Three drivers fail to clinch Chase berth at Pocono; Atlanta could be most crucial race before Richmond
Aug 4, 2014, 6:21 PM EDT
If at first you don’t succeed, try again next week.
That’s the case for three drivers who failed to officially clinch a berth in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup in this past Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
According to NASCAR statisticians, Kevin Harvick was the only driver of four that mathematically could clinch a berth in the Chase, having done so with his runner-up finish Sunday at Pocono.
Those failing to clinch a berth were Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola. That trio will have another chance to officially lock themselves into the Chase in this Sunday’s road course race at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York.
In addition to Harvick, those drivers already locked in to the Chase are Pocono winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano.
In addition to those drivers who have won at least one race this season but as yet have not officially clinched a spot, there are still five other spots that remain open for the Chase.
Right now, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, rookie Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer would make the Chase if the standings remain the same after the Chase cut-off qualifying race at Richmond a month from now.
Five races remain to qualify for the Chase.
Nine drivers who earned at least one win last season have yet to win thus far this season, and several of those find themselves in jeopardy of missing the Chase, among them Tony Stewart, who is 19th in the standings after this past Sunday’s race at Pocono, and Kasey Kahne, who is 14th.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, which hosts the next-to-last Chase qualifying race prior to Richmond, is looking forward to some significant juggling in the standings both heading into and after its annual Labor Day weekend race.
“For teams that have not secured a Chase spot yet, Labor Day Weekend is going to be huge,” AMS president and general manager Ed Clark said in a media release. “For teams and drivers who have not had the season they may have hoped for, they’re in must-win mode.
“If you’re trying to get into the Chase, there’s no time to settle for a good points day. That should lead to some of the most exciting racing of the entire season (at Atlanta).”
If they remain winless heading into the Labor Day weekend race, AMS could potentially be the best place for drivers like Stewart and Kahne to finally cement a Chase berth.
Stewart is a three-time winner at Atlanta, his last triumph being in 2010, while Kahne is a two-time winner there, including making the 2009 Chase with a win at AMS.
Other drivers who remain eligible to make the Chase, but will have to win a race to make it are Sprint All-Star race winner Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, A.J. Allmendinger, Martin Truex, Jr. and Brian Vickers.
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