Are drivers’ and teams’ Chase philosophies changing?

Ryan Newman (left) and Matt Kenseth (right) are in the thick of the title hunt despite being winless.

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With Dale Earnhardt Jr. no longer in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase hunt and with him taking a win off the board for the remaining eight drivers in the Chase, there is no doubt it makes a difference in the Chase scenario. There are only two races left in this Eliminator Round — this weekend at Texas and next weekend at Phoenix.

Having a non-Chase driver win Sunday at Martinsville like Dale Jr. did opens the box more for two drivers to make the final four on their points. Now sure, Hendrick Motorsports would have been thrilled to have Jeff Gordon win last Sunday because that would have guaranteed him a spot in the finals. However, a Hendrick car did win which is great for the company, but Jeff finished second which is a great start for the No. 24 in this round.

I’ll be the first to admit that this deep into the Chase, I am actually starting to change my philosophy a bit on what it would take to win the 2014 championship. I originally said and believed you simply had to win to make something happen here. I’m starting to change my stance based on what I am seeing.

Look how consistent Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth are week in and week out during this Chase. Of our eight remaining Chase drivers and after Sunday’s Martinsville race, Ryan is second in the points with Matt only two spots back in fourth. So if you can have three solid finishes in this Eliminator Round, then you stand a real good chance of moving onto the final four at Homestead on Nov. 16.

There are two guys I had in my final four Homestead bracket who are in jeopardy of even making it, and they are Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. I think both are going to have to win either this weekend or next weekend at Phoenix if they want to be a player at Homestead in the championship race.