The potential of a Sonoma “wild card” winner has come and gone, with Carl Edwards taking his second victory of the season Sunday at the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road race of the season.
Now, as 16 of 26 regular season races are complete, time to sort out who’s in good shape and who needs to channel past success over the final 10 regular season races heading into the 2014 Chase.
ALL BUT LOCKED IN
The 10 race winners: Jeff Gordon (1st in points), Jimmie Johnson (2nd), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3rd), Brad Keselowski (5th), Edwards (6th), Joey Logano (7th), Kevin Harvick (9th), Kyle Busch (11th), Denny Hamlin (13th) and Kurt Busch (26th) pretty much have their tickets punched. It would take six more winners in the next seven or eight races to make a total of 16 winners, and that seems an unlikely proposition.
GOOD ON POINTS, NOT ON WINS
The six currently in on points although they haven’t won yet this year are Matt Kenseth (4th), Ryan Newman (8th), Kyle Larson (10th), Paul Menard (12th), Clint Bowyer (14th) and Greg Biffle (15th). Of that six-pack, Newman and Menard are past Brickyard 400 winners and could lock themselves in with a repeat; Kenseth seeks to reprise his 1.5-mile efforts of 2013 starting next weekend at Kentucky, although the entire JGR operation has lost a step on those tracks this year; Bowyer and Biffle always seem to get at least one win between them before the Chase; Larson’s primed to enter victory lane as a rookie.
NEED A WIN OR SOME HELP
The group from 16th back to 25th are separated by 69 points; 25th-placed Martin Truex Jr. is currently 84 points behind Biffle. Generally speaking anyone in this range – this includes Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray and Truex, among others – has had maybe 1-2 standout races in the first 16 this year but otherwise haven’t shown race-winning potential. Stewart, a notoriously slow starter, could still get on the board, and a win at the July Daytona race is likely his best shot. Same story for McMurray. Any of Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose or AJ Allmendinger could sneak in with a win at Watkins Glen in August. Vickers is also a past winner at Michigan, and that could be his ticket.