TMS Media Relations | Jun 25, 2014
The 16-driver field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is shaping up, but there may be some cause for concern for some prominent names as time to win is dwindling.
With just 10 races remaining before the revised Chase playoff-style format begins Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway, three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart highlights a talented group that has yet to record a victory and virtually assure a berth. Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle currently are in the precarious position of having to make the field based off points if they do not win in the next 10 races, beginning with Saturday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway.
Ten drivers own victories this season so that leaves six berths left and should anyone outside of that group wins it would continue to shrink their Chase opportunities. Kenseth, who had a series-high seven wins last year, is in by far the best position among that group as he sits fourth in points with 515 and 42 ahead of his closest, winless competitor. Kenseth also has 31 career wins, has recorded just one winless season since 2002 and has a win (2013) and three top-10 finishes in three career starts at Kentucky.
The others among the top 10 in points that also are winless at this stage are Ryan Newman, who is eighth with 473 points, and rookie Kyle Larson, 10th with 470 points.
After that, there’s a major logjam that includes Stewart, Bowyer and Biffle. Only 35 points separate eight drivers that potentially could be vying for just three positions if the Chase began right now. They also need to be concerned if a driver that already has a victory or one outside of that group scores a win over the next 10 to diminish their chances.
Paul Menard leads the contingent with 459 points and is followed by Bowyer (452), Biffle (444), Kahne (429), Stewart (427), rookie Austin Dillon (427), Jamie McMurray (425) and Brian Vickers (424).
Menard has been the most consistent of that group with nine top 10-finishes, including three among the top five, while the remainder of that crowd has no individual with more than six top-10 efforts and two top-five performances. With one career victory coming at Indy in 2011, Menard may need to gain his berth via points as history leans heavily toward several of the others.
The most renowned is Stewart, who has 48 wins and has never had a winless season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since he arrived in 1999. Despite having only two top-five finishes, including a season-best of fourth at Bristol, and leading 99 laps on the season, he is notorious for getting hot in July and August.
Biffle has 19 career wins and has at least one win in nine of his 11 seasons. Kahne has enjoyed consecutive multiple-win seasons since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and owns 16 career victories. Bowyer was winless last year, but is just one year removed from a career-high three in 2012 that boosted his career total to eight. McMurray has seven career wins, including one last season. Dillon is the long shot with just one top-10 finish but could surprise with a win for the July 5 event at Daytona, where he won the pole and finished a season-best ninth.
All are desperately seeking to add to their career win totals to virtually assure a Chase berth and eliminate playing the risky points game to get into the championship race.
The drivers that currently own the top 10 berths in the Chase based off victories are Jimmie Johnson with a series-high three wins; Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick with two; and Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch with one each.
Texas Motor Speedway will play host to the eighth race in the 10-event Chase, the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 2. The AAA Texas 500 will be part of a NASCAR tripleheader weekend that also includes the Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 on Friday, Oct. 31, and the Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge on Saturday, Nov. 1.
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