Hendrick Motorsports driver won at Atlanta in '14 to lock up Chase spot Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. – Last year, Kasey Kahne used a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway to secure one of the 16 available positions in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Six months later, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is hoping for similar results. A win in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (FOX, 1 p.m. ET) brings with it no guarantees, but it certainly would put the 34-year-old in a much less stressful situation. Kahne was the final driver to secure a Chase spot by virtue of a victory here last August, however a schedule change now finds the 1.54-mile track hosting the season's second stop. A win would go a long way toward easing his team’s concerns as the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season begins to pick up steam. "It would be a lot better and a lot less stress, but it is what it is," Kahne said Friday as teams began preparations for Sunday's race. "We'll take it any way we can." There are goals this year that the '14 effort failed to accomplish, he said. Winning and running up front more often for starters. Better results in practice and better qualifying results as well. "It all starts this weekend," Kahne said. "It would be great to come off with a win right away … and then just go from there. The end of the '14 season also signaled the end of the Kahne/Kenny Francis driver/crew chief pairing. The two had worked together, with two brief exceptions in '07 (due to Francis' suspension) and '10, for a stretch of more than 300 races from the 2005 season finale at Homestead through '14. They have 17 wins in their respective positions, with 16 coming while working together. Francis earned his first win as crew chief with former driver Jeremy Mayfield ; Kahne went to the winner's circle for the first time with Tommy Baldwin Jr. calling the shots. Today, Francis oversees car design and development as the vehicle technical director for Hendrick Motorsports. Keith Rodden, crew chief for Jamie McMurray last season at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, returned to the HMS fold to replace Francis on the No. 5 team. He and Kahne have a history. "I think the first time he was my engineer was 2004 in the XFINITY Series," Kahne said of Rodden, "and we have kind of been on and off together ever since. "There is a lot more to it than just the communication side. It's kind of the preparation at the shop throughout the winter, how the guys look at things and how our cars are built. He's done a really good job with all that stuff." Kahne, who agreed to a three-year contract extension last November, joined HMS in April of 2010 but didn't officially make the move until 2012. Five wins have come since the move and he is a three-time winner at Atlanta. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
A statistical look ahead to the second race of the Eliminator Round RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Statistical Advance: Analyzing the AAA Texas 500 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 27, 2014) – Below is a look at the Eliminator 8 – and beyond – at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas going into the AAA Texas 500 on November 2. ESPN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET and the race is scheduled for 3 p.m. TEXAS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS 1 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.3 2014 Rundown · Four wins, 13 top fives, 21 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 10.1 · Led 24 races for 873 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 17.2 in 27 races · Average Running Position of 13.9, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 92.3, ninth-best · 323 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most · 4,067 Laps in the Top 15 (63.9%), eighth-most 2 - Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.4 2014 Rundown · Four top fives, 15 top 10s · Average finish of 13.0 · Led 7 races for 41 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, three top fives, five top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 19.1 in 22 races · Average Running Position of 20.1, 22nd-best · Driver Rating of 73.1, 21st-best · 1,479 Green Flag Passes, second-most 3 - Joey Logano (No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 106.9 2014 Rundown · Five wins, 16 top fives, 21 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.3 · Led 21 races for 976 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, four top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 18.4 in 12 races · Average Running Position of 19.3, 20th-best · Driver Rating of 77.1, 19th-best 4 - Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.8 2014 Rundown · 12 top fives, 20 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.3 · Led 19 races for 470 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · Two wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s · Average finish of 8.3 in 24 races · Series-best Average Running Position of 9.4 · Series-best Driver Rating of 106.1 · 353 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 1,448 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 173.587 mph, second-fastest · Series-high 5,045 Laps in the Top 15 (79.3%) · 742 Quality Passes, second-most 5 - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.9 2014 Rundown · One win, six top fives, 15 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 14.9 · Led 15 races for 286 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 10.8 in 17 races · Average Running Position of 