Chase Hopefuls Running Out of Time
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 25, 2014 | 10:10 A.M. EST
Rookie Kyle Larson is among those drivers still searching for a victory that would send them into the post-season Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. (Photo: Getty Images)
The race to make this year’s Chase has become increasingly more difficult for a number of drivers with just two races left in the regular season.
Twelve drivers with race wins are in the playoff field. Four more spots will be filled through the point standings and after Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol, those seem to be pretty secure.
Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle currently have those berths with a healthy advantage over those trailing in the standings. Kyle Larson trails by 26 points while Kasey Kahne is now 33 behind.
A win in either of the final two races of the regular season in Atlanta or Richmond gets any non-victorious driver into the Chase. But obviously, time is running out.
Several drivers have to look at Bristol as a missed opportunity - including Kahne, who went into last weekend only nine points out of a Chase berth. He led a good portion of the 500-lap race. However, a loose wheel and other maladies added up to a 35th-place finish for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.
Kyle Larson had an eventful night, as well, that saw him involved in an early-race incident. But the Chip Ganassi Racing rookie charged back to a respectable 12th-place finish.
"That is the hardest I’ve ever raced," said Larson, "especially having to do it for 500 laps. That was pretty wild. I guess I’m happy with a 12th. That's probably about as good as we were."
But "pretty good" isn’t going to cut it in terms of making the championship round. Larson now finds himself in a large hole points-wise and believes winning might be his best - if not only - route into the Chase.
"We're quite a ways behind Biffle," said Larson. "We'll keep trying hard and we are consistently around fifth to 10th place. Atlanta is a fun track. I hope we can go there, get a win and stop worrying about points."
Other drivers in the same boat as Larson are Kahne, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard.
But there is always the chance of an upset winner finding their way to Victory Lane over the next two weeks. As long as a driver attempts to qualify for every race and remains in the top 30 in points, as the new Chase criteria mandates, "win and you're in" still exists for the likes of Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, Brian Vickers and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stay tuned because the Chase field may not be set in stone just yet.