In the round of 16, Martin Truex Jr. won two races and Kevin Harvick one. Both drivers were Chase Contenders. Because Truex won two races then one driver would be eliminated from the Round of 12 in the addition to the four originally planned. Martin Truex Jr. would have then eliminated a potential contender. In this case that driver was Austin Dillon the lowest in points of the 12 Chase drivers who did not win a race.
In the round of 12 (only 11 drivers), Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano won races. All were Chase Contenders. Kevin Harvick, because this was his second Chase win would eliminate a driver from the Round of 8. This is where it potentially gets confusing. Since there was only 11 drivers the bottom four are eliminated. They are Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin. Carl Edwards the next lowest in points of the Chase drivers who did not win a race would be eliminated due to Harvick’s win. This would leave Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick. Only six drivers because of the two multiple wins.
In the round of 8 (only 6 drivers), Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano won races. In this case Johnson and Logano had already won races so they would have eliminated two drivers from the final race (Race of four). Because a driver who wins in a round automatically moves on to the next round this would leave only Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano to fight it out at Homestead Miami for the Championship.
Although this format didn’t appear to eliminate the Champion from winning, it did change who was a contender for the Championship. It would have also changed the complexity and strategy of the last race. It puts an even greater emphasis on winning which is what NASCAR intended with this format.
Jimmie Johnson has as perfect a driver rating at Martinsville Speedway as a driver can have of 118.4. This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action from the Easter break. Does anyone have anything for Jimmie Johnson?
To reiterate a perfect driver rating is 150. The only way a driver can have a perfect rating is if they lead all the laps and win the race. It is impossible for a driver after many races, in this case 22 races to have a perfect rating. A dominating driver will have a rating of 120. Johnson is almost there.
“If it was up to me we would race at Martinsville more than two times a year, it’s a special place for me, and my Lowe’s team.” Johnson added, “I had a great weekend off with the family, we are still so excited to have won California and heading to one of my favorite tracks. I’m ready to get back behind the wheel.”
Martinsville is one of the hardest tracks in NASCAR. That is what makes Johnson’s driver rating so impressive. There is hope though.
Denny Hamlin, the winner of this race last year, also has an impressive driver rating of 110. Of active drivers Hamlin is second only to Johnson in wins with five to his eight. Jimmie Johnson has not won this race since the spring of 2013.
“I think it will be another fight this weekend to get the win at Martinsville. We have had a lot of success over the years at that track and seem to battle the same guys each year for the win.” Hamlin added, “Jimmie (Johnson) is obviously strong there and our teammates will be tough to beat. Friday’s qualifying is big in terms of getting a good pit stall and on Sunday it’s important to have a mistake-free race. Any sort of issue or penalty can get you a couple laps down in a hurry and spoil a good day. I believe our FedEx Camry will be up front competing for another win.”
As Denny Hamlin noted it is important to have a mistake-free race. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick will be there to pounce and scoop up the win. Last year Joey Logano and his teammate Brad Keselowski worked well together but just couldn’t get it done in spite of leading many laps between them in both races. They will also be a factor. If any of these drivers can qualify up front and race mistake free they will have something for Johnson or Hamlin.
If you cannot get to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 it will be broadcast live on FS1 Sunday April 3rd, 2016 at 1 PM ET.
The regular season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is over. 26 races with 11 individual winners, eight who won multiple times, the Chase Contenders have been decided. The first of the three elimination rounds in the NASCAR playoff format begins at Chicagoland Speedway.
There are 16 contenders for the Championship. Their standings in the points have been reset based on the number of races they have won during the regular season. Those drivers with no wins start with 2000 points. Those drivers with wins get an additional 3 points for each win.
Dale Earnhardt Jr
Martin Truex Jr
The Challenger Round begins at Chicagoland Speedway then moves on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway the next week and then Dover International Speedway the week after. The four Chase contenders who are lowest in points after Dover will be eliminated from the Chase.
The “Rub” as they say is that any of these drivers who win a race regardless of their point standings gets a pass on this round. If that driver happens to be one of those lower in points then it is possible to be 12th in points and still miss the next round. It is highly unlikely but can happen that the three races could be won by a driver at the bottom of the standings so 10th place may not be safe either.
Looking at the reset points Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer really are starting in a hole even though it is only three points. Three points equals three positions on the race track. There are no bonus points for leading laps, only for winning races. It makes these races much easier to follow.
The new Chase Format puts an emphasis on winning but in reality due to the elimination feature teams must be on top of their game each and every week. Brad Keselowski put this feeling into perspective.
“We are ready to go. We have some momentum with the top-10’s lately but we need to turn some of those into wins and we know that. We have 10 weeks though to make that happen. We want to be in the Chase and we want to not take that for granted but on the other side we aren’t just happy with just being in it. We want to do more than just that. That is what we are here to do, to make some noise and hopefully bring home a second championship.”
