Winless drivers have two more shots to lock up spots in Chase

Prime off-the-grid candidates can punch their ticket into the Chase with a win.

Winless drivers have two more shots to lock up spots in Chase
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Clint Bowyer and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Kyle Larson, Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

The formula for making NASCAR’s postseason under the new Chase format is easy.

Win and you’re in.

A driver can get into the Chase through points, but a victory alleviates any concern of missing out.

With two races left in the regular season, 12 different winners have clinched berths in the Chase. Of the winless drivers, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman can feel somewhat comfortable, sitting 83 and 42 points ahead of the cut off respectively. But the same can’t be said for Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle who man the 15th and 16th final slots. Bowyer (+31) and Biffle (+26) lead 17th-place Kyle Larson in points, but have to be worried about a winless driver currently outside the grid ousting them from the Chase.

Biffle relayed this sentiment before Bristol last week when discussing whether he should be cautious to retain his points lead or go for wins.

“You take chances, make passes, do all the things you can do,” Biffle said. “But at the same time, we know we’re on the bubble in points. I feel it’s going to take a win still to get in this thing, and that’s what we’re going for.”

Prime off-the-grid candidates that can punch their ticket into the Chase with a win in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) include: Larson, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray.

“I hope we can go there and get a win and stop worrying about points,” said Larson, who boasts a fifth-place finish in one NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance at Atlanta, but has yet to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut there. “I think 26 behind Biffle is a long way to go for two races.  Hope for some bad luck for him, but we will see.”

Kahne might pose the biggest threat having won at Atlanta twice. A Chase veteran, he has big-race experience and drives for Hendrick Motorsports, which has produced the most powerful engines in the series this year.

“I think all of us communicating and working together, it’s been better for the last month, month-and-a-half than what it was earlier in the season,” Kahne said. “We just have to do the same thing, but we need to max our points each weekend and go for wins. Hopefully between one of those we can work our way in.”

NASCAR Wire Service

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