12.4, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 93.8, seventh-best · 179 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 1,380 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 173.154 mph, 10th-fastest · 3,931 Laps in the Top 15 (69.0%), 10th-most · 742 Quality Passes, second-most 6 - Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.4 2014 Rundown · Two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 14.7 · Led 11 races for 135 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · Three wins, six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 15.5 in 19 races · Average Running Position of 12.4, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 96.9, sixth-best · 361 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · 1,240 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 173.402 mph, fourth-fastest · 4,573 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), fifth-most · 716 Quality Passes, fifth-most 7 - Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 103.4 2014 Rundown · Six wins, 14 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles · Average finish of 13.5 · Led 26 races for 1,518 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One top five, three top 10s · Average finish of 19.5 in 12 races · Average Running Position of 18.1, 18th-best · Driver Rating of 78.8, 18th-best · 164 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most 8 - Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.3 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; eight poles · Average finish of 14.0 · Led 24 races for 1,817 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · Three top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 13.6 in 23 races · Average Running Position of 16.0, 15th-best · Driver Rating of 83.3, 14th-best · 1,461 Green Flag Passes, third-most · 3,706 Laps in the Top 15 (58.2%), 12th-most · 685 Quality Passes, seventh-most 9 - Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.2 2014 Rundown · One win, eight top fives, 14 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 16.8 · Led 15 races for 453 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, seven top fives, eight top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.4 in 18 races · Average Running Position of 10.8, third-best · Driver Rating of 102.2, fourth-best · 353 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 173.610 mph · 4,448 Laps in the Top 15 (73.8%), sixth-most · 641 Quality Passes, 10th-most 10 - AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Clorox Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.7 2014 Rundown · One win, two top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 19.9 · Led 5 races for 68 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · Two top 10s · Average finish of 21.7 in 11 races · Average Running Position of 22.1, 28th-best · Driver Rating of 68.5, 25th-best 11 - Dale Earnhardt Jr . (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.5 2014 Rundown · Four wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s · Average finish of 12.5 · Led 16 races for 379 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, four top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 15.0 in 24 races · Average Running Position of 13.1, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 90.4, 10th-best · 216 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · 1,346 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 173.243 mph, eighth-fastest · 4,624 Laps in the Top 15 (72.7%), fourth-most · 736 Quality Passes, fourth-most 12 - Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Red Vest Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.5 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 15.2 · Led 16 races for 1,119 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · Three wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 9.5 in 22 races · Average Running Position of 11.4, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 103.6, second-best · Series-high 522 Fastest Laps Run · Average Green Flag Speed of 173.393 mph, fifth-fastest · 4,666 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), third-most · 681 Quality Passes, eighth-most 13 - Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Fire Ant Killer Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 78.7 2014 Rundown · Three top fives, 10 top 10s · Average finish of 16.0 · Led 7 races for 110 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · Two wins, eight top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.7 in 21 races · Average Running Position of 12.0, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 102.2, third-best · 473 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 173.543 mph, third-fastest · 4,797 Laps in the Top 15 (75.4%), second-most · Series-high 784 Quality Passes 14 - Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.0 2014 Rundown · One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 17.1 · Led 12 races for 218 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 17.7 in 20 races · Average Running Position of 14.9, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 85.4, 13th-best · 223 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 1,398 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · 3,957 Laps in the Top 15 (62.2%), ninth-most · 688 Quality Passes, sixth-most 15 - Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 86.6 2014 Rundown · One win, six top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 19.9 · Led 13 races for 204 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 16.3 in 23 races · Average Running Position of 15.3, 14th-best · Driver Rating of 86.5, 12th-best · 193 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · 1,451 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most 16 - Aric Almirola (No. 43 Farmland Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 72.6 2014 Rundown · One win, two top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 21.5 · Led 5 races for 23 laps Texas Motor Speedway Outlook: · One top 10 · Average finish of 19.6 in seven races · Average Running Position of 21.4, 24th-best · Driver Rating of 68.2, 26th-best The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2014 Eliminator 8 at Texas Motor Speedway Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Jeff Gordon 27 2 1 9 12 6 17.2 92.3 2 Ryan Newman 22 2 1 3 5 3 19.1 73.1 3 Joey Logano 12 0 1 4 4 1 18.4 77.1 4 Matt Kenseth 24 0 2 13 17 0 8.3 106.1 5 Denny Hamlin 17 0 2 5 9 0 10.8 93.8 6 Carl Edwards 19 1 3 6 8 4 15.5 96.9 7 Brad Keselowski 12 0 0 1 3 0 19.5 78.8 8 Kevin Harvick 23 0 0 3 11 1 13.6 83.3 * – Based on last 19 races at Texas Motor Speedway (2005 – 2014). Texas Motor Speedway: History · Construction on Texas Motor Speedway began in 1995. · The first NASCAR national series race at TMS was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on April 5, 1997 – won by Mark Martin . · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was on April 6, 1997 – won by Jeff Burton . · The track underwent a repave between the 2001 and 2002 seasons. · In 2011, the spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was moved from Sunday to Saturday night under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway . · Texas Motor Speedway hosted its first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on November 6, 2005 – won by Carl Edwards. Notebook · There have been 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway , one NSCS event from 1997 - 2004 and two races per year since 2005. · 138 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas; 111 in more than one. · Jeff Gordon is the only drive to have made all 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway . · Jeremy Mayfield was the first Coors Light pole winner, in 1998 with a speed of 185.906 mph. The inaugural Coors Light pole at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 was cancelled due to weather conditions. · 19 drivers have Coors Light poles at Texas, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon , Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. with two each. · Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway : Bobby Labonte (2003 and 2004) and Ryan Newman (2005 sweep). · Youngest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Brian Vickers (11/05/2006 – 23 years, 0 months, 12 days). · Oldest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Bill Elliott (4/08/2002 – 46 years, 6 months, 0 days). · 18 different drivers have won at Texas Motor Speedway , led by Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson with three each. · Seven drivers have multiple wins at Texas Motor Speedway : Carl Edwards (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton , Denny Hamlin , Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart each have two. · Roush Fenway Racing leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Texas Motor Speedway with nine; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with five and Joe Gibbs Racing with four. · Three of the 27 (11.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole; Kasey Kahne (2006), Jimmie Johnson (2012) and Kyle Busch (2013). · The third-place starting position is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Texas Motor Speedway , producing more wins than any other starting position (five) – most recent: Jimmie Johnson (fall 2013). · Six of the 27 (22.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the front row: three from the pole and three from second-place. · 21 of the 27 (77.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Four of the 27 (14.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Texas Motor Speedway is 31st, by Matt Kenseth in 2002. · Youngest Texas winner: Joey Logano (03/30/2003 – 23 years, 10 months, 14 days). · Oldest Texas winner: Dale Jarrett (04/01/2001 – 44 years, 4 months, 6 days). · Jimmie Johnson leads the series in runner-up finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with five; followed by Matt Kenseth with four. · Matt Kenseth leads the series in top-five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 13; followed by Jimmie Johnson with 10. · Matt Kenseth leads the series lead in top-10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 17; followed by Jimmie Johnson with 16 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 13. · Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Texas Motor Speedway with an 8.818. Johnson is the only active driver with an average starting position at Texas in the top 10. · Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Texas: Matt Kenseth (8.250) and Jimmie Johnson (9.455). · There have been three NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Texas Motor Speedway : fall 2006 (334/339), spring 2008 (334/339), and fall 2012 (334/335). · Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions twice in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway ; the inaugural event in 1997 and spring 2007. The race has never been rain shortened. · Casey Mears has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway without posting a DNF (20). · Jeff Burton (4/06/1997) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4/02/2000) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career race at Texas Motor Speedway . · David Ragan (4/09/2011) and Martin Truex