I really see the race Sunday here in Atlanta Motor Speedway playing out differently than we have seen in past years, because of the change in the Chase format. You basically have three groups of teams.
There are those that are desperate for a win just to get into the Chase, with only Sunday and next Saturday night at Richmond left in the regular season.
You then have a group that will be points racing.
Finally, you have the Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penskes of the world that are loose, and while another win would definitely be nice, they certainly don’t feel pressure like others do on Sunday.
It really is so simple when it comes to the math that everyone going into Sunday’s race knows that they need to do. If you are on the outside looking in, then you have to win. If you are just on the inside of making the Chase, you can’t afford any mistakes Sunday night and must keep yourself in the Chase.
If you are one of those teams solidly locked into the Chase, well, to me that means "Christmas in August." There is no pressure. They can maybe try some things and race as hard as they want to. If those teams make a mistake Sunday with the engine or car setup, then what does it matter? They are in the Chase and it really doesn’t matter.
So the attitude coming into this race is completely different than we’ve ever seen it in the past. It’s all a product of this new Chase format for 2014.
Some drivers and teams are going to be enjoying this weekend, knowing they have nothing to lose. For others, this weekend could turn into a nightmare as they see their next-to-last chance to make the 2014 Chase slip through their fingers.
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