Looking ahead: Who could be headed to Chase and who could be disappointed


With NASCAR halfway to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the pressure builds on drivers who have yet to win and all but secure a chance to race for the title.

There have been nine different winners this season (compared to 10 a year ago), leaving seven spots for the Chase to be determined by points – at this time.

Last year, there were 13 winners when the Chase began, leaving three spots open for those via points. It likely will be about the same this year.

So, as the series heads to Pocono Raceway to begin a stretch of 13 races in 15 weeks, here’s a look at who is in contention for those final Chase spots and the chances they have of making it.



Chase appearances: 2 (best finish 11th in 2007 & 2012)

Points position: 2nd (ranks first among winless drivers)

Notable performances: Has led the most laps in last three points races but did not win any of those.

Why he’ll make Chase: Clearly has one of the fastest cars and even if he doesn’t win, he should make it via points.

Why he won’t make Chase: He and team decide to take four-week summer vacation and miss a few races. Would have to be that drastic.



Chase appearances: 0

Points position: 7th (ranks second among winless drivers)

Notable performances: Has an average finish of 9.7 at the seven tracks the series has run that will host a Chase race.

Why he’ll make Chase: It’s amazing that the former Daytona 500, Sprint All-Star and Brickyard 400 winner has not made the Chase in his career. Everything finally goes his way.

Why he won’t make Chase: Can’t afford a number of poor finishes. If only three drivers make the Chase on points as happened last year, he could be teetering on the edge if he doesn’t win a race.



Chase appearances: 5 (best finish 4th in 2012)

Points position: 8th (ranks third among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 4th at Phoenix and Dover.

Why he’ll make Chase: Should score a win to secure a spot. Could come this weekend at Pocono where he won in 2013 and has two top-two finishes in last five starts there.

Why he won’t make Chase: He didn’t win until Atlanta last year – two races before the Chase cutoff. That race moved, so he won’t have that track to bail him out if he doesn’t have a win that late in the season.



Chase appearances: 10 (best finish 2nd in 2007)

Points position: 9th (ranks fourth among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 3rd at Bristol. Led 87 laps in Daytona 500 but was collected in last-lap wreck.

Why he’ll make Chase: There could be no worse disappointment than not to make the Chase in his final full season. If things get hairy, the full resources of Hendrick Motorsports will be focused on getting him in the Chase, much like how Kasey Kahne won late to make last year’s Chase.

Why he won’t make Chase: If he has more speeding penalties on pit road at the wrong time. One such penalty likely cost him a shot to win at Martinsville.



Chase appearances: 1 (best finish 16th in 2014)

Points position: 10th (ranks fifth among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 5th at Dover

Why he’ll make Chase: He’s been steady all season with no finish worse than 26th and only two finishes of 20th or worse. He’s maximizing what the car and team are providing.

Why he won’t make Chase: He’s about two poor finishes from falling too far out of the third spot among winless drivers – the likely cutoff for winless drivers to make the Chase – if he doesn’t score a victory.



Chase appearances: 0

Points position: 12th (ranks sixth among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 3rd at Talladega and 4th at Auto Club Speedway

Why he’ll make Chase: He’s been steady for much of the season with only one finish worse than 25th. He needs to be even stronger. Has led only one lap this season, so unless something changes, winning will be difficult to achieve.

Why he won’t make Chase: If one can’t lead laps, they can’t win. If he has a couple of bad performances, he likely won’t be able to overcome that to make it via points.



Chase appearances: 6 (best finish 2nd in 2014)

Points position: 13th (ranks seventh among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 3rd at Las Vegas and Phoenix

Why he’ll make Chase: He’s doing the same thing as he did last year with consistency. He has eight top-10 finishes this season compared to four at this point a year ago. He’s used to the pressure – just recall his last-lap move on Kyle Larson at Phoenix to make the Chase finale last year.

Why he won’t make Chase: Consistency only gets one so far. It may not be enough this time.



Chase appearances: 5 (best finish 2nd in 2012)

Points position: 17th (ranks eighth among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 7th in Daytona 500

Why he’ll make Chase: Likely will have to win to do so.

Why he won’t make Chase: Team hasn’t shown it’s strong enough to challenge for a victory. Has led just two laps this season and has eight finishes of 20th or worse. That won’t cut it if he can’t score a win.



Chase appearances: 0

Points position: 18th (ranks ninth among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 7th at Martinsville

Why she’ll make Chase: Will need to win a race somewhere.

Why she won’t make Chase: Hasn’t been in position to win a race. That likely will continue, keeping her out of the Chase.



Chase appearances: 7 (best finish 2nd in 2005)

Points position: 19th (ranks 10th among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 2nd in Coca-Cola 600

Why he’ll make Chase: Nearly stole a win at Charlotte on fuel mileage. If he can do it somewhere else, he’ll be in.

