1 race. 400 miles. Every driver who has not won a race yet in the 2014 season has to capture a chance to compete for the championship. 14 drivers are locked in, and Ryan Newman is all but locked in, sitting 42 points in front of 17th place Clint Bowyer. The most points that can be made up in a single race is 47, assuming one competitor has a perfect day and the other falls flat out of the gate.
Already locked into the Chase are: Jeff Gordon (3 wins), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3), Joey Logano (3), Brad Keselowski (3), Jimmie Johnson (3), Carl Edwards (2), Kevin Harvick (2), Kasey Kahne (1), Kyle Busch (1), Kurt Busch (1), Aric Almirola (1), A.J. Allmendinger (1) and Matt Kenseth (points).
Newman is in 15th, followed Greg Biffle. 23 points behind Biffle is Bowyer, with rookie Kyle Larson trailing by a single point. Biffle is the last driver on the favorable side of the bubble heading into tonight’s race at Richmond.
So who can win tonight and upset those who are set to make it on points?
- Jamie McMurray. Here is a guy who has run sporadically well throughout the season. He has tasted victory lane in the 2014 season in the All-Star event. McMurray has finished in the top 8 five times this season, and his crew chief isn’t afraid to play a little strategy.
- Kyle Larson. The rookie everyone has seen run with the big guns at points during the season. One of his two poles on the season came at the Richmond race in the spring. He is one of the guys capable of legitimately competing for the championship trophy if he can get in.
- Clint Bowyer. The focus of spin-gate last year. Bowyer is always one to look out for on the short tracks.
- Brian Vickers. Vickers is honestly a little bit of a streaky driver, but at New Hampshire last year he showed chops to step up and win at any time. This would be a great story in his first full season back from the blood clots.
- Martin Truex Jr. A disappointing year for Truex Jr. to say the least. He notched a top 10 off at Richmond in the spring and hasn’t been horrible at the track. The rest of the season could be forgotten, and they could start fresh if he can pull this out.
- Tony Stewart/Danica Patrick. Because NASCAR would explode.
So who makes the Chase field? Kenseth grabs the trophy tonight, gets in on wins and builds some confidence for Joe Gibbs Racing moving into the postseason. Newman and Biffle keep their bumpers clean and fill out the field of 16.