(WOMR file photo)
For those who did not major in math, there are only nine (9) races left before The Chase begins! With ten just (10) different winners so far, it is quite obvious that point DO matter this year!
It would appear that there may not 16 different winners this season. To the hardened NASCAR race fan, it was apparent from the start that the chances of 16 different race drivers winning a race during 2014 would be a huge stretch. The average number if different winners per season have been around eleven. That leaves a possibility of five drivers getting into The Chase on their 20114 points.
Who, of the championship caliber drivers, have not scored their first victory yet this season, and therefore in jeopardy of missing The Chase.?
The list of drivers still in pursuit of their first win includes three-time champion Tony Stewart, 2003 champ Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, just to name the potential winners who have won races in the past few seasons.With the Chase field expanded to 16 drivers this season, and only 10 different race winners thus far, it is becoming rather obvious that you might not have to have a win to get in. If there aren’t 16 different winners within the top 30 in the points standings, the non-winning drivers with the most points can still qualify to make The Chase.
With ten drivers definitely in “The Big Show”, that leaves several drivers on the outside looking in! Which drivers are in the most danger of missing out on The Chase?
Tony Stewart is a three-time Cup champion, so don’t ever count him out.
However, he has made some un-Stewart-like mistakes behind the wheel lately, including a pit-road speeding penalty at Pocono that took him from contention for the win, to a forgettable 13th-place finish.
While there have been wisps of the old Smoke rising from time to time this season, the fire has yet to ignite. They say “where there is smoke, there is fire”, unfortunately, there has been not even a spark emanating from any place remotely close the area that Tony Stewart has occupied. His best finish in the last 12 races is a seventh at Dover.
As hard as it may seem to believe, he’s currently 18th in the points, and on the outside looking in. Not only that, but it is beginning to look as if he’ll remain on the outside.
Obviously, Tony Stewart needs to step up his game tremendously if he has any hopes of joining in The Chase!
Kasey Kahne currently sits 17th in the points standings, so he’s well within reach of getting inside the top 16 before the next nine races play out.
Nevertheless, Kahne really desperately wants and needs a win, or two. With seven top-10 finishes and two top-fives, including three finishes in a row of eighth or better, it seems he’s getting closer. However, the clock is ticking on on Kahne. Everyone knows that Kahne has talent. He has won at least one race in each of the past three seasons, and five out of the last six. Therefore, the odds are in his favor that he will grab at least one victory in the remaining nine races.
There is an old saying that, under the old points rule, a driver could “top ten yon to death”. Well, Ryan Newman is trying to do just that this season! Because of Newman’s one top five and six top ten finishes, he has climbed into eighth place in points.
Last season, Matt Kenseth won a career-high seven races and contended for the championship all the way until the end before finishing runner-up in the Chase to six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
It was somewhat uncharacteristic for Kenseth, who had never before won more than five races in a season and hadn’t won more than four in a single season since 2006.
But what is happening this season is uncharacteristic, too. Kenseth has yet to visit Victory Lane despite registering six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.
The problem with Kenseth’s team is their consistent lack of speed! Kenseth has only led a total of 323 laps so far this year, versus 960 laps led last year.
Of all the drivers without a win this season, Kenseth sits in the best position to “point his way into the Chase”.
Sticking with The Biff has not been a profitable venture, either. For the most part Greg Biffle has not been very competitive through the first fifteen races.
But it isn’t only Biffle who has been left mystified by this. Neither of his Roush Fenway Racing teammates (Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) have been able to muster much on the tracks that measure 1.5 miles or longer. It is a good bet that neither will be competitive at Daytona or Talladega, which are their own animals.
Clint Bowyer currently resides on the old proverbial bubble.
He’s 14th in points, but with two drivers outside the top 16 already owning wins, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch, and seemingly already locked into the Chase, Bowyer really resides in 16th.
Therefore, unless Bowyer can win one of these next nine races, he’s in very real danger of failing to make it into The Chase. For Bowyer, like many of those seeking their first win, the problem is he just hasn’t been able to run up front very much at all. Bowyer knows that he has to make something happen or “sit on the front porch” with the rest of the little dogs!
Needless to say, the next nine races will be very interesting, in light of some very desperate drivers needing to get much more aggressive in order grab a victory enabling them access into “The Big Show”!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!