Brad Keselowski’s antics — both good and bad — have dominated the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup through the first eight races, but there’s a lot more going on as we head into the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway.
Some things to note for this weekend:
NO MARGIN FOR ERROR: All eight drivers in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are still in contention to advance to the Championship Round next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
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The spread from front to back among the eight drivers is just 18 points — equal to 18 positions on the track — so nobody is locked in or out yet. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin are tied for the points lead, though Logano has the edge on tie breakers. Ryan Newman (-2) and Jeff Gordon (-12) are currently in the other two transfer spots.
If the old Chase points system were still in use, Logano would have a 35-point lead over Kevin Harvick and be a virtual lock for the championship. Hamlin would be seventh, 76 points back.
HAPPY TIME, PEOPLE: Kevin Harvick probably needs to win Sunday to make the finale. With that said, this is Harvick’s best track. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has five Sprint Cup wins at Phoenix, including three in the last four races.
"I feel like I’ve been racing at Phoenix my entire career, and I feel that what I’ve learned there has helped me be successful on the other flat tracks we race at," said Harvick. "The race track continues to change as it ages, so you’re always tweaking to keep up with the changes every time we head out there."
BESTS OF THE CHASE: Brad Keselowski has six victories this year, most of any driver, but it’s his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano who leads the points and has the most top-five finishes at 16. Logano and Jeff Gordon each have 21 top 10s. Kevin Harvick has led a series-high 1,189 laps, while Keselowski is second at 1,540.
WORSTS OF THE CHASE: Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth are the two Chase drivers who are both winless so far in 2014. Newman has just four top-five finishes this season, fewest of any Chase driver and he ranks last in laps led with 41. Carl Edwards has just 14 top-10s. Denny Hamlin is the only driver still in title contention who has no top-five finishes in the Chase.
Among the manufacturers, Toyota has only two victories, and none since the spring Talladega race. It’s Toyota’s worst season since its rookie campaign of 2007.
ROGER‘S RECORDS: Team Penske has set career highs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year for victories (11) and top-five finishes (31). Team Penske has won four of the eight Chase races this year.
ON THE LINE: Tony Stewart has won at least one race in each of the last 15 seasons, but he needs to win either this weekend at Phoenix or next weekend at Homestead to extend the streak to 16. In NASCAR history, the only drivers with longer winning streaks than Stewart’s 15 are Richard Petty (18), David Pearson (17) and Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd (16 each).
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