The final regular season race, held last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, had high expectations of being an action-packed race with flared tempers. But what we saw instead was a race dominated by one driver and was simply anti-climactic. This was the race that made the final determination on the sixteen drivers who entered the Chase. As it ended, there were no major changes resulting from Saturday’s race. The sixteen drivers projected to make the Chase prior to Saturday’s race all ended up with a spot. Aric Almirola, perhaps, was the closest one to shaking things up. He made quite a run on Sunday, but fell just short of having enough to secure a win and a spot.
It was Matt Kenseth who dominated the race at Richmond, leading 352 of the 400 laps. Not only did he ensure his individual momentum continued, but he ensured the continued domination of Joe Gibbs Racing. Saturday marked Kenseth’s fourth win this season, and second overall win at Richmond International Raceway. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.
With the regular season complete, here are the sixteen drivers featured in the Chase for the Championship: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, and Clint Bowyer.
In other NASCAR news this week, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus both signed contract extensions with Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson’s contract goes through 2017.
Aaron’s Inc. announced this week that they will not sponsor a car in the 2016 season following the closing of Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of this season. They will continue to remain involved with the Series through various channels.
The ten race Chase for the Sprint Cup debuts this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Drivers will maneuver 267 laps around the 1.5 mile tri-oval track boasting eighteen degree banking in the turns. The Chase format includes three elimination rounds, and one final round at Homestead Miami Speedway. This weekend, the MyAFibStory.com 400 will be the first of three races making up the Challenger round of the Chase. There will be a mix of racing styles by drivers these last few weeks. The drivers included in the Chase will be focused on strong finishes and surviving until the next round, while non-Chase drivers will be solely focused on collecting wins. Teams and drivers will be tested on all limits.
This week’s Fast Five includes drivers who have found past success at Chicagoland Speedway, along with drivers who have shown potential for a strong run. The Fast Five for Chicagoland Speedway include: Kyle Busch, who is a previous winner at Chicagoland and posted a top ten finish at this track last year; Jimmie Johnson, who is the strongest rated driver at this track and holds the best average finishing position; Brad Keselowski, who has great runs lately and is the defending race winner at Chicagoland; Kevin Harvick, who is tied for the most top five finishes at Chicagoland and finished in the top ten last year; and Joey Logano, who has been strong the last few weeks and posted a top five finish at Chicagoland last year. Keep an eye on Kyle Larson as a dark horse this weekend.
Tune into the race Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on NBCSN.