Plus, which driver can bounce back from Chicago? And more
Panel of experts debate that and more as the roundtable returns RELATED: Play Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota 1. OK folks, the field of 16 for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has been determined. Looking at this year's roster, is there a favorite in the field? Alan Cavanna: I filled out my Chase Grid (like I hope you have, print a blank one out here) -- and started with my champion, Jeff Gordon . Huge year, fast speed, and the sense that the driver from the late '90s is back. Brad Norman: I'm not so sure there is a "favorite," but there's definitely a group of "favorites." That would be the Team Penske duo and the three heavyweights at Hendrick Motorsports – sorry, Kasey Kahne . Throw in Kevin Harvick , if he gets the pit-road problems cleaned up with a new over-the-wall crew. I can't imagine a scenario in which the final four drivers at Homestead don't come from that group. Kenny Bruce : For the first time in, well, a long time, I don't think you can assume that Jimmie Johnson is a clear-cut favorite. The No. 48 team started the season slower than many expected, caught fire at mid-season but has been "average" (for them) recently. Cavanna: OK fellas, I'm the only one going out on a limb with a solid pick. C'mon now. Norman: True, Alan. If forced to pick one, I'd go with top-seeded Brad Keselowski . He's back to form, he's got a great strategist in Paul Wolfe calling the shots and the Team Penske cars have been phenomenal on those intermediate-type ovals. Of which there are five in the postseason. Bruce : I'll lean toward Alan on the Gordon pick, but I've got to give props to 2012 champ Keselowski as well. The No. 2 team has been pretty stout of late, and that momentum's got to be worth something. Cavanna: I understand though. The four drivers in the Championship Round aren't necessarily the four "best." They're the three winners, and the most consistent. A great driver will be left out of the championship race at Homestead. Norman: One thing that's most interesting about Keselowski is that Joey Logano is one of his biggest challengers. They share a garage, share info. After Logano won at Bristol and Keselowski finished second, Bad Brad was asked about how those two will continue to share info during the Chase -- and it was a topic the 2012 champion was reluctant to discuss. Bruce : I think it's interesting that Gordon and Keselowski probably feel as if they have something to prove. Keselowski for not making the Chase last year and Gordon for not winning a title in the Chase-era. And I'm not sure how much you can compare 2013 to this season, but Mr. Kenseth reeled off back-to-back wins to open the Chase a year ago, I believe. Cavanna: You beat me to it, Kenny . Ten weeks from now we'll all look like fools when Matt Kenseth is hoisting the Sprint Cup trophy. Bruce : My biggest concern with the entire JGR group is their win total this year. Three teams, two combined wins. That probably won't cut it in the Chase. Norman: For Gordon, I imagine what he's feeling is just like what a veteran may feel at any job. You see these upstarts come in and win races, you don't perform as well and perhaps you wonder if you can still hang. That's a wonderful motivator. Mr. Gordon (hey, respect your elders) can most certainly still hang. 2. Speaking of JGR, Kenseth is one of three drivers in the Chase without a win this year and two drivers, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger , are making their first appearance in the "playoff." How do we expect these guys on the bottom half of the board to fare? Norman: Certainly, you expect more from Kenseth than you do Almirola or Allmendinger because of his pedigree, his team, his equipment ... all that stuff. I'm not sure Kenseth can get to Homestead still in contention for the championship, but there's no reason he shouldn't be in the Eliminator Round. Of all the guys on the bottom of the board, I think he's clearly got the best chance. Cavanna: I'm not totally worried about the winless drivers just yet. The consistency we've seen from drivers like Kenseth and Ryan Newman should carry them forward for a round or two, even without wins. Bruce : You're spot on Brad. Given Kenseth's consistency, I expect him to advance beyond the first round, probably the second. Gets tougher after that, though. Newman has been consistent all year, Greg Biffle more so of late. I think Aric and AJ test the waters and see what it's like. But advancing would be a surprise. A nice one, but a surprise just the same. Cavanna: I hate to say I have little faith in the 47 team (Allmendinger) moving on. But, Aric Almirola is riding into the Chase with two straight top-10 finishes. If he gets three more, that will put him in the next round. Norman: I do think we're going