Chase Bubble: Points update before regular-season finale
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . NO NEW WINNER, NO CHANGES Martin Truex Jr . already had clinched a Chase spot, so his win at Darlington didn't cause any changes in the Chase Grid. There was a moment of uncertainty when Ryan Newman led for Laps 330-338 of the 367-lap race, however. But Newman slipped back, and he remains the first driver outside the Chase Grid. Newman also faces a potential penalty for failing post-race Laser Inspection System at Darlington. Jamie McMurray currently clings to the final Chase berth with one regular-season event at Richmond remaining. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher 's 17th-place finish helped boost his Chase chances. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway in August to check off one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, increasing his lead over 31st-place David Ragan to 11 points . LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr . (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano and Tony Stewart . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 500-miler, just one regular-season race (Richmond) remains before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 25 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Darlington. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
H2H: Chase's Round of 12 set to stir at Charlotte
RELATED: See the Chase Grid Story lines abound, and NASCAR.com's Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle three pressing topics as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup enters the Round of 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . 1. What surprised you most from Dover weekend in terms of who advanced in the Chase elimination race and who did not? Cain: I was surprised by the results in several areas, but more so by drivers who did not advance as expected. Like many, I believed Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson would advance well beyond the Round of 16. In fact, I had him in my Championship 4. I do believe he will win another race before the season is over. And perhaps I was being sentimental in expecting Tony Stewart to advance, but I still remember the amazing Chase charge in 2011 and saw the motivation in the three-time champion's eyes after he won at Sonoma this summer. Albert: Austin Dillon 's advancement on the basis of pure consistency didn't send shock waves through the ol' surprise meter, but fate's cruel hand for Chip Ganassi Racing did. To see both Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray ejected from the Chase field at least qualified as a mild stunner. It's a solid dozen that remain, but Dover showed again how exacting this postseason format can be. RELATED: Larson, McMurray ousted from Chase after Dover woes 2. With the points standings reset for the Chase Round of 12, all drivers resume with a clean slate. Are there any incentives you would add to enhance the current format? Cain: A case could be made to give drivers who have won in the Chase a small points bonus in the ensuing round. But the equal reset given to all 12 drivers in the current format certainly increases the drama in a very different way from the Chase start, when regular-season wins are factored in. It's the first time since the Daytona 500 green flag that the top-tier drivers are ranked evenly, and it should make the next three races even more dramatic. Albert: It may not rate highly on the drama scale, but I've always maintained that the top points -earner during the regular season should be rewarded -- nominally if not handsomely. A first-round bye might be a stretch, but a bigger bounty of points would offer a larger incentive for consistent performance over the opening 26 events. Offering bonus points through each elimination round would be an inviting enhancement, but keeping them out of the championship race -- leaving the calculators at home -- has valuable merits. RELATED: Are added incentives for regular-season winners on horizon? 3. Among the remaining 12 Chase drivers, who's your pick to win this weekend at Charlotte and lock in early in the Round of 8? Cain: There's a certain six-time champion who I believe will collect his eighth win at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. Jimmie Johnson has been close to wins already in the Chase only to fall victim to pit-road miscues -- something uncharacteristic of his Hendrick Motorsports organization. You've got to think that will be cleaned up, and I believe there's no one more motivated to remind naysayers why he is the modern era's very best. Albert: Is there any stopping the Truexpress? Wins in two of the first three Chase races have established the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota as a strong title favorite, and the team returns to the site of Truex's crushing victory in the Coca-Cola 600 in May. Placing former Charlotte winners Kevin Harvick , Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson under the heading of "sleepers" ranks as a testament to Truex's formidable stature this season. Upcoming wild-card races at Talladega and Martinsville have the potential to derail the No. 78's march; don't count on that happening this weekend at Charlotte.
