Uncommonly calm race at The Glen could shape 16-driver Chase field
On the one hand, the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen was uncommonly calm for a NASCAR road race, with no cautions at all over the final one-third of the 90-lap road race.
But on the other hand, Sunday’s battle could end up having profound implications on who winds up in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and who comes up short.
With four races left before the final Chase field, here’s how the 16-driver Chase grid looks right now:
Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, 4 wins each;
Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, 2 wins each;
Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, 1 win each;
Jamie McMurray, zero victories, 73 points ahead of the Chase cutoff;
Paul Menard, zero victories, 60 points ahead of Chase cutoff;
Jeff Gordon, zero victories, 58 points ahead of Chase cutoff;
Ryan Newman, zero victories, 51 points ahead of Chase cutoff; and
Clint Bowyer, zero victories, 50 points ahead of Chase cutoff.
The first drivers outside the Chase are Aric Almirola, who is 50 points behind Bowyer and Kasey Kahne, who is 51 back. Realistically, if either of those two drivers is to make the Chase, they will have to win a race.
McMurray and Gordon finished 40th and 41st at the Glen, which did not help their Chase chances. On the other hand, Kahne finished 42nd and is now well back of Bowyer, who helped himself tremendously with his sixth-place run.
With only four races left in the Sprint Cup regular season, at least one driver is assured of making it into the Chase on points alone, but the likelihood is that there will be at least three or four winless drivers who make the Chase.
Despite his 40th-place finish on Sunday, McMurray is still in great shape. The real battle for the final Chase spots is the four drivers from Menard to Gordon to Bowyer who are separated by just 10 points.
Of course, if there’s a first-time race-winner in the next four races, all those numbers could go right out the window.