It took 26 races to get to the Chase portion of the schedule, but Saturday night at Richmond we were treated to the type of drama that I am sure NASCAR would like to see in the last race of the season at Homestead-Miami.
Drivers on the bubble found themselves on Saturday night to be in the Chase field, only to find out that on the next lap another driver had made a pass to once again put them on the outside looking in.
It went like that the entire night, and after a questionable spin by Clint Bowyer and maybe an even more questionable restart by Carl Edwards, the 12-driver field was finally set that beginning this weekend will now have the opportunity to race for the title. Those 12 drivers will now have their points reset to 2,000 points with the drivers that finished in the top 10 being awarded bonus points for every win they posted.
Even though he didn’t finish on top of the points after Richmond, Matt Kenseth will be the first seed in the Chase with a total of 2,015 points because of the five wins that he posted leading into the Chase. Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Busch have four wins each and will start at 2,012. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards have two wins each for 2,006, with Joey Logano and Greg Biffle being the only other drivers with bonus points as they each made one trip to victory lane raising their starting total to 2,003.
Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch round out the top 10, but are all winless and will start with 2,000 points. The two wild card drivers to make it in the Chase are Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. They both earned those spots by winning, but Chase rules do not give bonus points to the two wild card drivers so they will start with 2,000 points.
When looking for a favorite to grab the title, you would have to give Matt Kenseth a long look. He is a past champion and has been in nine of the 10 Chases, finishing among the top seven in the standings for the past four seasons. He is the wins leader going into the Chase, but is also tied for the lead with Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne for the most DNF’s with three. The competition is so close in the Chase that just one DNF could take you out of contention for the title.
Jimmie Johnson’s five straight titles will always make him a threat to win it all, but he enters the Chase without any momentum. It has been two years since he won his last title and at one time this season had a points lead of nearly two full races. He will go to Chicagoland this weekend on the heels of four straight finishes of 28th or worse.
Kyle Busch enters the Chase as maybe the hottest driver as he has posted two wins over the last five races. Even though he is the winningest driver in NASCAR’s three national series over the last five years, he has struggled when it has come to the Chase. The last time he was in the Chase was 2011 when he finished last and in 2008 when he won eight races leading up to the Chase, he finished 10th.
Kevin Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing after this season for Stewart Haas and would love to get a title before the move. Harvick has been in six Chases and has a pair of thirdplace finishes.
Kurt Busch’s appearance in the Chase made history as he is the first-ever driver to make it in while driving for single-car team. Even though he is winless this season, he has posted eight top 5’s and 13 top 10’s and those numbers are comparable to the rest of the Chase field. He also is a past champion under the Chase format and has posted wins at seven of the 10 Chase tracks.
Chicagoland Speedway’s 1.5- mile oval will kick off the Chase and it is the only track on the 10- race schedule that doesn’t necessarily put a premium on where a driver starts. Only four times in the 12 races that have been held at the track has the winning driver started in the first five rows. Kevin Harvick leads all of the Chase drivers with two victories at the track. Ford has yet to win a race at the track, which isn’t good news for Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle as they are the only two blue oval drivers in the Chase field.
Event: Geico 400 (Chase Race
Track: Chicagoland Speedway
(1.5-mile tri-oval, 180 of banking
in the turns)
Date: Sept. 15, 2 p.m.
Defending Champion: Brad