Keselowski's Chase chances take a hit following contact with Hamlin
RELATED: Keselowski comes through in the clutch at Talladega in 2014 KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Here we go again. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12 finale at Talladega Superspeedway just became that much more of a must-see event. Former Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski once again finds himself in a precarious position heading into the elimination race at the 2.66-mile track, in need of a victory to advance after finishing toward the back of the pack at Kansas Speedway . Two years ago the Team Penske driver placed 36th in the Hollywood Casino 400 . He placed 38th on Sunday after contact with Denny Hamlin on Lap 189 sent his No. 2 Ford careening into the grass, destroying the front end of his ride. And two years ago he hit the proverbial walk-off home run, landing in Talladega Victory Lane -- and into the Round of 8. Can he do it again? "We will win Talladega and other races and be fine," Keselowski said in the garage following the incident. "I like Talladega. Talladega has been good to me and I am going to drive my butt off and at the end of the day I have faith that if it is meant to be it is meant to be. We can't get down. There is a long way to go still." In an attempt to scrape together any extra points he could salvage, Keselowski returned to the race on Lap 218 -- 28 laps down -- for only two circuits before bringing out the seventh caution when his car started smoking again. He quickly returned to the garage and retired for the day. "It's an automotive war zone out here," Keselowski said. "(My team) just worked their guts out. If my team keeps putting out this kind of effort, I'm not worried about today. We're going to win races." Keselowski entered the race fourth on the Chase Grid but now sits 11th in the 12-driver field, ahead of Chase Elliott by 18 points . He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by a whopping 44. If any driver in the field has a chance to pull off the miraculous feat that he once again faces, it's Keselowski. The winner of the past two restrictor plate races (May Talladega, July Daytona) has five total in his career, four of which have come at the Alabama track. With restrictor plate ace Dale Earnhardt Jr . sidelined for the remainder of the season, Keselowski is arguably the best superspeedway racer in the series right now. Some may question Keselowski's hard-charging method of racing at Kansas in an event he conceivably could've raced more for points than for the win, but -- as we've come to known -- that's not his style. "I probably could have raced less hard with a big points gap coming in," he said. "With this ( Chase ) format it is probably the smart thing to do but I don't want to race like that. I want to race my guts out and go for wins. I don't want to points race. I don't care what the damn format is, I am going to give it my best." There will be no option to points race at Talladega. Keselowski likely needs to win. "Days like today are going to happen to anybody and everybody in the Chase . It is about the effort you have when that happens," Keselowski said. "I am proud of my guys for doing their best to recover and we will move on to Talladega and give 'em hell." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup clinching scenarios for Round of 12 spots
The Citizen Soldier 400 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Dover International Speedway marks the first elimination of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the field shrinks from 16 drivers to 12. How can drivers advance to the Round of 12? Martin Truex Jr . and Kevin Harvick are already locked into the next round with victories at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, respectively. Here's a look at how drivers can clinch spots in the next round. Possible to Clinch: — Brad Keselowski (0 Wins, 2087 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 12 Points (29th and no laps led, 30th and led at least one lap, 31st and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 7 Points (34th and no laps led, 35th and led at least one lap, 36th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Kyle Busch (0 Wins, 2085 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 14 Points (27th and no laps led, 28th and led at least one lap, 29th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 9 Points (32nd and no laps led, 33rd and led at least one lap, 34th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Matt Kenseth (0 Wins, 2078 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 20 Points (21st and no laps led, 22nd and led at least one lap, 23rd and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 15 Points (26th and no laps led, 27th and led at least one lap, 28th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Joey Logano (0 Wins, 2073 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 26 Points (15th and no laps led, 16th and led at least one lap, 17th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 21 Points (20th and no laps led, 21st and led at least one lap, 22nd and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Denny Hamlin (0 Wins, 2071 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 28 Points (13th and no laps led, 14th and led at least one lap, 15th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 23 Points (18th and no laps led, 19th and led at least one lap, 20th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Jimmie Johnson (0 Wins, 2070 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 29 Points (12th and no laps led, 13th and led at least one lap, 14th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 24 Points (17th and no laps led, 18th and led at least one lap, 19th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 2068 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 31 Points (10th and no laps led, 11th and led at