Unless you live under a rock you know that this week is NASCAR's regular season finale. After 25 races it comes down to 400 laps at Richmond to determine who makes the playoffs for the Championship. There are many scenarios and unknowns ahead, but first I want to state what we already know. There are 16 total spots available in the Chase, 11 of which are already locked up. Doing simple math there are just 5 spots remaining. This is actually a large amount of spots open leaving the door open for a few underdogs to sneak in. The drivers holding those 5 positions as of now are Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard, and Clint Bowyer. The only drivers looking to potentially point there way in would be Aric Almirola or Kasey Kahne (which would require huge help from poor finishes and a repeat winner). Along with these two drivers another 12 need to win to get in (everyone else in the top 30 in points).
Chase Grid as of Darlington
Now, let's be realistic. McMurray simply has to start the race on Saturday which is like a 99% given. So he is in, leaving 4 spots. Newman has a substantial point lead that basically puts him in as well, so put Newman in. Now, just 3 spots remain, leaving Gordon, Menard, and Bowyer to control their own fate. Honestly, I believe Gordon will run solid enough to make it in. So let's theoretically put Gordon in. Now, 2 spots remain. Bowyer as been on a hot streak, and Menard only has to run on par Saturday night. So my guess is that everyone in right now will make it, with the only worry being Menard (who I am a fan of). Menard has ran sub-par the last month and has lost most of his cushion heading into Richmond, but as long as they can put together a top-20 finish, Menard should be good to make his first ever Chase (not that NBC will mention anything about him).
Okay, after covering all that we know, let's get to the point of this blog post. I want to name the top-5 drivers that I believe could crash the party and eliminate either Bowyer or Menard. I base this list on potential and being realistic, so sorry Danica does not make the list. So let's get started!!!
1) Kasey Kahne: Everyone needs to remember that Kasey Kahne is Kasey Kahne. Yes, I do not necessarily approve of him and think he can be overrated, he still is a proven winner. Kahne has 17 career wins and has at least 1 win in the last four seasons. Kahne has clearly drawn the short end of the stick for yet another season at Hendrick, but he has the equipment and the talent to take home a win Saturday night. Also, remember last year Kahne proved he can come in with a clutch win to lock himself in. Another thing going for him is that he has won at Richmond before. Who an forget Kahne clinched his long awaited first win there in 2005.
2) Kyle Larson: I know I put Larson on most of my lists, but it is simply because of his raw talent. Yes, he has been a disappointment to many fans, but you can never clear him out of contention. Larson will win a Cup race one day, and sort of reminds me of Kahne. He had multiple top-5 finishes in his rookie season and coming into Richmond needs to prove himself. Now, I don't expect Larson to win, but looking at other non-winners, if there is going to be a new winner there is no reason it can't be that #42 car.
3) Tony Stewart: I know I may catch some hell for this, but why? Tony Stewart is still a 3-time Sprint Cup Champion and has over 40-wins, let's not forget that. Stewart has yet to run where he wants but has been more relevant the second half of the season. With a solid qualifying position on Saturday, Stewart could always raise a little hell before all is said and done. Stewart winning would be a shocker, but Smoke could always come thru. Sorry if you don't agree but I think any 3-time Champion should be included on the list of potential shockers to steal a Chase spot.
4) Austin Dillon: The #3 car has yet to make it's triumphant return to victory lane, but at least we have seen the car this year. Dillon has run up front during the second half of the year, and has actually deserved some recognition. Dillon will be the only RCR car to not make the Chase if he does not win (barring that Menard is not knocked out). Look for Dillon to have another solid start, but drift back in the middle of the race.
5) Greg Biffle: Again another proven winner is on this list. Biffle has ran flat out terrible, but then again all of Roush-Fenway has. I think priorities need to change considering the success of the Roush's Xfinity program, but the lack results on the Cup side. Biffle has 19 career wins, which means he can get the job done. Honestly, I think the equipment should take more of the blame than Biffle. Look across the board, Roush has 0 count them 0 wins, 3 top 5's, and 6 top 10's. Knowing Biffle's prior success you have to consider him a candidate if there will in fact be a new winner in Richmond.
Honorable Mentions: Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger.
So there you have it, my top-5 driver's that could CRASH this Chase party! Let me know what you think!! Anyone I left off, anyone I shouldn't have put on???