Why he won’t make Chase: While his car showed it was better in the Coca-Cola 600, there’s still a long way to go for Roush Fenway Racing to compete for wins. Until it does so, RFR won’t have a driver in the Chase.



Chase appearances: 0

Points position: 20th (ranks 11th among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 3rd at Dover

Why he’ll make Chase: Team picks up performance and matches the potential of this driver in the final 13 races before the Chase field is set.

Why he won’t make Chase: This team has been off at times this season with six finishes of 25th or worse. If that continues, he won’t make the Chase.



Chase appearances: 8 (won title in Chase format in 2005 & ’11)

Points position: 28th (ranks 19th among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 6th at Bristol

Why he’ll make Chase: Must win. Best bet is Daytona, Bristol or maybe the road courses.

Why he won’t make Chase: Although scoring better finishes lately compared to start of the year, this team has not shown the speed to compete for a win that it must have to make the Chase.



Chase appearances: 7 (best finish 4th in 2013)

Points position: 40th (ranks 31st among winless drivers)

Notable performances: 11th in Coca-Cola 600

Why he’ll make Chase: He’s been fast in his first two races back and put himself in position to have strong finishes until some late issues.

Why he won’t make Chase: Can’t overcome deficit of missing 11 races.


Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.

What drivers said at WWT Raceway


Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:

Kyle Busch — Winner: “Just the restarts kind of went our way. We were able to get through on the outside on that one and push (Kyle) Larson out, then he took bottom of (Turns) 3 and 4, I was able to carry the momentum around the high side to take the lead. That was really important. I think that was kind of the key moment of us being able to win today. Being able to control the rest of the restarts for the rest of the race. Kyle is one of the best. It’s good to be able to sit up here and race hard with him, being a Team Chevy partner. He gave me great respect, I appreciate that. That will be given back down the road.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “Yeah, I thought we were super dialed if it was 95 degrees like it was supposed to be with those delays – it kind of took away from the advantage I thought that we had. I’m proud of this whole Sport Clips Toyota team – pit crew did a phenomenal job keeping us in it and doing really good on the money stop with about 60 to go. We are going to have to wait another to get that 50th (win).”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “I’m proud of the fight. We were mediocre – just outside the top five all day long. There was a group of cars that were a tick better than us. Then we executed at the end and beat a few of them. We tried some new things from last year, and we learned some lessons. But overall: Good. We needed a solid run. We’ve been going through hell here lately. So, it’s nice to get a top five, third place, and some points there in each stage. Good day.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 4th: “Proud of the effort today. It’s been a couple tough races. We’ve been so good all year long and the last few have been pretty bad and we’ve had to work on it quite a bit. The team got us in a place where we could contend for the win, so you can’t ask for much more than that. …  I wish I would have done a better job. When I was the leader, I hadn’t been at the front all day, so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know where people were running on restarts, and I didn’t know how hard they could go. I just got kind of caught off guard and lost the control.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 5th: “Started off the race near the front and stayed there through Stage 1 and thought we could get a little bit better and maybe have a shot at the couple, three in front of us. We had a pit road penalty and had to go to the back, and it was just an uphill climb from there. Just really tough to get through the field. We got some damage from when someone’s brake rotor exploded, that slowed us down even more. Really with all we went through today, a top-five is a really good day for us. I’m proud of the effort.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 6th: “We ran pretty good today. Won the second stage which was good, second in the first stage. Just kind of lost track position, lost the lead. Through a couple stops and restarts, we could just never really get it back. I thought that (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin) and I were similar. It was just a matter of who was out front. I just got a bad restart at the end and fell to sixth. But overall, it wasn’t a bad day. It was a good points day too, and we’ll keep going.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 7th: “The entire weekend was very solid for us. We barely missed the second run in qualifying and really, we missed it because of me and not because of the car. The car was capable of advancing. In the race, the car was strong right away. It was fun today and we really needed this as a team. We needed a result that we deserved, and I felt like lately it’s been a little difficult on us when it comes to that. Today, I felt like we deserved a top-10 or top-five and we came home seventh, so we will take it.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 9th: “We kind of learned last year that track position is super important. Taking two tires was an option last year, so we knew it’d be one this year. We did it early on and got track position, but we got spun out. So, went all the way to the back and then we put four on, and then you’re just buried back there. So, we had to go for it again, put two on and just left two on. We never took four again. There were a lot of laps on the left-side tires, but track position was super important. We had a great FR8 Auctions Ford Mustang, so I knew we could kind of hold our ground. Those last few cautions kind of hurt us a bit, but still came away with a Top-10. So, it was a good day.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 12th: “That was a long day – long race. There were a lot of cautions and red flags. It really started yesterday. I was in a little bit of a hole after qualifying, and I just didn’t do a good job. I had to dig out of that today. We had pretty good speed in our Fastenal Ford Mustang. I was pretty happy with it, and at times, had to move around the track quite a bit. I figured out Gateway really quickly. Not being able to run here last year, I felt a little behind getting going. Definitely found something there at the end. Honestly wish it was a 600-mile race because I felt like we could have kept getting better.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 13th: “Definitely frustrating having a speeding penalty … I’m a little frustrated with myself with that. You think something at the end of Stage 1 isn’t going to affect your race, but it just put us behind. We tried a bunch of strategy calls to get our Freightliner Ford Mustang up there. Had some good restarts at the end and made the most of it, I feel like. Those restarts got really scrappy. Proud of the team effort, proud of the recovery. Definitely a lot to clean up on my end to maximize what I thought was a Top-10 race car.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 14th: “We had an up-and-down day today fighting the balance in our No. 16 Chevy. I felt like we had a top-15 car most of the day, but we had to play defense to stay there. I wasn’t able to roll speed through the corner like I needed to be more aggressive and keep moving forward. We made a strategy call to take two tires, which didn’t work in our favor. Then we got caught up on pit road and restarted pretty far back at the beginning of the third stage. We’ll take a 14th- place finish after everything we battled with our car today and move forward to Sonoma.”