least one lap, 12th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 26 Points (15th and no laps led, 16th and led at least one lap, 17th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Carl Edwards (0 Wins, 2068 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 31 Points (10th and no laps led, 11th and led at least one lap, 12th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 26 Points (15th and no laps led, 16th and led at least one lap, 17th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Kurt Busch (0 Wins, 2067 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 32 Points (9th and no laps led, 10th and led at least one lap, 11th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 27 Points (14th and no laps led, 15th and led at least one lap, 16th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Kyle Larson (0 Wins, 2057 Points ) - If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 37 Points (4th and no laps led, 5th and led at least one lap, 6th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help. For the following, the only guaranteed clinch would be with a win. Each could clinch without a win, but would need varying levels of help, however: — Jamie McMurray (0 Wins, 2052 Points ) — Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 2052 Points ) — Tony Stewart (0 Wins, 2046 Points ) — Chris Buescher (0 Wins, 2027 Points )
Kyle Busch wins at Kansas; XFINITY Chase gets shake-up
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " Photos from the day SHOP: Busch gear KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Kyle Busch 's domination of Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway was about the only predictable thing that happened in the first race of the Round of 8 in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase . In winning his fourth XFINITY race at the 1.5-mile track, his ninth of the season and the 85th of his career -- extending his own series record -- Busch led 150 of 200 laps, passing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez after a restart with 13 circuits remaining. "It was a hard-fought battle," said Busch, who had surged to a lead of 7.961 seconds before the first caution slowed the field on Lap 57. "Seemed like it was going to be easy for us. We had a super-fast car, and when we were out front, I could take it easy on those long runs and we could drive away. "The car would turn so well. A lot of things were trying to work against us at the end of the race. We were able to persevere and do the right things and have lucky restarts and be in the right grooves and not get caught up in the melee that was happening." Suarez had reason to be elated with his eventual third-place finish. An unexplained "popping" sound in his No. 19 Toyota accompanied a loss of horsepower, and Suarez settled for a hard-won result after Elliott Sadler passed him in the closing laps for the runner-up spot. Because Suarez led laps and Sadler didn't, he and Sadler leave Kansas tied for the Chase lead, but Sadler owns the tie-breaker due to higher finishes. "I'm proud of my race team," Sadler said. "We just kept working on the car and getting it better and better. I've got to do a better job trying to outrun that 18 car (Busch). He's really good, and he knows how to manipulate the air. But I've got to keep trying." Blake Koch finished ninth -- third among Chase drivers -- despite a late flat tire, the adverse effect of which was diminished by a timely caution, one of 10 during the afternoon. Koch is seven points behind the two Chase leaders. Chaos gobbled up the remaining five Chase contenders. A tap from Brandon Jones turned Chaser Justin Allgaier sideways and ignited a six-car wreck that also eliminated Darrell Wallace Jr ., who crashed out in 33rd-place. In a severely damaged car, Allgaier soldiered to a 14th-place result and left Kansas tied with Erik Jones for the final transfer spot into the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Jones ran up front through the vast majority of the race, but his No. 20 Toyota was turned into the Chevrolet of Ty Dillon when NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Larson made an aggressive move after a restart on Lap 183. Jones pitted with a cut tire and finished one position behind Allgaier, one lap down. "He (Larson) said it was his fault," Jones said after talking to Larson on pit road. "He owned up to it, got me ran over. It is what it is… He just said he got a good start and there was no hole there, nowhere to go with the run he had just got into my left rear and turned us. It's a shame, we both had fast cars." Ryan Reed salvaged a 16th-place finish despite a loose plug wire that kept him down on power until his team could troubleshoot the problem on pit road. After contact in heavy traffic on Lap 176, Brendan Gaughan took a wild spin through the infield grass and came home 31st, 18 laps down. Both Wallace and Gaughan will have yeoman work to do when the Chase resumes at Texas Motor Speedway after a two-week break for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (Nov. 5, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jones aims to contend at Dover, boost Chase standing
