Parks Pit Report: Federated Auto Parts 400

The field for the 2016 Chase has been set.

The field for the 2016 Chase has been set.

The one thing about the final race before the Chase is that there is always some kind of drama, build up, or controversy.  Often times, all of them will happen in the course of the race.  This has been common the last few years.

There have been battles to see who could get the final spot, the wild card position like was used before the current format, and even the infamous “itch” that made the 12-driver Chase in 2013 suddenly become a baker’s dozen.

But isn’t that exactly what the Chase does?

Ever since the inception of the Chase back in 2004, the format has changed a total of four times.  The original format back in 2004 was 10 drivers, who had their points reset after this race.  The leader would get 5050 points, with the rest having five points less.

In 2006, the field would get reset again and go from 10 drivers to 12, and wins would then be counted as bonus points.  The leader would get 5000 points to start, and then bonus points added in after that, with the remaining of the top-12 completing the Chase field.

After a few years, this concept was adjusted to first include the top-10 drivers, and then two “Wild Cards” that would get in based on wins or points position, but no bonus points.

This new format of 16 drivers, with eliminations after certain races, has made the Chase better than any previous version, but has also put the pressure and drama even higher.  That was made clear when the first installment of this Chase format was used in 2014 when Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski got into it during the second race of the third round.

The pressure to make the Chase in today’s era where so many teams are so strong, it has gone up ten-fold.  In an era where a win could move the cutoff down one position, making the Chase has become a battle in itself.  Someone is always going to be hurt when they don’t make it, especially if someone else dictates that.

Now the Chase field for 2016 is set, and the first round is set to start next weekend.  It’s on, and in 10 weeks, a new champion will be crowned.

RESULTS:  1-Hamlin  2-Larson  3-Truex Jr.  4-Keselowski  5-Harvick  6-Kahne  7-McMurray  8-Kurt Busch  9-Kyle Busch  10-Logano

NOTABLE FINISHES:  11-Johnson  16-Gordon  24-Buescher  32-Edwards  33-Stewart  38-Kenseth

CAUTIONS:  16 for 89 laps.   12-16 (#21 accident-T2); 86-91 (#47 spin-FS); 96-100 (#24 accident-T1); 202-211 (#48 accident-T1); 223-227 (Debris-FS); 246-250 (#23 accident-T1); 266-271 (#17, 27 accident-T2); 280-284 (#13, 93 accident-T3); 292-295 (#46 accident-T2); 322-326 (#19 accident-T2); 329-332 (#47 accident-T1); 337-343 (#20 accident-T3); 347-350 (#15, 47 accident-FS); 355-361 (#93 accident-T3); 364-368 (#14, 19, 23, 31, 34, 44, 47, 83 accident-T3 [Red Flag: Lap 339, 20 Mins, 23 Secs.]); 400-405 (#7 accident-T3).

LEAD CHANGES:  21 among 7 drivers.  D. Hamlin 1-12; J. Earnhardt # 13-14; D. Hamlin 15-51; M. Truex Jr. 52-85; M. Kenseth 86; Kurt Busch 87; D. Hamlin 88-100; M. Truex Jr. 101-202; M. Kenseth 203; M. Truex Jr. 204-222; D. Hamlin 223; M. Truex Jr. 224-228; Kurt Busch 229-230; M. Truex Jr. 231-245; M. Kenseth 246; R.
Smith 247-248; D. Hamlin 249-267; K. Larson 268-271; D. Hamlin 272-292; K. Larson 293-303; M. Truex Jr. 304-321; D. Hamlin 322-407.

TIME OF RACE:  3 Hrs, 31 Mins, 33 Secs.

AVERAGE SPEED:  85.778 MPH

MARGIN OF VICTORY:  0.609 Seconds

2016 CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP:  1. Kyle Busch-2012 (points); 2. Keselowski-2012; 3. Hamlin, -3; 4. Harvick, -6; 5. Edwards, -6; 6. Truex Jr, -6; 7. Kenseth, -6; 8. Johnson, -6; 9. Logano, -9; 10. Larson, -9; 11. Stewart, -9; 12. Kurt Busch, -9; 13. Buescher, -9; 14. Elliott, -12; 15. Dillon, -12; 16. McMuray, -12.

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