to see a "surprise" driver advance, though. I'd pick Allmendinger, if forced to give a name. He's gotten better at intermediates. More than that, though, I can foresee a scenario in which a guy more favored to advance wrecks at Chicago, and then has a couple of gambles fail as he tries to get back in it over the next two weeks. Cavanna: Brad, I like your thinking for a roundtable rookie. I think the sport and fans are in for a big surprise. It's easy to think of the better drivers and assume they all advance. But one glance at any NCAA Tournament tells you that never happens. There's always an upset or three. Bruce : The thing about it is if a driver advances beyond the first round (Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover), Talladega looms as the cutoff race for the Contender Round and as we know, anything can happen there. How cool would it be, Alan, to see the 43 battling for a title? OK, battling for a spot in the next round? A lot of history there. Cavanna: It's a long shot, but the 43 will certainly be a chic pick for advancing to the top-12. Norman: I am the Kyle Larson of the roundtable, Alan. Cavanna: You're a dry wiper? 3. Now that we've determined who will win, who will advance and who can go ahead and start taking the yellow ID markings off their cars ... which teams on the outside are most likely to pick up a win during the final 10 races? Norman: It was rare to see that happen with frequency when there were 12 (or 13) drivers in the postseason. Now with 16? I think it'll be even more rare. The biggest contender to me, the roundtable rookie, is ... Kyle Larson. Maybe at Charlotte. Heck, he could win any of them. Bruce : I don't think it was that rare ... but the folks that won were often guys you thought would have been in the Chase to begin with most of the time. Tony Stewart , Jamie McMurray , Biffle, Denny Hamlin , Gordon. But you make a good point about the numbers decreasing the likelihood. Cavanna: Prior to the start of the season I picked Austin Dillon to win a race, with Talladega in mind. I'll stick with that. Clint Bowyer showed some promise at Richmond Saturday night, but I worry that may be the team's best performance of the season. Norman: To be fair, it happened three times last year. And if you look at who won those races, two of those guys are in the Chase field this year – Keselowski and Hamlin. And McMurray was the other, winning at Talladega which is a wild card. So if anyone outside the Chase field wins, I think it could portend a big 2015 season. Larson, Bowyer, Dillon ... what about Stewart? Cavanna: I think a lot of people are overlooking what a win by a non-Chaser does to the championship run. Every time that bell rings, it's one less automatic spot for a guy going after a championship. Bruce : Bowyer is tough at New Hampshire, so maybe it's better late than never for him and the MWR team, Alan. But I wouldn't be surprised if one of the rookies, Dillon or Larson, gets a win now that there's no Chase pressure. Norman: Alan, you make a good point about the championship run. Can you imagine in any round, if somehow a non-Chaser wins two in a row? Bruce : Your comments reminded me of something, guys. If a non-Chase driver wins a race in the Chase, does he get one of those yellow "winner" stickers to go above his window? For that matter, does anyone? Cavanna: Everyone likes rewards, Kenny . I hope the stickers remain. Norman: Everyone's a winner here, Kenny . Cavanna: Even Brad Norman's Chase beard. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Alan Cavanna and Kenny Bruce preview the Federated Auto Parts 400 and break down who can clinch one of the final two spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
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Get the latest Kenny Wallace news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
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Whittling list down to just five always a tough task
Get to know the newest Miss Sprint Cup RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Hometown: "I'm from a small town in southern New Jersey called Haddon Township. It's so small, we don't even have our own post office. Steven Spielberg spent his childhood there and it's 15 minutes from Philadelphia, so everyone knows what movies we love and the sports teams we cheer for." Pets: "I grew up with an enormous black and white cat named Theo. He first came home during a Philadelphia 76ers game when Theo Ratliff played for them, so that's where his name came from." Favorite app: "I love Spotify. Reading a book while listening to different classic rock playlists on the Spotify app is one of my favorite pastimes." Must-see TV: "My current TV addiction is "Law & Order: SVU," but I also never miss an episode of "Game of Thrones" or "Homeland." " Music that moves me: " Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band always brings me back to my childhood visiting the Jersey Shore (no, the one I go to is not like the MTV show)." Movies not to be missed: "My favorite movies usually star Audrey Hepburn. My number one has to be "Funny Face" with her and Fred Astaire. The fashion, the songs, the dancing -- I love it all." Favorite websites: "Every morning I check out the Associated Press website to catch all the latest worldwide news, and I also regularly visit QVC online (I used to work there) to see the special values and new beauty products." Travel: "I love getting to travel all over the country as Miss Sprint Cup -- that's one of my favorite parts of the job. I also love visiting Italy. I took Latin for seven years, so the history there is fascinating for me." Habit I'd like to kick: "Spending money online. Maybe I should stop visiting the QVC website so much." Best vacation getaway: "Ocean City, New Jersey. I know it's not tropical, but my parents have a house there and it's one of my favorite places to relax." First race: " Dover International Speedway in 2011 when Matt Kenseth won." Biggest influence in my life: "My parents. They always encouraged me to go after my dreams and goals even when they were a little different. I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive, strong family with my parents, my sister and my extended (38 first cousins) family." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
See the entry list for the Nationwide Series' final standalone of the season RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Entry No. Driver Owner Crew chief Vehicle Sponsor 1 01 Landon Cassill Johnny Davis Dave Fuge 14 Chevrolet TeamJDMotorsports.com 2 2 Brian Scott Richard Childress Phil Gould 14 Chevrolet Shore Lodge 3 3 Ty Dillon Richard Childress Danny Stockman Jr 14 Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops 4 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Gary Keller Gary Cogswell 14 Chevrolet Bandit 5 5 Austin Theriault Rick Hendrick Ernie Cope 14 Chevrolet Maine Open for Business 6 6 Trevor Bayne Jack Roush Chad Norris 14 Ford AdvoCare 7 7 Regan Smith Kelley Earnhardt-Miller Ryan Pemberton 14 Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 8 9 Chase Elliott Dale Earnhardt Jr Greg Ives 14 Chevrolet NAPA AUTO PARTS 9 10 Jeff Green Mark Smith Todd Myers 14 Toyota Supportmilitary.org 10 11 Elliott Sadler J D Gibbs Chris Gayle 14 Toyota OneMain Financial 11 13 Carl Long Derek White Kevin Eagle 13 Dodge OCR GAZ BAR 12 14 Eric McClure Mark Smith Wes Ward 14 Toyota Hefty Ultimate / Reynolds Wrap 13 16 Ryan Reed Jack Roush Seth Barbour 14 Ford ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes 14 17 Tanner Berryhill Adrian Berryhill Daniel Stillman 14 Dodge NationalCashLenders.com 15 19 Mike Bliss Mark Smith Paul Clapprood 14 Toyota TriStar Motorsports 16 20 Justin Boston(i) Joe Gibbs Kevin Kidd 14 Toyota Zloop 17 22 Michael McDowell(i) Roger Penske Jeremy Bullins 14 Ford Discount Tire 18 23 Carlos Contreras Robert Richardson Sr George Church 14 Chevrolet 28 Special/Vol 19 28 J J Yeley James Whitener Steve Plattenberger 13 Dodge Texas 28 Spirits Stage 20 31 Chase Pistone(i) Steve Turner Shannon Rursch 14 Chevrolet TDB 21 33 Cale Conley(i) Richard Childress Nick Harrison 14 Chevrolet IAVA 22 39 Ryan Sieg Rod Sieg Kevin Starland 14 Chevrolet RSS Racing 23 40 Matt Dibenedetto Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 24 42 Dylan Kwasniewski Harry Scott Jr Scott Zipadelli 14 Chevrolet Up & Up 25 43 Dakoda Armstrong Richard Petty Philippe Lopez 14 Ford WinField 26 44 Blake Koch Mark Smith Greg Conner 14 Toyota Centershot 27 46 Josh Wise(i) Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 28 51 Jeremy Clements Tony Clements Ricky Pearson 14 Chevrolet Allsouthelectric.com/Value Lighting 29 52 Joey Gase Jimmy Means Tim Brown 14 Chevrolet TBA 30 54 Sam Hornish Jr J D Gibbs Adam Stevens 14 Toyota Monster Energy 31 55 Jamie Dick Jimmy Dick Mark Setzer 14 Chevrolet Viva Auto Group 32 60 Chris Buescher Jack Roush Scott Graves 14 Ford Roush Performance Parts 33 62 Brendan Gaughan Richard Childress Shane Wilson 14 Chevrolet South Point 34 70 Derrike Cope Mary Louise Miller Bobby Burrell 14 Chevrolet YOUTHEORY 35 172 John Jackson James Carter Richard Garcia 14 Chevrolet Crash Claims R US 36 74 TBA Mike Harmon Scott Stolzenberg 12 Dodge TBA 37 180 Ross Chastain(i) Shigeaki Hattori Bruce Cook 14 Toyota ADVICS/CMW 38 87 Joe Nemechek(i) Andrea Nemechek Steven Gray 14 Ford TBD 39 89 Morgan Shepherd Morgan Shepherd Kevyn Rebolledo 14 Chevrolet Courtney Construction 40 93 Mike Wallace Gregg Mixon David Goulet 13 Dodge JGL Racing 41 99 James Buescher Robby Benton Matthew Lucas 14 Toyota TBA (i) equals ineligible for driver championship points MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView