There is one race left before the Chase begins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Saturday, September 10 at Richmond International Raceway will be a few drivers’ last chance at making the Chase and fulfilling their hopes for the Sprint Cup. Here is how the current standings look going into the final race. The way the order is determined is first by number of wins, then by amount of points. A win guarantees a spot in the Chase, as long as the driver is in the top 30 in points. This is a very important fact and could have tremendous impact on the final standings.
Brad Keselowski- 4 wins, 797 points
Keselowski has won this season at Las Vegas, Talladega, Daytona, and Kentucky. Barring a Kyle Busch win at Richmond, Keselowski will cruise into the top spot for the chase.
Kyle Busch- 4 wins, 727 points
Last season, Kyle Busch was fighting his way into the chase. He won his race during the season, but after missing the first 11 races of the season due to a leg injury, Busch was fighting his way into the top 30 in points. Fast forward to this season, Kyle has guaranteed his spot in the chase and has proven he is one of the best drivers in all of NASCAR after winning in Martinsville, Texas, Kansas, and Indianapolis.
Kevin Harvick- 2 wins, 840 points
Kevin Harvick has been one of the most dominant drivers this season. In addition to his two wins at Phoenix and Bristol, Harvick leads all drivers with 20 top 10 finishes and 12 top five finishes. In his last three races, Harvick has finished first, fifth, and second. If it weren’t for a couple of slow pit stops near the end of the race Saturday in Darlington, Harvick could have easily had his third win of the season. Heading into the final week, Harvick is the driver to watch in Richmond and throughout the chase. Harvick is my pick to win the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Carl Edwards- 2 wins, 746 points
Carl Edwards won back to back races in Bristol and Richmond back in April. He has won five poles this season, the most of any driver. Edwards will be an interesting driver to watch during the chase because he has shown that he has a fast car and can drive. He is a wild card heading into the chase.
Denny Hamlin- 2 wins, 729 points
After winning the Daytona 500 to kick of the season, Denny had a relatively quiet year until he won at Watkins Glen in August. Hamlin has had a good season and looks to continue that trend.
Martin Truex Jr.- 2 wins, 696 points
After winning Saturday night in Darlington, Martin Truex Jr., Truex is looking to continue his hot streak. Truex has consistently had one of the fastest cars during the season, but always finds himself in trouble situations. Truex has won at Darlington and Charlotte this season, but only has four top five finishes. He claimed three poles, but only 11 top 10 finishes. If Truex can have a good string of races and stay clean, he should easily contend for the cup.
Matt Kenseth- 2 wins, 669 points
Matt Kenseth has won in Dover and New Hampshire this season. Like Truex, Kenseth has two wins and only four top five finishes and 11 top 10 finishes. However, Kenseth had yet to win a pole.
Jimmie Johnson- 2 wins, 656 points
Jimmie Johnson has had a very mediocre season by Jimmie Johnson standards. He has been on the wrong side of a few pile ups and incidents this season. Johnson won in Atlanta and California, but hasn’t won since the end of March. Don’t count Johnson out though. Once the chase begins, expect the six time champion to perform like a six time champion can and should.
Joey Logano- 1 win, 752 points
Joey Logano has had a relative quiet season too, win wise. His one win came in Michigan back in June. Logano has still consistently found himself at the front of the race track. Logano has won three poles, finished in the top five 10 times and has had 17 top 10 finishes.
Kurt Busch- 1 win, 728 points
Kurt Busch is another driver that has found himself on the wrong end of a few wrecks. His one win came in June at Pocono and Busch has found himself in the top five on six separate occasions. Busch also has 16 top 10 finishes. If Busch stays out of trouble, he can definitely contend for the cup.
Kyle Larson- 1 win, 621 points
Kyle Larson secured himself a spot in the chase with a win in Michigan on August 28th, the first of his career. Saturday night at Darlington, Larson looked at times if he would win back to back races, but ended finishing third. Larson has had six top fives and nine top 10 finishes this season. However, Larson has been driving very well lately. Larson is my dark horse contender to win the chase. If he can drive like he has the last three to five races, he may end up driving himself to a Sprint Cup victory.
Tony Stewart- 1 win, 426 points
How great would it be for Tony Stewart to win the Sprint Cup in his final season? Stewart was able to punch his ticket to the chase after winning in Sonoma. We’ll see if Tony can end his career on the highest note possible.
Chris Buescher- 1 win, 358 points
Now we get to the interesting part. Buescher is in the chase after shocking the NASCAR world by winning at Pocono. However, he is only in the chase if he finishes in the top 30 in points. Currently, Buescher is in 30th place and only 11 points ahead of David Ragan. If Ragan finishes 12 places higher than Buescher at Richmond, Buescher is no longer in the chase. Instead, Ryan Newman would likely find himself in the 16th position and competing for the cup. Buescher only needs to stay clean. If he can avoid any accidents or issues with his car, he should find himself competing for the cup in two weeks.
Chase Elliott- 0 wins, 659 points
After a few bad restarts and pit stops over the past few races, Chase Elliott’s mental strength and stamina will be put to the test at Richmond and in the chase. Elliott is in the chase. There is no feasible way he can be beaten out unless his team loses points somehow. Elliott could have won the past two races in Michigan and Darlington. At Michigan, the final restart allowed Larson to overtake Elliott, leaving Elliott to finish second. At Darlington, Elliott’s final few pit stops all took over 14 seconds (compared to the sub-12 second times of the other leaders) and found himself fall from second to 10th. If the 20 year old can keep his head in the game, not dwell on the mistakes made the past two races, and his pit crew get their act together, he could find himself holding the cup after Homestead-Miami on November 20. Chase has won two poles this season, finished in the top five on seven separate occasions and in the top 10 in 13 races. Chase has proven to be one of the best, young drivers in all of NASCAR.
Austin Dillon- 0 wins, 651 points
Austin Dillon is another young driver that can compete for the chase. Dillon has four top five finishes and 10 top 10 finishes.
Jamie McMurray- 0 wins, 642 points
Jamie McMurray is on the bubble going into the final race of the season. If a driver not on this list but in the top 30 in points wins the race at Richmond, then McMurray’s cup dreams will go up in smoke. Also, McMurray’s cup hopes are gone if Ryan Newman finishes eight spots in front of him.