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.
Jan 28, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
While a small, one-car team that makes just over half the races of the season, there’s a lot of heart and motivation in the family oriented Leavine Family Racing team.
Jan 28, 2015, 3:06 PM EST
A family release issued Wednesday through NASCAR’s communications department said Pearson suffered the stroke Dec. 9 “but is doing great and well on the road to recovery.”
Jan 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Former IndyCar race director Brian Barnhart will return to his old role for 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 2:45 PM EST
Six more events “tentatively” added to the Wood Brothers’ 65th anniversary season.
Jan 28, 2015, 2:31 PM EST
Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark said the team set up a meeting for Wallace with Maverick Carter, the agent who oversees much of James’ business empire.
Jan 28, 2015, 1:12 PM EST
Richard Petty Motorsports seeks sponsorship for 26 races for Sam Hornish Jr.’s team this season.
Jan 28, 2015, 1:02 PM EST
Horner also speaks with NBCSN’s Will Buxton about efforts from the team’s engine manufacturer, Renault, to ensure a much smoother start to 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 12:33 PM EST
Force India opts to concentrate on getting its new 2015 car ready for the second preseason test at Barcelona.
Jan 28, 2015, 12:15 PM EST
Sam Hornish is fitting in quite nicely in his new role with Richard Petty Motorsports.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:56 AM EST
Last year’s July winner at Daytona thinks RPM’s momentum will continue to grow in 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:46 AM EST
A deal to return to a ThorSport Toyota has fallen through for the son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:27 AM EST
Chastain will have support from the National Watermelon Association on his No. 4 Chevrolet Camaro.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:11 AM EST
Roush Fenway Racing continues to look for sponsorship for Darrell Wallace Jr., but Wallace says he plans to run the full XFINITY season.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:04 AM EST
Although there were a number of changes at Roush Fenway Racing, team co-owner Jack Roush believes things are on the right track for a big collective comeback from RFR in 2015.
Jan 28, 2015, 10:06 AM EST
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tried to channel his inner Marshawn Lynch during Roush Fenway Racing’s segment of the NASCAR Media Tour on Wednesday.
Jan 28, 2015, 10:05 AM EST
Stewart takes control of one of the country’s oldest sprint car leagues.
Jan 28, 2015, 9:50 AM EST
A new anthem for NASCAR’s new era on NBC Sports.
Jan 27, 2015, 10:41 PM EST
Negative backlash following ad’s premiere on Tuesday’s “Today” show leads to GoDaddy pulling it from Sunday’s big game.
Jan 27, 2015, 8:55 PM EST
The Lights contingent finish their two-day session on the Homestead road course before heading to the oval on Thursday.
Jan 27, 2015, 7:12 PM EST
Following a dramatic Sprint Cup title victory in 2014, Harvick enters 2015 with less pressure – but not less motivated to continue his success.
Video from NASCAR America
- LeBron James’ agent involved in Darrell Wallace Jr.’s hunt for sponsorship 1
- Sponsorship woes leave Jeb Burton scrambling again for a NASCAR ride 2
- Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick: “I’m as comfortable as I’ve ever been” 0
- Danica Patrick enters final year of contract but wants to stay at Stewart-Haas 13
- Start times for 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races 9
- Bowyer on Gordon: “You’re never good with somebody when it got that ugly” 25
- NASCAR considers unveiling 2016 rules at Sprint All-Star Race in May 2