For a long weekend also long on rain, things have cleared up enough to provide a clearer picture as to the Chase for the Championship. After the action concluded on Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta, nine are locked in, three are holding on, yet there are up to seven others who could yet move out of the wilderness and into a wildcard position with a win and a little help.
[media-credit name=”Getty Images” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Jeff Gordon helped himself to another 3 Chase bonus points and he and Jimmie Johnson put on a show at the end Tuesday. Gordon held his team-mate off for the 85th win of his career and now sits third alone on the all-time list. Also locked in and in line for a run at the season crown are Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and both Busch brothers. With his three wins this season, you can add Brad Keselowski to that list with a guaranteed wildcard. That is, if he needs it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr and Tony Stewart are win less, yet hold down the final two spots in the Chase, while Denny Hamlin has a win and, sitting 12th, has the other wildcard invite in his hand. Keselowski is the guy who can stir things up by doing well at Richmond, making up the 23 points he needs to catch Stewart, or the 25 he is behind Junior, and claiming 9th or 10th in the standings. It would give the young man the bonus points for his pre-Chase wins, and make one of the winless veterans vulnerable.
In fact, without a win one really has no chance of making the Chase if outside the security of the Top 10. Denny Hamlin has a win but if Paul Menard wins his second of the season at Richmond he would take that wildcard spot away. If Marcos Ambrose or David Ragan wins a second race, and make up the ten positions on Menard to move into the Top 20, they also could take the spot away from Hamlin. However, if either Earnhardt or Stewart is out and Keselowski in by points, then Hamlin would retain his wildcard invite with the other going to whoever else has a win and sits in the Top 20. At the moment, that would be Menard, but Ambrose and Ragan still have a shot.
If that is not enough, Hamlin can also be caught on points. If A.J. Allmendinger (11 points behind Hamlin), Bowyer (12), Greg Biffle (28), or Martin Truex Jr (33) can win at Richmond on Sunday and move ahead of Hamlin in points, they would be in and he would be out. That is, as long as Keselowski doesn’t replace either Earnhardt or Stewart in the Top 10, in which case Hamlin would still make it.
Of course, if Keselowski fails to make up the 23 to 25 points needed to catch Earnhardt or Stewart, and if Richmond is not won by Menard, Ambrose, Ragan, Allmendinger, Bowyer, Biffle, or Truex, then the top dozen have already been decided. I told you we had a clearer picture of things. Enjoy your week.