You have heard us say a lot this year, "win and you are in," but I think we don’t always do a good job of acknowledging that you also have to be in the top 30 in points to make the Chase. Obviously, what Aric Almirola was able to pull off at Daytona was amazing for a lot of different reasons that I talked about earlier this week.
For some other drivers, however, like David Gilliland or David Ragan, well, Daytona might have been their last chance to possibly make the 2014 Chase. That’s not to say they can’t win at a Bristol or somewhere, but realistically, a lot of these teams know that Daytona was their shot.
I say that because we also always tell you that Daytona and Talladega are the great equalizers. A Tommy Baldwin Racing or Front Row Motorsports has just as good a chance at winning there as the powerhouse teams like Hendrick Motorsports.
I am a little hesitant to add this next driver and team into the mix, but because of their struggles this year, Daytona might have been Martin Truex Jr. and his team’s last shot, as well. Now sure, there are eight more races at a lot of different racetracks where the No. 78 team might win, but probably Daytona was their best and last opportunity based on how they are running right now.
I think about Austin Dillon. Daytona also might have been his last opportunity unless he can accomplish it on points. That is still an "X-Factor" that might yet come into play.
Yes, we saw a ton of torn-up race cars at Daytona, but it really doesn’t have any impact on any of these upcoming races. For the teams that will be in the Chase, it does have an impact on them, however.
With the anticipated rule changes for 2015 out there on the horizon, it forces Chase teams that got their primary restrictor-plate car all wadded up, to have to build a car for one race. That’s the thing you kind of hate for all the effort, manpower and especially money, is to have to build it for one race, and then you can’t use it in its current form again.
It’s unfortunate but a necessary evil because in the new Chase format, the importance of winning Talladega this year has grown proportionately. If a Chase driver wins at Talladega this year, it means he advances to the next bracket, as you might call it, with this new Chase format.