Justin Haley — Finished 16th: It was an up-and-down day for this No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection team. We fired off tight in traffic, and it was just hard to pass. My crew chief, Trent Owens, made some really good strategy calls and we had positive adjustments all day, despite a couple pit-road mishaps. We had another good Chevrolet hot rod, and we will take a 16th-place finish after a hard fought day.

Ryan Preece — Finished 17th: “That was a really long day. I fought a tight race car all day long and every time we came down pit road, my guys made really strong adjustments. It just wasn’t enough to get us to the front and stay there. There were so many cautions there at the end, I was just trying to save the car. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible day for us after qualifying 29th. The fans were out in full force today, too, that was awesome to see. We’ve just got to keep grinding for better finishes.”

Erik Jones — Finished 18th: “Just an up-and-down day for the No. 43 Bommarito.com Chevy team. Didn’t end up how we wanted it to go, but we’ll go to work and get the car a bit better. I thought we had good speed, just didn’t have things go our way. We’ll work on it and hopefully go to Sonoma (Raceway) and have a solid day.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 19th: “We battled handing issues all day and just couldn’t find it. We were loose to start the day and it felt like our car was tight on aero and loose mechanically. Our long-run speed was really all we had today and we could pass cars late in the run, but we had so many cautions in the final stage we didn’t have the chance to run those cars down. Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) put me on offense on the last 20 laps with fresh tires and I thought we could’ve driven up to 15th, but someone missed a shift on the last restart and stacked us up and put us behind. Just one of those days. We had to battle to get all we could get.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 32nd: “We kept our track position just like we wanted to. We got stage points, and I felt like we had a top-eight or so car, which was a big difference from last year. Obviously we’re striving to be better everywhere. We had a really good streak going of really good runs. It looked like the No. 2 (Austin Cindric) just, for some reason, right-reared the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) and took both of us Chevy guys out, so that’s a bummer. We definitely had a top-10 car today.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 34th: “Our day kind of went bad early on, but our McDonald’s Camry was able to get through traffic pretty well, but as the track stated to cool off, it just started going away from us. It was starting to get frustrating out there for sure, to have a car that good, and it felt like it was just going away. I had a bad feeling that was coming soon. I was just getting ready to have to back off with how soft the brakes got, but I obviously should have been thinking about that a lap or two sooner.”

Carson Hocevar — Finished 36th: “I thought it was great. I had a blast. Just so thankful for the opportunity. I don’t have a job for next year. I know Al Niece and Cody Efaw wants me to run for them and I will forever run a race or however many. But man, I’m just so thankful that they gave me the opportunity – the opportunity to drive a Xfinity car and now driving a Cup car. I was running 16th.. just so surreal for the first time ever. I thought we were going to have a good day and be in a good spot for Schluter Systems, Celsius, Spire Motorsports, Ryan Sparks and the No. 7 Chevy team. Hopefully that call for a Cup ride isn’t the only one I get in my life.”

Cup results at WWT Raceway, driver points


Kyle Busch scored his third Cup victory of the season, winning Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway in overtime.

Busch is tied with William Byron for most victories this season. Busch and Byron have combined to win three of the last six Cup points races (two by Busch and one by Byron).

MORE: Cup race results at WWT Raceway

MORE: Cup driver standings after WWT Raceway

Denny Hamlin finished second. Joey Logano placed third. Kyle Larson overcame struggles early in the race to finish fourth. Martin Truex Jr. completed the top five.

Corey LaJoie finished 21st, driving the No. 9 for the suspended Chase Elliott.

Ryan Blaney placed sixth and took the points lead from Ross Chastain, who placed 22nd. Chastain fell to fifth in the standings.