All this talk of the new Chase Grid made sense when the year began, but how does it stack up when the first round is complete? It’s really simple in a way, because when the Chase started, every driver was seeded based on first victories, and then the remaining spots filled with non-race winning drivers that were within the top-16 in points.
Bonus points for those wins were added in with every driver that did win, exactly like it was one year ago. But now, things are a bit different.
Obviously, when this weekend’s race came to an end, it was clear the top-12 would move on. However, that does not exactly mean the top-12 that are in the standings move on. In reality, a Chase driver automatically moves into the next round if they win a Chase race in the current round. So, entering Sunday’s race, just 10 spots were up for grabs. At the end of the race, another Chase driver won, meaning just nine spots were up for the taking.
When those 12 drivers move into the next round, it doesn’t matter how many wins they have, because there is no seeding. Every driver that moves on now has 3000 points, with no bonus points added in for the amount of wins.
This is a change from a year ago, so in a way every three weeks is another Chase battle, and the pressure intensifies when there’s only 12 drivers to battle instead of 16, because everyone is even entering the round and no one knows what will happen.
With this new format, NASCAR truly does have a playoff system because in the blink of an eye, one driver could be out, but then battle back to make it in. That’s what Kasey Kahne did on Sunday, as he had a loose wheel put him laps down, but battled back to get in the right position to move him into the next round. At the same time, other drivers weren’t fast enough to make it into the next round, or competitive enough, such as A.J. Allmendinger and Greg Biffle.
Kurt Busch for the longest time was in the Chase in the bubble spot, and even tied with Kahne during the race but held the break due to positioning. However, he faded back, and Kahne moved up to give him enough points to move on.
So, four drivers now peel off the yellow fascia on the splitter, the name plate on the windshield, and number on the roof, as they are through going after a championship.
The Contender Round of the Chase begins on Sunday, and will go through a daylight event in Kansas, then under the lights in Charlotte, and run right through Talladega to find out who will move on into the next round. NASCAR has its playoff system, now it’s time for a second helping to see what happens next.
RESULTS: 1-Gordon 2-Keselowski 3-Johnson 4-Logano 5-Kenseth 6-Larson 7-Truex 8-Newman 9-Bowyer 10-Kyle Busch
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Edwards 12-Hamlin 13-Harvick 17-Earnhardt Jr. 18-Kurt Busch 20-Kahne 21-Biffle 23-Allmendinger 28-Almirola
CAUTIONS: 5 for 23 laps. Lap 63-67 (Debris-FS), 76-79 (#17 Accident-T2), 126-129 (Debris-BS), 172-175 (#32 Accident-T2), 255-260 (Debris-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 10 among 7 drivers. Harvick 1-147, Keselowski 148-172, Harvick 173-248, Kenseth 249, Bowyer 250, McMurray 251, Keselowski 252-304, Gordon 305-327, Kenseth 328, Edwards 329, Gordon 330-400.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 3 Mins, 51 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 130.541 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 4.352 Seconds
2014 CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP: 1-12, All have 3000 points-Keselowski (5 wins), Logano (4 wins), Gordon (4 wins), Johnson (3 wins), Harvick (3 wins), Earnhardt Jr. (3 wins), Edwards (2 wins), Kyle Busch (1 win), Hamlin (1 win), Kahne (1 win), Kenseth, Newman. 13. Allmendinger, -923; 14. Kurt Busch, -927; 15. Biffle, -928; 16. Almirola, -939.