RELATED: Jones talks about wreck at Kentucky DOVER, Del. -- The XFINITY Series rewrote history books last weekend when it kicked off the series' inaugural 12-driver Chase at Kentucky Speedway . Points leader Elliott Sadler used a late pass to win in the Bluegrass State and simultaneously punch his ticket to the next round of the Chase . This Saturday's race at Dover International Speedway (3 p.m. NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the second of three races in the opening round of the playoffs. May's Dover winner Erik Jones -- who dropped from first to ninth in the Chase standings after a late wreck at Kentucky -- hopes he's not one of those unlucky four. "It's been fun so far," Jones said of the format. "Obviously, only one race in, not the finish we wanted but had a really fast car and had one that could've won the race, but ended up being our own biggest enemy in that one. "Hopefully we can get it back on track here at Dover -- another really good race track for us." For these 12 championship contenders, the "win-and-you're-in" format lends itself to Victory Lane remaining the goal. Spectators saw championship hopes glimmer in the eyes of the Chasers last week, as aggression heated up on track . But with only two races to make up positions on the Chase Grid, it's a balance between staying out of trouble on track but not getting eliminated, either. "You've got to control what you can control and at Kentucky I didn't do a very good job of that. ... I put myself in a situation to make a mistake and ended up doing that and taking ourselves out," Jones said. "If we're caught up in something and it's something out of our control, that's nothing we can do about that. "We still need to put ourselves in a good position and one where we're running up front and hopefully in the mix for a win. If we can do that, I think we'll be just fine." Sadler enters Saturday's race at the Monster Mile atop the Chase Grid, followed by Daniel Suarez , Brendan Gaughan , Ryan Reed , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Justin Allgaier , Brennan Poole , Blake Koch , Jones, Ryan Sieg , Brandon Jones and Ty Dillon , who was also caught up in a late-race wreck at Kentucky. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
William Byron wins at Loudon in Chase opener
RELATED: Race results " Series standings " Updated Chase Grid LOUDON, N. H. – William Byron stole a page from his mentor and team owner, Kyle Busch . Leading 161 of 175 laps in Saturday’s UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – the first race in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase – Byron cruised to victory, the way Busch has done so many times before, and punched his ticket into the Chase's Round of 6. Not that runner-up Christopher Bell , Byron’s stablemate at Kyle Busch Motorsports, didn’t make it interesting in the closing laps. As Byron worked traffic in the late going, Bell closed from 1.325 seconds behind with five laps left to .430 seconds down on the next-to-last lap. But Bell ran out of time and crossed the finish line .446 seconds behind his No. 1-seeded teammate, who won for a series-best sixth time. "I wore myself out passing some lappers," Byron said. "But with the amount of laps we had left, I thought I'd be OK. I was afraid the 4 (Bell) was going to catch us there at the end. We started to get tight, but that's what happens sometimes when you get out front. "It was really good – just a great race for us. I can't thank these guys enough. Everyone at KBM, (sponsor) Liberty University – it's just really cool to get a win here in the Chase . It feels awesome." Two-time series champion Matt Crafton came home third, followed by Tyler Reddick and Timothy Peters . With the Chase field to be trimmed from eight to six drivers two races hence at Talladega Superspeedway , Ben Kennedy and Daniel Hemric fell below the provisional cut line. Kennedy finished 11th and trails Johnny Sauter (10th on Saturday and sixth in the standings) by one point. If Kennedy's result was only mildly disappointing, Hemric's was a catastrophe. With his left rear tire cut down to the rim, Hemric spun in Turn 1 on Lap 25 to bring out the third caution of the race. His truck suffered a cut brake line and consequent fire in the left rear wheel well. Hemric lost 33 laps under repairs, finished 28th and fell to last in the Chase standings, 21 points behind Sauter with two races left in the Round of 8. In all probability, Hemric will have to win one of those two events, at Las Vegas and Talladega, to advance to the Round of 6. After leading the first 54 laps, Byron lost the top spot briefly when Cody Coughlin stayed out under the fourth caution and Bell, Kennedy, Crafton and Spencer Gallagher leap-frogged ahead of Byron with two-tire and fuel-only calls in the pits. But Byron regained the lead from Bell on Lap 69 and held it the rest of the way. As Bell gained ground in the final laps, Byron was trying to save his equipment to prepare for a possible late caution. "I was expecting it, so I didn't push too hard," Byron said. "I was expecting to get a caution, hopefully save something, but we gave it all we had there the whole race, and I just can’t thank these guys enough." Byron leaves New Hampshire with a 16-point lead in the standings and guaranteed admission to the next round of the Chase . Crafton (+11 points above the cutoff line) is second in the Chase standings, followed by Bell (+10), John Hunter Nemechek (ninth on Saturday, +5), Peters (+3), Sauter (+1), Kennedy (-1) and Hemric (-21). Note: Nemechek's No. 8 Chevrolet failed the post-race heights inspection. Any potential pnelaties will be announced next week. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chase rookie Larson sweeps Saturday Chicago practices
RELATED: Practice 2 results " Practice 3 results MORE: Top 10 consecutive lap averages Kyle Larson topped the leaderboard in both of Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices at Chicagoland Speedway , pacing final practice with a fast lap at 183.299 mph in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie paced the earlier session at 185.995 mph. (Full recap below.) Right behind him was fellow Chase rookie Chase Elliott in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 182.883 mph. Rounding out the top five were Chase points leader Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (182.828 mph), Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (182.624 mph) and Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet (182.482 mph). Jimmie Johnson , who led Friday's opening practice, was 11th on the board at 182.020 mph. Chris Buescher was the lowest Chase driver on the charts at 26th (179.396 mph). The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. RELATED: All the Chase news in one place Larson fastest in first Saturday practice Kyle Larson topped the leaderboard at 185.995 mph in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday. Right behind him was Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 185.778 mph. Rounding out the top five were another trio of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers in Joey Logano in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Martin Truex Jr . in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Chase points leader Kyle Busch was 13th fastest with a speed of 184.049 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Jimmie Johnson , fastest in Friday's first practice of the weekend, was 17th on the board at 183.861 mph. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chase Bubble: Stewart in; Larson sparks shake-up
