The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup moves from Texas to Arizona, with the final race in the Round of Eight coming up Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. The eight-driver field will be trimmed to four following the Can-Am 500. Chase participants have won this race in ten of the twelve years it’s been run as part of NASCAR’s “post-season” format. The only non-Chase competitors to win the fall race at P-I-R during that stretch are Kyle Busch in 2005 and Kasey Kahne in 2011.
► Seven of the eight drivers remaining in the semifinal round of the Chase have won a Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway: Kurt and Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Joey Logano’s best finish there is third on two occasions, most recently in this race last year … Dating back to November 2012, Harvick has won six of the last eight races contested at P-I-R – including this year’s first stop on March 13th … So far this fall, all eight post-season races have been won by drivers on the original Chase Grid. The best finish by a non-Chase competitor is Brian Scott’s runner-up effort at Talladega Superspeedway sixteen days ago, when he finished second to Logano.
Next Stop Is Watkins Glen International for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. With just five races remaining in the regular season, it appears that twelve of the sixteen spots on The Chase Grid will be filled by race-winning drivers: Matt Kenseth, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher. That would leave four post-season spots available based on the point standings. Jamie McMurray currently holds a nine-point lead over Kyle Larson, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, in the fight for what would be the final “playoff” spot … Six drivers are presently in the mix for those final four spots: Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, rookie Chase Elliott, McMurray, Larson and Kasey Kahne … Jeff Gordon will make the eight hundredth start of his career at the Glen and his third in the Number-88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, still subbing for Dale Earnhardt Junior who remains sidelined while recovering from a concussion.
Next Stop is Pocono Raceway for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400. With just six events remaining in the regular season, defending race winner Matt Kenseth is one of five drivers who’ve clinched spots on The Chase Grid – joining Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski in the sixteen-driver title field. Those five account for fourteen wins through the first twenty races of the year … Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart have one win apiece – leaving five post-season spots available based on the point standings. Kyle Larson currently holds a ten-point lead over Kasey Kahne in the fight for what would be the final “playoff” spot.
With his victory in Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race, Team Penske’s Joey Logano will now look to join a fairly exclusive group of NASCAR drivers with another victory this coming weekend in the Coca-Cola 600.
Since 1985, the first year of the All-Star Race, just seven drivers have won both events in the same season: Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Darrell Waltrip and Kurt Busch – the last driver to do it, in 2010. Logano tops the preliminary entry list for NASCAR’s longest race that also includes defending winner Carl Edwards and regular-season points leader Kevin Harvick.
Last year, Denny Hamlin finished eighth in his bid to sweep the two May races at C-M- S.