Four To Go: Time To Get Going For Winless
AJ Allmendinger’s startling victory at Watkins Glen International swiped a precious spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Though he has yet to “officially” clinch, his win pretty much locked up a berth. (More on that later.)
So now, there are 12 different winners – all of whom will likely make the 16-driver Chase Grid. So that leaves four spots. And, neatly, there are four races remaining in the media center.
So this could get interesting.
What makes the storyline juicier: The names on the winless list, many of whom are strong at the tracks remaining in the regular season.
First up, Michigan, where Greg Biffle is king (as was mentioned in detail above).
But a number of other winless drivers could steal a first win. For instance…
Kasey Kahne: It’s been awhile since Kahne triumphed at Michigan – 2006, when he won from the pole. Still, he’s shown flashes of brilliance, finishing in the top 10 in each of the last two races – including a fifth-place run in June.
Matt Kenseth: A two-time winner at Michigan, Kenseth’s last victory also came in 2006. Kenseth has climbed to third in the points standings, and is far and away the highest-ranked driver without a win (thanks to 14 top 10s in the 22 races this season). As long as the next four races aren’t won by four different first-timers, his spot seems secure. Still, a win would be nice.
Ryan Newman: Newman plummeted to ninth in the points standings thanks to an accident at Watkins Glen, but a race at Michigan could cure those ills. A two-time winner at MIS, Newman won back-to-back events in 2003-04.
Brian Vickers: Vickers scored three consecutive Coors Light Poles at Michigan from 2008-09, and won from the first starting position in this race in 2009.
As was the case last week, those with one win in 2014 are NOT rooting against the names above. Here are the clinch scenarios for Sunday:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, assuming they attempt to qualify for the remaining four races.
If there is a repeat 2014 winner this weekend, any driver with one win and a locked-up top 30 spot will clinch a spot in the Chase. Potentials: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger. To clinch a top 30 spot, the clinching driver must be 145 points ahead of 31st place leaving Michigan.
If there is a new winner, one-win drivers could potentially clinch a spot. But there would still be the potential for 16 different winners, and a winless points leader – meaning a winner would be bounced from the Chase. So there are no guarantees here.
Because he is so high in the points, if Matt Kenseth wins, he would clinch a spot, even though it would be his first win. Other high-ranking winless drivers could potentially clinch with a win and help.