Five Races to The Chase; Who Makes It?
There are five races remaining before the Chase begins at Chicagoland. The new wild card format has made it so right now positions 8-20 all have a chance to make NASCAR's playoffs. If the Chase started this week, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr are currently in the Chase on points, and Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin would be in via the wild card. But fortunately for us fans, the Chase does not begin this week. So let's take a look at the chances that each driver has to make the Chase.
Tony Stewart: He currently sits 24 points ahead of 11th in points. Stewart is currently winless this season, but he has wins at all the tracks before the Chase begins. The Cup Series visits Watkins Glen this weekend which is probably Tony's best race track on the whole schedule. He has five wins at the Glen, so this weekend could be his best chance to get a win and solidify his Chase chances. Tony will probably get in on points, but a win would definitely help.
Dale Earnhardt Jr: Earnhardt is 23 points ahead of 11th, and just like Stewart is also winless. Earnhardt started off hot this season and looked like he would break his winless streak, but lately his team hasn't been running as well. He was once sitting in 3rd in points but now has plunged to 10th. What once looked like a guarantee to make the Chase is now very doubtful. If the 88 team continues to run the way they have the past few weeks, Earnhardt Jr will miss the Chase once again.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin currently holds one of the two wild card spots due to his win at Michigan in June, but his team also has not been running as well as they could be. He led the most laps this past weekend at Pocono but failed to even finish in the top 10. He will most likely make the chase, but another win would definitely help. He excels at Richmond, so he may have to finish it off in the last week possible.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer may be twelfth in points, but he still doesn’t have a very good chance at making the Chase. The 33 team has not been running well enough to gain ground on tenth or compete for wins. The five remaining tracks have not been kind to Bowyer so he most likely will miss the Chase this season.
Greg Biffle: Biffle is very similar to Bowyer. He is 44 points out of tenth, so he is probably too far back to make the Chase on points alone, but he is also not running well enough to compete for wins. In order to get at least one win to maybe get a wild card spot, Biffle’s team would have to seriously gamble on strategy. Anything can happen with the Bif, but I highly doubt the 16 team makes it into this year’s Chase.
Paul Menard: After winning the Brickyard two weeks ago, Paul Menard has put himself in a position to make the Chase via a wild card slot, but he will most likely need a second win to do so. He sits fourteenth in points after the win and a top 10 at Pocono, but he is not in a wild card spot because of Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Menard can definitely still make the Chase, but he may need some help. If Hamlin can get in on points, and David Ragan does not win again, Paul and Brad Keselowski would be the two wild card drivers. But to give himself the best possible chance at making the Chase, another win would be needed.
Mark Martin: Mark Martin has quietly found himself in the top 15 in points, but will most likely miss the Chase for the second season in a row. Mark, just like the other drivers without wins would need at least two wins in the next five races just to make the Chase. That is no small task.
A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger has a decent chance to get a win this week at Watkins Glen because he is very good on the road courses. The former Champ Car driver could possibly win this weekend, but would still have a very difficult hill to climb in order to make the Chase.
Brad Keselowski: Brad has the second wild card spot after his inspirational win this past week at Pocono after fracturing his ankle in a testing crash at Road Atlanta. But Brad will still have a very difficult time making the Chase. He is only 19 points ahead of 21st place in points, so he still has to make sure he stays in the top 20 to make the Chase. Staying in the top 20 could be very tough for Brad with his ankle injury. Richmond, Bristol, and Watkins Glen will be very tough on his ankle with all the braking that he will have to do. Watkins Glen will be especially tough because he will have to brake and use the clutch for shifting. I think that with the ankle injury, Keselowski will unfortunately fall out of the top 20 in points and miss the Chase this season.
David Ragan: Ragan got his first career win at Daytona this past July, and has put himself in a very good spot to make the Chase. The wreck at Pocono this past weekend certainly hurt his chances though. He will most likely need another win to make it, but I believe he can get it done. Fords have always been very strong at Michigan, so that may be Ragan’s best chance at grabbing another victory to make the Chase. Otherwise he would have to hope that Keselowski falls out of the top 20 and Hamlin gets in on points.
Joey Logano: ‘Sliced Bread’ will go stale during the Chase this year. He won’t make it because he is too far back in points and will need at least two wins to get in. None of the five remaining tracks have been good to Joey in the past so I wouldn’t expect anything from the 20 team. Had Pocono been rained out while he was leading it would be a completely different story, but alas the racing gods had different plans for the Home Depot team.
My Chase Lineup:
Paul Menard (Wild Card)
David Ragan (Wild Card)