Written by: Josh Overholser (@Sisco_Kid)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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Football may just be starting, but for NASCAR, the playoffs are just one race away! I know introductions are boring, but I just want to take a brief moment to say how excited I am to be joining the ‘Our Sports Report’ team covering NASCAR. I’ll do my best to keep you as up to date as possible on all the latest NASCAR news right here on this blog. And has there ever been some news lately!
Chase Elliott picking up his first win in trucks, Max Papis getting smacked in the face on national television by Mike Skeen’s girlfriend (who is now indefinitely suspended from attending NASCAR events by the way), Tony Stewart’s injury and sweet new scooter, plus what the heck is going to happen to Montoya, Newman, and now Jeff Burton as he just found out he won’t be back with RCR next season. The list goes on and on. I’ll get to all of those topics eventually on the blog, but right now, I’m sure the Chase is at the top of the priority list for all racing fans. So here is the breakdown as we enter the final race before the cutoff at Richmond:
Drivers Locked In
Matt Kenseth: He’s currently 6th in the standings, but he is sitting pretty for the Chase. Kenseth has the most wins of any driver (5) which will give him 50 bonus points and the points lead as they reset for the final 10. (A win at Richmond would obviously provide even more pad and 60 bonus points)
Jimmie Johnson: Not only has the five time champion clinched a spot for this season; he is also a new daddy yet again! Wife Chandra gave birth to a little girl early Friday morning, so congrats are certainly in order for the Johnsons. He will miss practice and qualifying (Regan Smith expected to fill in), but Johnson will be in the car for Saturday night’s race. Johnson, currently the points leader, would be slated second after the points are reset unless he wins at Richmond. He has four wins on the year which would give him 40 bonus points.
Kyle Busch: With four wins, Rowdy is locked in and would be tied with Johnson when the points are reset with 40 bonus points.
Kevin Harvick: Sitting at 3rd in the standings right now, Harvick is a lock with currently two wins for 20 bonus points in the Chase.
Carl Edwards: Locked in the Chase, currently 4th in the standings. He also has one win, good for 10 bonus points.
Clint Bowyer: It’s been a great year for Bowyer with a lot of consistency. He currently sits 2nd in the standings…the only problem…he has no wins. He’ll try for one Saturday night to get some bonus points for the Chase.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne will be a driver to watch at Richmond. What he does could have an impact on several drivers’ chances of making the Chase. With two wins, he has locked a spot. The interesting part is that he is currently 12th in the standings, 10 points out of 10th, and holding a Wild Card spot. If he doesn’t crack his way into the top 10, that means a one win driver like Truex or Newman would be left out of getting a Wild Card spot. If Kahne does make the top 10, that means two, one win drivers could then take the Wild Card, likely Truex and Newman unless one of the others in the hunt gets a win. Kahne cracking the top 10 could also mean a driver like Kurt Busch, currently 10th with no wins, likely wouldn’t make it. Is your head hurting yet? Like I said, a lot depends on what Kahne does, so keep an eye on him during the race.
Likely to Make it:
Dale Earnhardt Jr: He hasn’t mathematically clinched, but barring a major catastrophe, he’s in. A finish of 32nd or better guarantees him a spot.
Joey Logano and Greg Biffle: Sitting 8th and 9th in the points respectively, most betting folks would put their money on these two. A finish of 11th or better locks in Logano and 9th or better locks in Biffle. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely possible these two could finish worse than that, but even if they do fall out, they each have a win which would get them a Wild Card unless they fall behind Newman and Truex. (Keep in mind, if Kahne doesn’t crack the top 10 in points, there would only be one Wild Card for a one win driver, though…Again, watch Kahne at Richmond).
Drivers Who Control Own Destiny:
Kurt Busch: No room for error for Kurt. He sits 10th in the standings with no wins, and there are four drivers behind him within 20 points. A bad night by him, and a good night by any one of the four behind him will kick him out.
Jeff Gordon: Jeff is the first man out right now in 11th with no wins. He controls his own destiny, though, because a win would guarantee him a Wild Card spot. He can still get in without a win though with help. Gordon fans need to watch Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Joey Logano Saturday night. Gordon is in if he finishes seven points ahead of Busch, 15 ahead of Biffle, or 17 ahead of Logano.
Martin Truex Jr: Truex currently sits 13th in points and holds the second Wild Card spot with one win. A win guarantees Truex a Wild Card spot. Being only 15 points behind 10th, he could also get in the Chase that way. Truex also has to worry about Ryan Newman. Newman is currently five points back of Truex with one win, so if Newman beats him by more than five points, Truex is eliminated (unless Kahne makes the top 10 and knocks out a non-win driver…somebody find me some Advil).
Ryan Newman: As noted above, if Newman bests Truex by five points, he is in barring a Gordon win or other winning driver (Logano or Biffle) falling out of the top 10. A win would also guarantee Newman a spot.
Brad Keselowski: Whoda thunk the defending champ would be winless and 28 points out of 10th with one race before the Chase? That’s the reality for Keselowski. Mathematically, he can still get in, but the odds aren’t with him. If he gets a win, he’s eligible for a Wild Card spot, but to get that, he’d need to jump all the one win drivers from 11th on back but one…a task that isn’t impossible, but looks pretty daunting at this point.
Jamie McMurray: If Jamie McMurray makes the Chase, I will buy all of my readers ice cream…because even though it’s mathematically possible, it ain’t gonna happen (sorry ice cream lovers). He’s 39 points behind 10th, mathematically possible to make up, but he’d have to leap six drivers to get there. A McMurray win at Richmond means he’d need to jump all but one of the Wild Card eligible drivers. (And he’s a good ways behind Kahne, Newman, and Truex).
Paul Menard: Can it happen? Yep. Will it? Nope. Menard needs to win and lead the most laps, have Truex finish dead last, and Newman finish 38th or worse. Simple, right?
I hope this breakdown helps you get a grasp on what needs to happen and the possible scenarios (there are a lot of them) as we head into the final race before the Chase. I’ll be back with a recap and Chase preview next week. Enjoy the race!