Monday, June 30, 2014

COMMENTARY: "Good Points Day" Coming Back Into Play

Matt Kenseth is in good shape...
With just nine races remaining until the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the lay of the land is beginning to change.
With no new winners in the last six events, it appears certain that NASCAR will not reach the magical “16 winners” plateau by the time the regular season ends on Sept. 6 at Richmond International Raceway. If the regular season ended today, no less than six winless drivers would qualify for the Chase based on championship points; Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Kyle Larson, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer. 
Until now, the Sprint Cup Series garage has been completely and totally focused on winning. With a Chase berth guaranteed by a single victory, the term “good points day” had become a thing of the past, as teams risk all in pursuit of the almighty `W.’ 

Now, at least for a while, the “good points day” is back in play. is Ryan Newman.
For a select handful of drivers, a trip to Victory Lane is no longer a necessity before the end of the regular season. Solidly ensconced in the Top-10 in points, Kenseth and Newman can now make the Chase with nothing more than consistent showings in the next nine races. While both will continue racing for the win – and the three-point per victory winner’s bonus at the start of the Chase -- there is no longer a realistic rationale for them to take wild gambles; either on the track or on pit road. 

Further down the points table, however, things are less cut and dried.  

The gap between current Chase qualifier Bowyer and first-man-out Kasey Kahne is presently just eight points, and five other drivers lurk within 22 points of Kahne. With a maximum of 48 points available each week, the gap between “in” and “out” of the Chase field is razor-thin and getting thinner. 

Over the next nine weeks, non-Chase qualified teams will be forced to serve two masters at the same time; racing for points while also racing for the win. Their level of aggression will depend in large part on where they stand on the championship leader board from week to week, or even lap to lap. Uncertainty will be the order of the day, as drivers, crew chiefs and fans all trying to toe the line between “too much” and “not enough.” 

Then we’ll set the Chase field at Richmond, and the real pressure will begin.

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