for the Chase.
"If we go out there and we do our job, and we live up to the expectations that we can, we can be a legitimate top ten team, but there's a ways to go," he said. "We're not there yet but we can get there."
However, the 29 year old still hasn't won a race in his short career. But what is more important to Allmendinger? Wins? Or making NASCAR's playoffs?
"Obviously I'd like to win," he said "That's the goal every weekend but I'd like to be a legitimate top ten team."
"And honestly, if we're not and we make the Chase then it really doesn't matter because you're not going to be a real contender. It does no good to make the Chase just to say you made it and not run well those last ten races."
A trip to Kentucky in July might be the place Allmendinger sets his sight on win number one.
However, he may have a good shot this weekend in Dover. He was second fastest in the first practice session on Friday afternoon, and 24th in the second practice. Both practices he was one spot behind five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson has mastered Dover, winning three of the last four races at the one-mile, concrete oval in Delaware's capital city. Johnson has also mastered winning races in the Chase. Allmendinger would love to emulate the success of his fellow Californian.
"You've really got to put yourself in position that first half of the season, get to the end of July, early August, and then you need to get on a run and get yourself into the Chase," Allmendinger said.
Until those sweltering months, Allmendinger is using each race as an opportunity to improve his race team each and every weekend.
"Each race, for me, is a new opportunity for us to get better as a race team," he said. "There's certain areas we've got to work in to make us better and there [are] certain areas that I think we're already strong in."
Copyright 2011 FOX19. All rights reserved.