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.
Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
A double pole, double win debut weekend for Trevor Carlin’s team was a statement – but the team’s big takeaway was how different the U.S. environment is.
Apr 1, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT
Helio Castroneves pulls an April Fool’s prank.
Apr 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
A challenging weekend for Scott Dixon occurs from qualifying through the race in St. Petersburg.
Apr 1, 2015, 12:18 PM EDT
Pierre Gasly to test STR10 after Spanish Grand Prix weekend in May.
Apr 1, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
While St. Petersburg had its positives as a weekend, Tony DiZinno reflects on two disconcerting themes that emerged from the race itself.
Apr 1, 2015, 10:54 AM EDT
ABC Supply steps up again, now as Pocono race title sponsor.
Apr 1, 2015, 10:03 AM EDT
Alexander Rossi looks ahead to the upcoming GP2 season.
Mar 31, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT
Off the Grid Mexico kicks off with episode one of a six-part digital series.
Mar 31, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT
Jann Mardenborough and two spectators were released after this weekend’s VLN crash at the Nurburgring.
Mar 31, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Subaru’s Red Bull GRC challenger revealed.
Mar 31, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT
ESM recaps its test from the Prologue at Paul Ricard.
Mar 31, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT
IMS statement comes out after Indiana’s recent religious freedom legislation.
Mar 31, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
Catching up on the rest of the action from St. Petersburg, with a run through the moments of contact that triggered avoidable contact penalties.
Mar 31, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT
Rolling Stones to play at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mar 31, 2015, 9:33 AM EDT
Loose debris hit by a car, then goes over wall and hits a fan outside Turn 10 at St. Petersburg.
Mar 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Hawksworth, Filippi impress on opening outings with their new teams in St. Petersburg.
Mar 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
IndyCar’s “old guard” reigned in St. Petersburg, as the new manufacturer aero kits debuted.
Mar 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Victory number 70 of the Italian’s remarkable Moto GP career.
Mar 30, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT
However, Williams test driver Susie Wolff believes that women should be reaching F1 in a more organic way.
Mar 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
KVSH’s Bourdais gets result after a consistent drive; KV’s Coletti stars but fades after late race splash-and-dash for fuel.
- DiZinno: St. Pete provides solid 2015 season kickoff, but issues some warning signs 1
- Off The Grid Mexico Kicks Off on NBCSports.com (VIDEO) 0
- Spectator injured but in stable condition after being hit by debris at St. Pete race 4
- Experience trumps youth on IndyCar’s opening weekend with aero kits 3
- NHRA: Jack Beckman (54 races), Larry Morgan (120 races) snap lengthy winless streaks in 4-Wide Nationals 2
- Montoya’s evolution evident after statement victory in St. Pete 2
- Montoya ekes out win in St. Petersburg season opener 6