Jr. (11/04/2007) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway . · 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski (11/02/2008) and Trevor Bayne (11/07/2010) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Texas Motor Speedway . · Two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway : Carl Edwards (2008 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2010 sweep). · 11 of the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Texas Motor Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Texas in his first appearance; Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman won in their second appearance at TMS. · Jeff Gordon competed at Texas Motor Speedway 16 times before winning in the spring of 2009; the longest span of any the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Only three of the 12 winning drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Texas Motor Speedway : Jeff Gordon (16) Kyle Busch (15) and Kurt Busch (13). · Kevin Harvick and Joe Nemechek lead the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 23 each. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway was the (4/4/2004) race won by Elliott Sadler with a MOV of 0.028 second ahead of Kasey Kahne . · Two female drivers have made NSCS starts at Texas Motor Speedway : Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 24 27 4/7/2014 Danica Patrick 30 25 11/3/2013 Danica Patrick 42 28 4/13/2013 Danica Patrick 32 24 11/4/2012 Shawna Robinson 16 36 4/8/2002 · Tony Stewart leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in Laps Led at Texas Motor Speedway with 801 laps led in 24 starts. · Jeff Gordon leads all active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers in Laps Completed at Texas Motor Speedway with 7,990 laps. · One NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has won at Texas Motor Speedway in two different manufacturers: Jeff Burton (1997 – Ford; 2007 – Chevrolet) NASCAR in Texas · There have been 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among three tracks in the state of Texas. Track Name City NSCS Texas Motor Speedway Fort Worth 27 Texas World Speedway College Station 8 Meyer Speedway Houston 1 · 80 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Texas. · 10 drivers from Texas have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. Six of the nine Texas native NASCAR winners have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Driver NSCS NNS NCWTS Terry Labonte 22 11 1 Bobby Labonte 21 10 1 A.J. Foyt 7 0 0 Billy Wade 4 0 0 Bobby Hillin Jr 1 2 0 Johnny Rutherford 1 0 0 Chris Buescher 0 1 0 James Buescher 0 1 6 David Starr 0 0 4 Colin Braun 0 0 1 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Remaining tracks place a premium on what NASCAR's powerhouses do best RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Either way, someone was going to crash the party. No matter which of the two frontrunners ultimately took the checkered flag this past Sunday at Watkins Glen International , the venerable upstate New York road course was going to deliver what most everyone believed it would -- a new face introduced into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and a new name almost certainly added to that expanded 16-driver grid. It went above and beyond that, providing viewers with breathless, desperate racing between AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose , both of whom knew their playoff hopes hinged solely on the results of Sunday afternoon. In the end it was Allmendinger, who a year ago this coming weekend was celebrating a Nationwide Series victory at Mid-Ohio for Roger Penske, and now stands on the brink of his first playoff berth at NASCAR's top level. The Chase now appears very close indeed, with the opener at Chicagoland looming just a month away, and during this late-summer stretch run the final pieces will fall into place. There's a bit of symmetry in it all: four races remaining in the regular season, four spots remaining in the playoff. We've reached the point where it will be impossible to have more than 16 different winners, as much as some of us had hoped to see it, if just for the anxious spectacle it would create. While there's still a chance to get to 16 winners and knock out anyone relying solely on points, we're beyond the point of wild cards -- no road courses or restrictor-plate venues remain to level the field for the long shots still holding out hope. The four tracks remaining all place a premium on the things the sport's established powers do best. For instance -- Michigan International Speedway, site of Sunday's Sprint Cup event, and where hours on the dynamometer and in the wind tunnel are prerequisites on a blisteringly fast 2-mile track. The last driver you might be able to term an upset winner in Brooklyn might have been Brian Vickers for Red Bull in 2009, but that's probably unfair given the cash Dietrich Mateschitz was sinking into that program at the time. Before that, the last surprise there was perhaps Charlie Glotzbach in 1970, although owner Ray Nichels turned out some stout cars back in the day. Even at a track notorious for its fuel-mileage finales, the shockers are usually resigned to qualifying on Friday afternoon. Then it's on to Bristol , where Carl Edwards won in the spring, and which demands the kind of short-track rhythm which elite drivers do best, not to mention a car fast enough to prevent getting lapped on an early green-flag run. For all the focus on calamity and bump-and-run, the list of winners at Bristol is as star-studded as that of any other track. That kind of speed on a half-mile venue weeds out the field fairly quickly. There's never really been a shocker at Bristol, which tends