When the 2014 season began, the buzz going through the NASCAR community was about the expanded Chase, and new format of how it would determine a champion. Along with that came just exactly how one would earn a spot in the Chase.
Pretty much, it was simple: win and you’re in.
That meant every race had to be treated as if that was the final one before the Chase actually began. Drivers knew that points were important, but not as important as years past, not even as important as Chases past. The new way of knowing a team is going to battle for a championship is simply to win a race.
Easier said than done because the way it has been this season, of the first 25 races, there have been 13 different winners, something that was never anticipated to start the season. It just goes to show that the wins are hard to come by because so many drivers were hoping to get in the title picture, but just didn’t get to that point yet. The idea of “points racing” is no longer part of NASCAR, it’s simply to win, but also be consistent so that the wins count for something.
One could have three wins on the season, but because of the rules if there are more bad races than good, that driver could be 31st in the standings, meaning they are out of the Chase. So there is still a purpose of being consistent, and running well.
But now we’re down to just one race to determine the final field of Chase drivers. A total of 13 are in based on wins, with another locked in simply by points. So that means two spots are still up in the air, and if a driver that hasn’t won yet takes victory, that means only one spot matters in the Chase because that’s all that’s left.
Richmond is the final race of the year to make the Chase, because after that, the 16-driver field will begin their quest to hoist a trophy.
RESULTS: 1-Kahne 2-Kenseth 3-Hamlin 4-Johnson 5-Edwards 6-Patrick 7-Newman 8-Larson 9-Almirola 10-Biffle
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Earnhardt Jr. 13-Kurt Busch 14-Logano 16-Kyle Busch 17-Gordon 19-Harvick 39-Keselowski 40-Allmendinger
CAUTIONS: 10 for 56 laps. Lap 39-44 (Debris-T3), 79-84 (#24 Accident-T3 and T4), 118-121 (#83 Spin-T4), 125-134 (Fluid on track from #9), 173-179 (#14 Accident-T2), 210-214 (Debris-BS), 259-263 (Debris-BS), 298-302 (#2, 11, 98 Accident-FS), 325-328 (#18, 78 Accident-T1 and T2), 330-333 (#4, 22, 27, 48 Accident-FS).
LEAD CHANGES: 21 among 6 drivers. Harvick 1-80, Hamlin 81-84, Harvick 85, Hamlin 86-107, Harvick 108-118, Hamlin 119-122, Kenseth 123-135, Kurt Busch 136-157, Kenseth 158-164, Harvick 165-170, Keselowski 171-173, Hamlin 174, Kenseth 175-182, Harvick 183-210, Kenseth 211-227, Harvick 228-258, Hamlin 259-260, Harvick 261-298, HAmlin 299-302, Kahne 303-325, Kenseth 325-333, Kahne 334-335.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 55 Mins, 22 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 131.514 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.574 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Gordon, 872 points**; 2. Earnhardt Jr, -21**; 3. Kenseth, -78*; 4. Logano, -81**; 5. Keselowski, -90**; 6. Johnson, -106**; 7. Edwards, -117**; 8. Harvick, -124**; 9. Newman, -125; 10. Biffle, -144.
**Locked into Chase on wins
*Locked into Chase on points
OTHER CHASE DRIVERS: Kahne (11th, 1 win), Kyle Busch (17th, 1 win), Hamlin (19th, 1 win), Kurt Busch (21st, 1 win), Almirola (22nd, 1 win), Allmendinger (23rd, 1 win)