Keselowski knows how it works as much as anyone. He opened the Chase at Chicagoland last year with a three wide pass to win and guarantee himself into the Contender Round. He followed that up with a win in the last race of that round at Talladega to move himself into the Eliminator Round. He wasn’t able to back that effort up in that round and was seven points shy and eliminated from the Championship.
None of these drivers are going to win the Championship at Chicagoland Speedway but they can dig themselves into a hole. A big hole, one of which the only way to crawl out of is by winning one of the next two races.
Let the Challenger Round begin. It is going to be a great one.
If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.
Kyle Busch won the Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard. He didn’t dominate but he hung around the front of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race. Joey Logano, who came in second place, had the quote of the day “I guess Kyle is back.”
Winning four of the last five Sprint Cup races after missing the first eleven races due to injuries sustained in the opening Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway, Busch had his work cut out for him to make the Chase. In all deference to Logano we knew last week when he won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch is indeed back.
When asked if it boggles the mind to win four races in five weeks; Kyle Busch said, “It does a little bit. Like I said, this is unbelievable – this is something special. There’s nothing else like it. I’m so blessed to be in the position I’m in, I can’t thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing enough, Joe Gibbs (owner), J.D. Gibbs (president) and the entire family for giving me the opportunity. I know I have plenty of blessings. Man, my wife (Samantha) and my son (Brexton) is here, too. This has been a phenomenal return. I won’t say phenomenal year because it was a dismal year to start with, but I guess I’ll take that 11 week vacation any year if it’s going to look like this.”
Sure on paper it looked like Kyle Busch could average a 15th place finish plus win a race to make the Chase, but saying and doing that is a totally different thing. Wining four races (the same amount of races Jimmie Johnson has won) was never on the radar. Busch is definitely making a statement.
Sure, he received a waiver because of injury; but in reality he gave the competitors an eleven race head start. When he does make the Chase for the Sprint Cup (the NASCAR version of the playoffs) many will say he didn’t deserve it. In reality, he could had simply started the first eleven races and finished last. That is the rules.
This is one of the best things to happen to NASCAR in quite a while. Kyle Busch is not just point racing; he is taking it to them. If he makes the top 30 to win the Championship, it certainly makes him worthy. The whole point of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is to make the later races of the season matter. They have done that and more. The last races of the season are must-watch TV.
Busch is now an incredible twenty-three points out of the top 30 to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. To put that in perspective, he is less than one half a races out of the top 30. There are six races left for Kyle Busch to get into the top 30. Busch is all but there, but he isn’t going to just ride: He is going to continue to go at it. Busch may just make the top 30 next week.
“We’re a championship contending team, we just have to be championship eligible. Thank the good Lord for bringing me back when he did. Obviously thanking him for all the success I’ve had in my life, where I’m at and all my blessings.” Busch added, “To get me back as quick as he did, to preserve through that and that deficit. We’re still continuing on, we can’t have bad days. I don’t know that any of that matters, we’re going to bask in this moment here.”
NASCAR Fans It’s not What You Know, it’s What You Don’t Know. This week the Sprint Cup is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 5-hour ENERGY 301. This track will also host the second race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is also the first time that NASCAR will visit a track that is in the Chase when some drivers knew with some degree of certainty they are locked in or all but locked in. Could this be a Chase test session? If not that, could the envelope be extended a bit?
The teams will never admit it. They will never admit they threw away a race in order to learn something. It happens; it has to happen because how can you explain weird tire failures and multiple ones. It has happened with Jimmie Johnson’s team last year. It is hard to believe they made such a huge mistake in car set up that their tires only failed during the race and multiple times. As fans we will never know. I would even say we don’t want to know except it really messes up our fantasy racing picks.
This brings us back to New Hampshire. Which teams will over push the envelope? Will any get crazy? The prize in the Chase for the Sprint Cup is worth it. I’d do it if I had a good plan. This is why we watch; the unknown things that make it exciting.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at last year’s top ten. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were killing them last year but not on the list but when it came to the Chase our top ten was Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers.
This week I think there will be two camps of drivers. Those pushing the envelope (or testing it) and those who need to just perform and will be all business. Don’t get me wrong all teams push the envelope every week. Those teams I’m talking about are really taking chances because they can.
Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch’s teams will be pushing the envelope. If it works out the other teams might as well just park. The Penske teams of Joe Logano and Brad Keselowski will push also but will not be so bold.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is getting used to his crew chief. He is all business now at the track they won’t be pushing just executing. The Ganassi teams of Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will be all business. The Joe Gibbs Racing teams of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards will be all business trying to get Kyle Busch into the top 30. The Richard Childress teams will also be taking care of business.
Jeff Gordon has not been on a tear this year like last year. He needs to solidify his Chase chances. He will be the guy who is all business trying to get his win. His run this week will more reflect his historical statistics for this race.
I expect to see another race where those teams that have been dominating all year struggle and those who have not shine. Kind of like the story of the tortoise and the hare. Good luck with your fantasy picks remember we don’t really know what is going on that’s why we watch.
If you cannot get to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 5-hour ENERGY 301 it will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Net Sunday July 19th at 1:30 PM ET.