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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The Truck Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 00 Cole Custer Gene Haas Joe Shear 14 Chevrolet Haas Automation 2 0 Caleb Roark Kenneth Grimes Michael Stewart 12 RAM Driven2Honor.org 3 02 Tyler Young Randy Young Bryan Berry 14 Chevrolet Randco/Young's Building Systems 4 05 John Wes Townley Tony Townley Mike Beam 14 Toyota Zaxby's 5 6 Norm Benning Norm Benning Kevin Dargie 14 Chevrolet TBA 6 07 B J McLeod Ken Smith Rusty Ebersole 14 Chevrolet TBA 7 08 Ray Black Jr Bobby Dotter Jason Miller 14 Chevrolet ScubaLife 8 8 John Hunter Nemechek Sidney Mauldin Jerry Babb 14 Toyota Smoke-N-Sear/SWM 9 9 Brennan Newberry Joe Denette Ryan McKinney 14 Chevrolet Qore-24 10 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Steve Kuykendall 13 Chevrolet Oohrah! Hydration Drink 11 13 Jeb Burton Duke Thorson Jeriod Prince 14 Toyota Estes-Carolina Nut Company 12 17 Timothy Peters Tom Deloach Marcus Richmond II 14 Toyota Red Horse Racing 13 19 Tyler Reddick Brad Keselowski Doug Randolph 14 Ford DrawTite 14 20 Gray Gaulding Bob Newberry Christopher Rice 14 Chevrolet Silverado 15 21 Joey Coulter Maurice Gallagher Jr Jeff Stankiewicz 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 16 29 Ryan Blaney Brad Keselowski Chad Kendrick 14 Ford Cooper Standard 17 31 Ben Kennedy Steve Turner Doug George 14 Chevrolet Heater.com 18 32 Cameron Hayley Harry Scott Jr Mike Hillman Jr 14 Chevrolet Cabinets by Hayley 19 35 Mason Mingus Kevin Cywinski Dennis Connor 14 Toyota Call 811 20 136 Justin Jennings Beverly Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mitler Bros Machine & Tool/Ski Soda 21 50 T J Bell Mark Beaver Ken Evans 13 Chevrolet Dedicated to Electrical Linemen 22 51 Erik Jones Kyle Busch Eric Phillips 14 Toyota ToyotaCare/Project Pink 23 54 Darrell Wallace Jr Kyle Busch Jerry Baxter 14 Toyota ToyotaCare 24 63 Jr Heffner Michael Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet TBA 25 74 TBA Mike Harmon Gary Ritter 14 Chevrolet TBA 26 77 German Quiroga Tom Deloach Butch Hylton 14 Toyota NET10 Wireless 27 186 Brandon Brown Jerry Brown Adam Brenner 13 Chevrolet Dominion Recycling 28 88 Matt Crafton Rhonda Thorson Carl Joiner 14 Toyota Slim Jim/Menards 29 98 Johnny Sauter Mike Curb Jeff Hensley 14 Toyota Nextant/Curb Records 30 99 Bryan Silas Chris Baluch Cal Boprey 14 Chevrolet TBA MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
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See who is set to compete in the 15th race of NCWTS season Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 0 Caleb Roark Kenneth Grimes Michael Stewart 14 Chevrolet Grimes Irrigation & Construction 2 02 Tyler Young Randy Young Bryan Berry 14 Chevrolet Randco/Young's Building Systems 3 05 John Wes Townley Tony Townley Mike Beam 14 Toyota Zaxby's 4 6 Norm Benning Norm Benning Kevin Dargie 14 Chevrolet TBA 5 07 Todd Shafer Ken Smith Rusty Ebersole 14 Chevrolet ThunderExhaust.com 6 08 Ray Black Jr Bobby Dotter Jason Miller 14 Chevrolet ScubaLife/NASE Worldwide 7 8 Joe Nemechek Sidney Mauldin Jerry Babb 14 Toyota Jewel Osco 8 9 Brennan Newberry Joe Denette Ryan McKinney 14 Chevrolet Qore-24 9 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Steve Kuykendall 14 Chevrolet Driven2Honor.org 10 112 Ted Minor Joseph Cefalia Garry Stephens 14 Chevrolet FindIT.net 11 13 Jeb Burton Duke Thorson Jeriod Prince 14 Toyota Estes-Carolina Nut Company 12 17 Timothy Peters Tom Deloach Marcus Richmond II 14 Toyota Duke of Oil/Valvoline 13 19 Tyler Reddick Brad Keselowski Doug Randolph 14 Ford Reese Towpower 14 20 Austin Dillon(i) Bob Newberry Christopher Rice 14 Chevrolet RHEEM 15 21 Joey Coulter Maurice Gallagher Jr Jeff Stankiewicz 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 16 29 Ryan Blaney Brad Keselowski Chad Kendrick 14 Ford Cooper Standard 17 31 Ben Kennedy Steve Turner Michael Shelton 14 Chevrolet Heater.com 18 32 Tayler Malsam Harry Scott Jr Mike Hillman Jr 14 Chevrolet Red Box 19 35 Mason Mingus Kevin Cywinski Mark Rette 14 Toyota Call 811 20 136 Scott Stenzel Beverly Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mitler Bros/Ski Soda 21 40 Todd Peck Michael Peck Keith Wolfe 14 Chevrolet Horizon Pharma/Arthritis Foundation 22 50 T J Bell Mark Beaver Ken Evans 14 Chevrolet Dedicated to Electrical Linemen 23 51 Kyle Busch(i) Kyle Busch Eric Phillips 14 Toyota Dollar Genereal 24 54 Darrell Wallace Jr Kyle Busch Jerry Baxter 14 Toyota ToyotaCare 25 63 Justin Jennings Michael Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet LG Seeds/Mittler Bros Machine & Tool/Ski Soda 26 74 Mike Harmon(i) Mike Harmon Scott Stolzenberg 14 Chevrolet MHR 27 77 German Quiroga Tom Deloach Butch Hylton 14 Toyota NET10 Wireless 28 88 Matt Crafton Rhonda Thorson Carl Joiner 14 Toyota Splash-FVP/Menards 29 98 Johnny Sauter Mike Curb Jeff Hensley 14 Toyota Nextant/Curb Records 30 99 Bryan Silas Chris Baluch Cal Boprey 14 Chevrolet TBA MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
An ecstatic AJ Allmendinger reacts to winning his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen.
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