The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway.
THE CHASE IS ON
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is upon us.
NASCAR’s playoffs have arrived once again and begin this weekend in Chicago, as the final 10 races of the season will determine the champion. Sixteen drivers have once again qualified for this year’s playoffs, which will be contested in its knockout format for the second year after a wildly successful debut last year.
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson sits atop the field of 16 qualifiers on the strength of his four wins through the first 26 races. Kyle Busch missed 11 races recovering from injuries incurred at the season-opening weekend at Daytona, but still managed to win four times to earn the second qualifying berth. The only other driver to win four times this season was Matt Kenseth, who captured his fourth Saturday night at Richmond and will enter the Chase in third position.
“When I looked at the summer stretch, summers have always been tough at the 48 car,” Johnson said after the race at Richmond. “We're getting ready to go to a lot of tracks that have been the bread and butter for our race team. Hopefully we can get things dialed in, get going. We know we have the equipment, just a matter of putting the mousetrap together the right way. I think our team is really bonded, united and ready to go racing. So hopefully this Lowe's Chevy is where it needs to be.”
Those three drivers each have 2,012 points entering the Chase, with a three-point spread on Joey Logano, a six-point advantage on regular-season champ Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards, and a nine-point lead on Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin. Earnhardt Jr. might be one to watch in this group as the Chase progresses.
“We're going to try to do it this year,” he said. “We've got a lot of confidence, and I think our cars are getting better. We were kind of uncomfortable with where we were a couple weeks ago, but it's getting there. The whole company is working their guts out, working really, really hard. I’m real proud of the effort we have put in and hopefully it's going to pay off for us in this Chase.”
The other drivers who earned the final five spots in the field without a victory are Jamie McMurray, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard. These drivers earned their berths via their points standings positions will start 12 points behind the leaders.
Bowyer, looking at racing for a new team next year following the Michael Waltrip Racing announcement a month ago that the team was going to exit the sport after this season, knows how special it is to make the Chase field.
“To go through the year we've had, I mean, a lot of ups and downs here, a lot of downs, and then through the summer months we shook things up and really catapulted the organization to get going and getting our self back in the swing of things in this championship hunt and the Chase talk,” Bowyer said. “We did this, now we're in the Chase! Pressure is off, go cat go! Let's go out and have some fun.”
No driver who entered Richmond on the outside looking in raced into the Chase field, with most of them needing to earn one of the automatic Chase berths that comes with a race win. Among the notables missing the Chase were 2014 participants Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Greg Biffle. Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart also was among those to miss the Chase cut.
Following each round that consists of a three-race segment, four drivers will be eliminated. Drivers who win a race in those segments will automatically advance as long as they are still part of the Chase. After each round, ties will be broken by best finish in that specific round.
The first round is called the “Challenger Round” and driver points will be reset to 3,000 for the 12 who advance. After the second round known as the “Contender Round,” the remaining eight drivers have their points reset to 4,000 and after the third, or “Eliminator Round,” the four remaining drivers have their points reset to 5,000. The series champion will be the driver who finishes best among the four finalists at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Nov. 22 season finale.
The drivers eliminated in the first three rounds still have something to race for as any points they accumulate in the Chase races after they are eliminated will be added to their starting point total so they can finish as high as fifth in the final standings.
Texas Motor Speedway is part of the "Eliminator Round," along with Martinsville and Phoenix. The three-round elimination playoff opens at Martinsville on Nov. 1, heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 8, and then to Phoenix on Nov. 15. The AAA Texas 500 begins at 1 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on NBC.