Cup half full

Jeff Gordon had one of his worst starts this year, but he may still have a shot at the Cup. Tyler Barrick/Getty Images

ACCORDING TO THE CALENDAR, NASCAR's Cup season reached the halfway mark on July 7 at Daytona. But for postseason hopefuls, the more important date was June 3 at Dover -- the 13th race and midpoint to the Chase, which begins after Race 26 with the top 10 drivers and two wild cards.

History says the order of the top drivers will shuffle from June to September but that most of the names will stay the same. Since the Chase was established in 2004, 85 percent of racers above the cut line at the midway point made the postseason. That's good news for drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., who's been in the top five nearly all season. (In 2011, Junior sat in third at the midpoint and entered the Chase in 10th.)

But all is not lost for drivers like Jeff Gordon, who got off to his worst start (20th at the turn). One of last year's wild cards, Brad Keselowski, proved that a summertime hot streak can vault a driver from points purgatory into the Chase.

Infographics by Martin Salazar

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