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway . NEW WINNER, NEW SHAKE-UP Kyle Larson 's victory in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 altered the complexion of the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, securing another postseason berth for a first-time winner. The result means one less postseason berth for drivers hoping to qualify for the Chase on points , knocking Ryan Newman out of the provisional field of 16. Jamie McMurray , Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, currently clings to the final Chase berth with two regular-season events (Darlington, Richmond) remaining. FORMALLY WIN AND IN Tony Stewart wound up 21st in his final Michigan race, two laps off the leader's pace. It was enough to formally clinch a postseason spot, pairing his Sonoma victory in June with a steady hold on 26th in the driver standings. Stewart missed the first eight races of his final championship campaign with a back injury. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher limped to a 35th-place finish, slightly weakening his grasp on a postseason slot. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway earlier this month to check one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, but his margin over 31st-place David Ragan shrank from 13 to seven points . LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 400-miler, just two regular-season races (Darlington, Richmond) remain before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 24 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Michigan. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
For small teams of Sieg, Koch, Chase berth feels like a win
RELATED: Chicagoland race results " Chase Grid JOLIET, Ill. – Ryan Sieg rebounded from a pit-road speeding penalty and an errant pit stop. Blake Koch said it was a race-long vibration that raised his concerns. But the two drivers and their respective teams persevered to come home with top-15 finishes in Saturday’s Drive for Safety 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Chicagoland Speedway and clinched spots in the series’ inaugural Chase . Sieg wound up 12th while Koch battled to a 15th- place finish in the 200-lap race. "We're going to have to be top 15 or better each race, be on our game and make no mistakes," said Sieg, driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet for RSS Racing. "If some other people make mistakes, we can benefit from that and make it to the next round. "You've got to race hard and get everything out of everybody; it's going to be a struggle but we're ready for it." Sieg, 29, will enter the seven-race playoff seeded ninth, 12 points behind Saturday's race winner, top-seeded Erik Jones ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). Sieg is not alone – nine of the 12 drivers in the field qualified for the Chase on points , and will begin with 2,000-point total after the reset. It's a daunting task for Sieg's group, as well as for Koch and others who have seen Sprint Cup -affiliated teams dominate the competition this season. But they'll all be racing for the same hardware come next week, and to be among the handful in that position is a win in itself. "This is huge," Sieg said. "It's like a race within a race – the Cup affiliated teams and the smaller teams. We're one of the top two smaller car teams. This is like our little championship here. It's exciting; I'm ready to go to the next three." For Koch, it was a stressful event at Chicagoland, in part brought on by a season spent on the Chase bubble. The vibration in the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet only made matters worse. The concern in his voice as the race wound down wasn't anything new. "How about a little concern in my voice all race long?" said Koch, who called the event "the biggest XFINITY race I've ever been a part of. "I had this little vibration that just scared me. When you're in this tight of a points battle you want everything to feel perfect and I had a vibration through my shifter; I don't know where it was. It never went away, it never got worse." It was not the first time the issue had cropped up; the last time it did, Koch said, he failed to finish the race. "So it just had my stomach in knots," the 31-year-old said. “Chris (Rice, crew chief) was able to use his psychology and get my head off of it and just race the race." The XFINITY Chase format consists of seven races and three rounds, with four drivers eliminated at the conclusion of each of the first two rounds. The drivers in the Championship 4 will go to Homestead-Miami Speedway to determine the champion. The Round of 12 will consist of stops at Kentucky, Dover and Charlotte while Kansas, Texas and Phoenix make up the Round of 8 races. "I feel like I've been points racing all year, like I've been the guy on the bubble every single race," Koch said. “You're going to have to be smart at Kentucky and get through there with a solid finish but then I think you can go to Dover and let it all hang out."
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