to be dominated for long stretches by truly great drivers -- first by Cale Yarborough, then Darrell Waltrip, then Rusty Wallace, then the Busch brothers -- until the next one finds the knack. For years, the place gave Jimmie Johnson fits, it's so difficult. Drama? Plenty. Upsets? Unheard of. Atlanta may be something of a different story. Jerry Nadeau scored his lone career victory there in 2000, and call-up Kevin Harvick pulled an emotional stunner the next season, but both those drivers were working for top owners -- the former Rick Hendrick, the latter Richard Childress -- and wheeling equipment unparalleled for their time. Morgan Shepherd won three times there between 1986 and '93, his latter two victories coming for Bud Moore and the Wood Brothers in an era where those teams were still competitive. But this isn't the '90s anymore. Atlanta is another of those fast horsepower tracks, and the drivers who have historically owned the place are those with the most under the hood. So then -- Richmond. Sweat-it-out, bite-the-fingernails, don't-get-wrecked, last-chance Richmond. We've seen the near-impossible happen there before, in the form of Jeremy Mayfield winning the race in 2004 to wedge his way into that inaugural Chase field the only way he could. The possibility certainly exists that we could witness something like that again -- even if first-time winners run the table the next three weeks, there would still be room for one more on that Saturday night in the Virginia capital. As far as true upset potential, history points to Mayfield (whose Ray Evernham-owned team was better than the numbers might indicate) and Joe Nemechek winning in 2003. Nemechek that season, though, was a Hendrick driver. So does that really count? Michigan will help clear the picture, albeit if only a little. A victory by any repeat winner this weekend will officially lock in all those drivers with one victory -- guys we figured were in anyway -- and bolster the hopes of those hoping to get in on points. Another first-time winner (Michigan mainstay Greg Biffle , maybe?) and the pressure really begins to build on those guys who have yet to visit Victory Lane. A playoff of 16 winners may seem a remote possibility, but if we get to Bristol or Atlanta and there's still a chance of it -- well, a few firesuit collars may begin to feel mighty tight indeed. All that said, a tip of the cap to Allmendinger, who in almost certainly the final opportunity to do so gave us one more real underdog to go along with Aric Almirola, who pulled his shocker in the rain-shortened Daytona race in July. And while we're at it, give some credit to David Ragan, who told us all along this kind of thing was coming, even though he won his Talladega race a year too early. At Watkins Glen, Allmendinger and Ambrose provided a dramatic, grand final hurrah for the little guys. Thanks for the show, gentlemen. But given the tracks remaining in the regular season and the demands required in the Chase, the big boys will take it from here. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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Former Team Penske crew chief moves up to Sprint Cup with Ryan Blaney Ryan Blaney will have a familiar face atop the pit box in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races next year. So will Wood Brothers Racing as an organization. RELATED: See other driver/crew chief changes in store for 2015 The team announced Monday that Jeremy Bullins will call the shots for the No. 21 Ford in 2015, when Blaney gets behind the wheel on a part-time schedule. Bullins had previously worked with Wood Brothers Racing from 1999-2002, including a stretch as a race engineer. Bullins has spent the past three seasons as a crew chief for the No. 22 Team Penske Ford in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. During that span, he has 21 wins, 57 top-fives and 79 top-10s in 99 races. "This is a great opportunity for me at this point in my career to move to a great organization with a solid driver, while still getting the chance to work with the people that I've come to know and respect at Team Penske ," Bullins said in a team release. "Everyone in the sport knows about the Wood Brothers and recognizes that No. 21. To get a chance to work for Eddie and Len (Wood) and the entire organization and to have Ryan behind the wheel, is pretty much everything I could have asked for." Wood Brothers and Team Penske will begin a technical alliance next year, and Bullins told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" that the Woods will get Penske cars. "Similar to the relationships that they've had in the past, we'll be getting chassis from Penske," Bullins said. Blaney and Bullins made 19 starts together in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, a partnership that produced two victories, eight top-fives and 16 top-10s. Sprint Cup rule changes should help their collaboration as they move up to NASCAR's premier series. "If you look at the direction of the rule changes, it's certainly in the direction of the rules package for the XFINITY cars," Bullins said on SiriusXM NASCAR. "Hopefully for us that will be a good thing. It'll make the transition to the Cup car a little bit smaller and make the learning curve pass a little quicker for Ryan. "That part in my mind is a good thing for our particular situation. What testing we've seen so far -- guys doing the aero package tests -- the feedback is a lot like an XFINITY car." The No. 21 ride became open when Trevor Bayne left for a full-time ride with Roush Fenway Racing in NASCAR's top series. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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