Aug 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
With 12 drivers now officially locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup after yesterday’s Pure Michigan 400, the battle to claim one of the final four spots on the Chase Grid is set to heat up considerably over the three remaining regular season races.
Yesterday’s race saw four drivers in the thick of that battle improve their prospects by moving up in the Chase outlook, while one driver in particular suffered a major setback.
Let’s take a look at who’s now sitting on the Chase Grid and who’s on the outside looking in as Bristol Motor Speedway beckons…
13. 20-Matt Kenseth, 709 points
- Finished 38th yesterday
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 13th, +77 over 17th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: 13th, +58 over 17th
Kenseth was one of multiple drivers who were collected in an early spin by Danica Patrick yesterday. Rear suspension damage on the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota forced him to the garage for repairs, and he later returned to action 27 laps down.
Luckily for Kenseth, he already had a big cushion between himself and being outside of the Chase Grid. It’s shrunk by 19 points after yesterday, but he’s still in good shape.
14. 31-Ryan Newman, 679 points
- Finished 11th
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 14th, +19 over 17th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: 14th, +28 over 17th
Exchange of unpleasantness with Jimmie Johnson aside, Newman can feel alright about his 11th-place day at Michigan. In a situation where every point is going to be critical, he was able to increase his Chase cushion by nine points thanks to a late-race surge that included his run-in with the defending Sprint Cup champion.
If he can secure a Top-5 or Top-10 finish on Saturday night at Bristol, he’d be looking really good to make the post-season in his first year at Richard Childress Racing.
15. 15-Clint Bowyer, 672 points
- Finished sixth
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 16th, +8 over 17th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: 15th, +21 over 17th
Also putting some ground between himself and his Chase rivals was Bowyer, who progressively moved up from mid-pack into the Top 10 late before claiming a sixth-place finish.
That’s worth a gain of 13 points over 17th, and also kicks the Kansas native up one spot on the Chase Grid to 15th. He perfectly summed it up after the race, saying: “We just did what we needed to do today.”
16. 16-Greg Biffle, 660 points
- Finished 10th
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 17th, -8 behind 16th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: 16th, +9 over 17th
But by squeaking out a Top-10 finish, Biffle still pushed himself into the 16th and final position on the Chase Grid with a 17-point swing in the positive direction.
17. 5-Kasey Kahne, 651 points
- Finished 16th
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 18th, -12 behind 16th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: 17th, -9 behind 16th
Kahne was running in the Top 10 with less than 20 laps to go, but faded following the last restart of the day to a 16th-place result.
Had he not dropped spots late, he might have been able to crack the Chase Grid. But Kahne has been a solid competitor as of late at Bristol (a win, two Top-5s, three Top-10s in last 3 starts), so watch for him to be a dark horse on Saturday.
18. 3-Austin Dillon, 638 points
- Finished 22nd
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 19th, -18 behind 16th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: 18th, -22 behind 16th
A mechanical issue that emerged in the second half of the race caused Dillon to lose power and ultimately swallow a sub-par finish. He moved up one position in the Chase outlook, but his overall points gap behind 16th place actually grew by four points to 22.
After the race, Dillon vowed that he and his team would “be ready to battle” at Bristol. They need to follow through on that promise.
19. 42-Kyle Larson, 636 points
- Finished 43rd
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 15th, +9 over 17th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: 19th, -24 behind 16th
Larson’s crash just before halfway was a horrible twist of fate for his post-season hopes. The 43rd-place finish caused him to drop a whopping 33 points and dive from 15th on the Chase Grid to 19th and out of the picture with three races left.
There’s still time to recover, but can he put an entire weekend together and get that critical win he needs to make the post-season?
20. 9-Marcos Ambrose, 616 points
- Finished 12th
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: 20th, -50 behind 16th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan, 20th, -44 behind 16th
One week after narrowly missing out on a golden opportunity to make the Chase on the road course at Watkins Glen, Ambrose turned in a 12th-place run at Michigan.
The points gain, however, was minimal. But keep an eye on him as we head for Bristol, where he’s earned three Top-10s in his last four starts. With a little luck, he just might get a second chance to “win and get in.”
21. 27-Paul Menard, 614 points
- Finished 4th
- Chase Grid Status before Michigan: -60 behind 16th
- Chase Grid Status after Michigan: -46 behind 16th
Menard was quick during the weekend and netted his fourth Top-5 finish of the season. But after three consecutive finishes outside of the Top 30, the fourth-place effort at MIS may have been too little, too late in regards to making the Chase.
Dec 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Clint Bowyer endured the worst season of his Sprint Cup career in 2014. He hasn’t won a race since 2012, but 2015 could be a comeback year for him.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:40 AM EST
Can’t say these sweaters aren’t memorable.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:45 PM EST
Daughter of legendary Funny Car champ John Force, Brittany Force is out to prove that 2015 will be her year in NHRA Top Fuel racing.
Dec 19, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick Jr., spent a recent testing day in a Formula 4 car, a possible prelude to following in his famous father’s footsteps.
Dec 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
Edwards’ Arris car won’t be hard to find in a pack next year.
Dec 19, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Rare, intriguing call for CGR to put two lesser-experienced drivers in No. 01 car.
Dec 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
Williams’ stellar 2014 season, recapped in pictures and words.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth proved that consistency still pays.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:49 PM EST
The fan-favorite Sprint Experience at NASCAR tracks across the country is apparently no longer, according to a media report.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
McMurray shined at the All-Star Race in May but missed out on a 2014 Chase berth.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:57 PM EST
Kyle Larson had a tremendous rookie season in 2014. If he was that good this season, imagine how much better he’ll be next season and seasons to come.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
Felipe Nasr’s No. 12 rounds out the F1 grid number choices for 2015.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Jean-Eric Vergne signs with Ferrari as a test and development driver, which means a bunch of simulator work.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:17 AM EST
RC Enerson moves up from USF2000 to Indy Lights.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Multiplatinum artist to rock out before 2015 running of the Great American Race.
Dec 19, 2014, 10:37 AM EST
Party like it’s 1996 in 2015 – Panis and Herta sons signed to deals.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:51 PM EST
It lasts only four months, but there’ll be lots of action on the schedule for the 2015 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:26 PM EST
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be slinging some pre-Christmas dirt this Saturday in an all-star sprint car race in DuQuoin, Ill.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:50 PM EST
One of Kurt Busch’s sponsors has joined team owner Gene Haas in backing the driver in his ongoing dispute with ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:31 PM EST
Want to have a good laugh or two? Check out all of the bloopers and behind-the-scenes fun from NASCAR America over this past year.
Video from NASCAR America
- Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick Jr., has ‘secret’ F4 test 2
- Report: The Sprint Experience will not return in 2015 4
- Vergne joins Ferrari as a test driver 1
- IndyCar champ Will Power’s hidden talent — breakdancing 0
- NASCAR: Bubba Wallace confirmed for Roush Fenway XFINITY program 1
- Top NASCAR stories of 2014: No. 13 – Chase Elliott wins final Nationwide Series championship at record age 0
- CVC adds di Montezemolo, Walsh to Board of Directors for F1; Bernie stays on 1