With only one race to go before the Chase starts, the 16-driver field is basically locked in. Sixteenth-place Clint Bowyer has a 92 percent chance of making it. Kasey Kahne has a 4 percent chance of making it.
Most likely the only way we are going to see somebody break into the group is by winning at Richmond. That would knock a winless driver in the final transfer spot out of the Chase – a position Bowyer currently holds. There is a chance that Bowyer could actually pass Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, or Ryan Newman in the points standings – thus protecting Bowyer in the case there is a first-time winner. If it seems a new winner is likely, look for those four to be battling extra hard. That’s why they are all in the 90s, but not at 100 percent. Each has a tiny shot of losing out.
As far as first-time winners go, it’s likely Bowyer himself could be the guy. Eighteen of the last 20 Richmond races were won by drivers currently locked into the Chase. The other two races were won by Bowyer.
Here are the scenarios for drivers to clinch a spot in the Chase, but there is only a 12 percent chance that anything will change.
Think about that – there is only a 12 percent chance that any change to the 16 driver field will happen at Richmond. Instead of focusing on the bubble, it might be better to focus on the drivers who can actually contend for the championship.
Right now, Kevin Harvick is at the top of that list – with a 24 percent title chance. He’s followed by Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the only other drivers over 10 percent. They are also the four drivers with the highest chance of getting past the first Chase cutoff – each with at least an 87 percent chance. For title purposes, Kyle Busch is right in there at 9 percent. He’s clinched a Chase spot despite missing 11 races. It seems like he could have missed 12 (or even more!) races and still made the Chase.
In some ways, Richmond is going to be the ultimate throwback race. Points racing matters little – and a win will get you in. It should be a fun one Saturday night. Just focus on who is running up front – for the guys back in the pack, we’ll talk about you next year!
Eric Chemi runs data journalism for our sister network CNBC, including a heavy dose of sports analytics. Prior to that, his NASCAR analytics have been part of television broadcasts, and he has consulted for Sprint Cup teams on strategy, statistics, data, and analytics. He graduated with an engineering degree from MIT.
Chad Knaus to move off pit box for executive role at Hendrick
Chad Knaus, whose success as a crew chief is nearly unparalleled in NASCAR, will step down from that role after this season and move into a leadership position at Hendrick Motorsports, the team announced Tuesday.
Knaus will become vice president of competition. He will oversee technical development for Hendrick Motorsports, including implantation of the Next Gen car in 2022. He also will be responsible for personnel for each of the four teams, including crew chiefs, pit crews, engineering, fabrication, assembly and other team-related staff.
Knaus won seven championships as Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief. Only Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman won more titles. Inman won eight, scoring seven with Richard Petty and one with Terry Labonte. Knaus has 82 career Cup wins. All but one came with Johnson. William Byron scored his first career Cup win in August at Daytona with Knaus as his crew chief. Byron was eliminated from the playoffs last weekend. The 49-year-old Knaus is the only crew chief to have competed in NASCAR’s postseason all 17 years.
“When I started at Hendrick Motorsports (in 1993) working for Ray Evernham, my goal was to be a crew chief,” Knaus said in a statement from the team. “Starting at a young age, I wanted to win every race we entered and battle for every championship.
“Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has given me the chance to do exactly that, and I could not be more thankful to him. After all these years, my competitive desire has not changed at all, but now I have a family that deserves my attention. This new executive role will allow me to compete in a different way with all four of our teams while spending more time with my wife and two young children.
“I appreciate the company supporting my decision, and I’m truly excited about the challenge ahead of me to help us grow and win. I’m also looking forward to working closely with Jeff (Andrews), who I admire and have great respect for. I owe so much to Mr. Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, and I’m ready for the next chapter.”
A new crew chief for Byron will be announced at a later date.
“In life, it’s rare to witness true excellence first-hand, but that’s precisely what we’ve been treated to with Chad,” Hendrick said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is bittersweet because, in my opinion, he is the finest crew chief our sport has ever seen.
“Although we’re going to miss him atop the pit box, I’m heartened that Chad has made this decision for himself and his growing family and that he is energized about the opportunity to move us forward in a new capacity. There is no one with higher standards or a stronger passion for winning. He will continue to elevate Hendrick Motorsports and instill his championship mentality throughout the company.”
Knaus served two races as crew chief for Casey Atwood in 2000 and then did one race for Stacy Compton that season. In 2001, Knaus was paired with Compton. Knaus rejoined Hendrick Motorsports to be Johnson’s crew chief in 2002. They remained together until 2019 when Knaus moved to Byron’s team.
Knaus will report to Andrews, 55, who has been promoted to executive vice president and general manager, effective immediately.
Andrews joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 and most recently served as vice president of competition. He had held that role since 2017.
Previously, Andrews held a leadership position in the team’s engine department, including director of engine operations. In his expanded role, Andrews will oversee all competition-related departments, including powertrain, manufacturing and racing operations. He will continue to support the organization’s technical relationship with Chevrolet and remain its primary liaison with NASCAR’s competition group. Andrews reports to Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson.
“In my almost 29-year NASCAR career, I’ve been fortunate to work for just one organization,” Andrews said in a statement from the team. “Mr. Hendrick is a racer and a fierce competitor. His drive to win is contagious, and I’m grateful to have a team of like-minded people who share that passion. Racing is all I have ever done professionally. When I left my home and my family 33 years ago to pursue this dream, I never could have imagined the opportunities that have been provided by so many people, most importantly Mr. Hendrick.”
Said Hendrick in a statement: “As we look to the years ahead, Jeff and Chad are going to play significant roles in our success. They’re tremendous leaders who are respected within our organization and across the entire auto racing world. In addition, they each bring unique strengths and skillsets that will complement each other extremely well and benefit all of Hendrick Motorsports. We’re in the business of winning, and this combination is going to help us do just that.”
NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas