Aug 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
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.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell sits down with NBCSN’s Marty Snider to go over all the details.
Sep 23, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Pagenaud reveals that he’s made his decision on where he’ll drive in next year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Rodolfo Gonzalez tests for Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA discusses how the defending Sprint Cup champion has been flying under the radar in the early stages of the postseason.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
A local media report states that one of the drivers who raced with Stewart and Ward during the Aug. 9 race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park has been called to testify.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Coming up today: An interview with NASCAR executive VP Steve O’Donnell; Jeff Burton on what kind of racing the new rules package will produce; the New Hampshire edition of “Scan All 43″; and why is Jimmie Johnson driving a tank?
Sep 23, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
Where does everyone in the Chase besides Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have to finish Sunday in order to go to the next round?
Sep 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Points shift after second-to-last IMSA weekend of 2014 in Austin.
Sep 23, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Sunday’s Challenger Round finale.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
NASCAR’s top series is set to experience multiple changes next season.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Truex has suffered eight DNFs in 2014 while driving BK’s No. 83 Toyota Camry.
Sep 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Formula One dropped the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam last year after several seasons of bad attendance and money loss.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Martin Brundle’s retort to Christian Horner a great bit of levity from Singapore.
Sep 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
Not that we needed further evidence that Circuit of the Americas is awesome, but riding shotgun with Dindo Capello in Audi provides us said further evidence.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT
Mike Conway is operating from a position of strength as he looks to continue open-wheel/sports car balance into 2015.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Bourdais set for Petit Le Mans appearances.
Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
They’ve already got the IndyCar title. But can Team Penske claim the Sprint Cup as well this season?
Sep 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
It hasn’t always been easy for Logano since he broke into the Sprint Cup Series in 2009. But there’s no disputing that the kid once known as “Sliced Bread” (as in, greatest thing since) has grown up.
Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Two teams on the opposite ends of the Chase spectrum head for the Lone Star State.
Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
A wild doubleheader in Los Angeles has left Block with an 18-point edge over Wiman as the series heads for Seattle.
Video from NASCAR America
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