The Chase field has stayed the same for weeks. It was following Watkins Glen that I first proclaimed that the NASCAR Regular Season was over. I believed it then and I still haven’t stopped.
Nothing has changed. Little could change now.
Only two things could happen going forward that would even cause much of a change. With Dale Earnhardt Jr 39 points ahead of 11th place and two races remaining he is sitting pretty right now. The only driver who seems in danger of falling out of the top-10 is Tony Stewart who holds a 21 point advantage over Brad Keselowski and has no victories this year to fall back on for a wild card spot.
Keselowski has been red hot in the last four events. Scoring wins at Pocono and Bristol, finishing second at Watkins Glen and coming home third at Michigan. When he won his first race of the year at Kansas he wasn’t even inside the top-20 in points, now he is knocking on the door of the top-10.
A 21 point margin is still not easy to overcome. With only two events left it has more to do with Stewart having a bad race then Keselowski doing good. Stewart simply would need a pair of top-10 runs (likely two 8s would do it) and nothing Keselowski can do on the track would matter for that spot. Of course Stewart has free fallen in recent weeks to the point that he said he didn’t care about making the Chase following the Michigan race.
The wild card spots are contingent on this. If Keselowki were to move into the top-10 and no new drivers were to make it to victory lane then Paul Menard who is 20th in points, 3 ahead of David Ragan, could earn the second wild card spot or Ragan could pass Menard over the last two races. Both are needing help that no one else wins, and that they can stay in the top-20 in points.
Of course it’s also likely that nothing changes with Stewart and Keselowki. If that happens then Hamlin would claim the second wild card spot barring a victory by Clint Bowyer who is 16 points ahead of him. Bowyer’s shot of making the Chase doesn’t just rest on a win but 22 points behind Stewart and now even behind Keselowki he’s looking at a tough road to crack the top-10.
The common theme for both of these possible spots is bad luck happening to the driver in front of you.