With Race No. 19 in the books and this being the last off-weekend of the season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I would wager there are some pretty big names having some sleepless nights. The reason I say that is because there are only seven races left in what we call our "regular season," and some of our sport’s biggest names are on the outside looking in right now to the 2014 Chase.
To me the biggest name on that list has to be our three-time champion, Tony Stewart. He’s sitting okay in points — remember, you have to be in the top 30 in points, but the problem is he hasn’t won a race yet. Don’t forget this is a new Chase format for 2014. It consists of the top 16 drivers either based on wins or points.
Tony is only 17 points out of the 16th position. We already have 11 drivers, including two of Tony’s teammates, who have won races and are all but a lock for the Chase. So with seven races left, that leaves five spots up for grabs. The reality is we all know Tony can win anytime anywhere. The other harsh reality is Tony let a couple chances to win slip through his fingers already this year with a self-inflicted wound of speeding on pit road. So he’s got to get moving, and in a hurry.
Another name that comes to mind in my book is the cat sitting currently in that 16th and final transfer spot. That’s Greg Biffle in his Roush Fenway Fords. I mentioned Tony’s harsh reality, but Greg’s harsh reality is those Roush Fenway Fords aren’t running very well. Out of the 19 races so far, Ford on the whole has eight wins. Five came from the Penske camp, one came from Richard Petty Motorsports and the remaining two came from Greg’s teammate, Carl Edwards.
Greg could only muster a 15th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last Sunday and that dropped him another spot down to 16th. It’s not like you can point to the Ford camp as a whole and say they are struggling. My goodness, Brad Keselowski has almost the same stuff that Greg does and Brad right now today is the man I believe that is the odds-on favorite to keep Jimmie Johnson from winning his seventh championship in 2014.
So my point is that Greg’s problems are more internal, because the Roush Fenway Fords, despite Carl’s two wins, simply aren’t running that well. Probably the other big name that sticks out to me as possibly missing the 2014 Chase is Kasey Kahne. I just don’t know what to think about that No. 5 car.
They have exactly the same resources and access to notes and technology that their three other teammates have, yet their three other teammates are sitting first, second and fifth in the points. To make matters worse, of the 19 races we’ve run, Kasey’s teammates have won six of them while Kasey has a big ol’ goose egg showing in the win column.
So if I’m Tony, Greg and Kasey, I’m not sleeping very well right now with only seven races to go until the 2014 Chase field is set. That Chase clock is ticking down, but while it’s ticking down, it’s definitely ticking louder and louder in their heads.