By AMANDA VINCENT
Sunday’s AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway is the third race of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship post-season. It’s also an elimination race, so at the conclusion, the bottom four drivers among the 16 in the Chase will be eliminated from championship contention.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin already have secured advancement to the second Chase round by virtue of wins in the two Chase races, to this point. Several other drivers may cement their advancement, regardless of the finishes of others at Dover, without winning. Winners in one Chase round automatically advance to the next round, so any of the other Chasers could advance, regardless of others’ performances, by winning the Dover race.
“It really doesn’t change my approach,” Kenseth said of already being guaranteed advancement. “I believe that you want to do the best you can every week. You want to keep performing at the same level for the next eight weeks, I guess. I think you want to run up front. You want to be a contender. You want to be in that mix to be in position to try to win the race at the end of the day.”
The bottom six drivers in the Chase standings — Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer — only control their own chances of Chase advancement by winning. To advance by points, they must rely on the the results of other Chasers.
Carl Edwards can guarantee Chase advancement beyond Dover with a finish of 32nd or better if he doesn’t lead a lap, 33rd or better if he leads at least one lap or 34th or better if he leads the most laps.
Joey Logano will be in control of his own advancement with a finish of 31st or better, 32nd or better if he leads at least one lap. If Logano leads the most laps, he’ll only need to finish 33rd or better.
Jimmie Johnson, meanwhile, can secure Chase survival with a finish of 25th or better with no laps led, 26th or better if he leads a lap, or 27th or better if he leads the most laps.
Here are the minimum requirements for other Chase drivers:
Ryan Newman — 16th with no laps led, 17th with one lap led, 18th with most laps led
Kurt Busch — 15th with no laps led, 16th with one lap led, 17th with most laps led
Brad Keselowski — 14th with no laps led, 15th with one lap led, 16th with most laps led
Martin Truex Jr. — 13th with no laps led, 14th with one lap led, 15th with most laps led
Jeff Gordon — 10th with no laps led, 11th with one lap led, 12th with most laps led
“If you can win, win. If you can’t don’t screw it up,” Keselowski said was his strategy at Dover.
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