Following the events at Watkins Glen I can’t help but think that the regular season is over. Under NASCAR’s new playoff system the top-10 drivers in points will qualify for the Chase for the Cup. Two additional drivers from the 12th-20th pool of drivers would qualify based on wins.
We’ve seen a slew of first time winners this year but for the most part the final two playoff spots come down to three drivers. Right now Brad Keselowki would be the first wild card driver based on his two victories at Kansas and Pocono. The second wild card would be Denny Hamlin who won at Michigan and is 27 points ahead of Paul Menard who won at Indianapolis.
Even with is win at the Glen Marcos Ambrose is outside the top-20 in points as are the July winner at Daytona in David Ragan and Darlington winner Regan Smith.
Now that I’ve set the stage let me tell you that it’s over. Barring another win by Paul Menard or Denny Hamlin’s efforts collapsing for multiple races things won’t change. There’s too many points between and not enough races left for there to be any change on the Sprint Cup landscape.
Let the announcers and NASCAR tell you that it’s a fierce competition for those final spots. I’m telling you I’ve seen better competition put up by bop bags.
A few weeks ago I thought Hamlin might be the biggest domino. Hamlin was looking to crack into the top-10 which would have left the second wild card spot open for the field. Hamlin now is 33 points out of 10th place behind Tony Stewart. He’s 44 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Greg Biffle isn’t too far behind Hamlin in points (16 back) but considering he still would need a win it’s an uphill battle. With Michigan coming up this weekend it’s possible Biffle’s best bullet is in the chamber.
With Hamlin 33 points out of the top-10 and 27 ahead of Menard we are at a standstill. Had Menard not had troubles yesterday perhaps it’s a battle for the wild card. Instead he didn’t make up the ground.Menard would have to finish 6.75 points better then Hamlin in each of the next four races and let us not forget that Hamlin has been turning donuts in the 26th race of the year at Richmond the last two years.
Right now Hamlin would need to average a finish of 8.25 positions ahead of Stewart to topple over him. While bonus points could help it will likely take a combination of Hamlin winning and Stewart wrecking to close that gap.
NASCAR tried to make it interesting but the numbers just don’t work out this year. In fact they have worked in the opposite direction. Had NASCAR not added a wild card factor there would be four drivers within 27 points of 12th in the standings for that final spot. (Biffle, Keselowski, Menard, and Allmendinger)
Then again I’ve never liked the idea of a playoff system in NASCAR anyway.