NASCAR's regular season is half over with 13 races down and 13 more to go before the 2015 Chase field is set.
36 races make up the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar, but unlike most other major forms of motorsport, NASCAR teams don't care about that season finale just yet. Until September, it's all about Race 26 at Richmond - The final race before the 16-driver championship field is set.
13 races through the year and halfway in the so-called 'Race to Make the Chase,' there are already nine drivers who have punched their ticket for the postseason with victories - All of which were also part of last year's Chase field.
Now unless there are at least eight new winners over the next 13 races (unlikely), then every driver who has won a race so far is guaranteed a place within the Chase field. There were only three new drivers in Victory Lane in the final 13 races of 2014's regular season.
Winners after 13 races
Jimmie Johnson - Hendrick Motorsports - 4 wins
Kevin Harvick - Stewart-Haas Racing - 2 wins
Joey Logano - Team Penske - 1 win
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Hendrick Motorsports - 1 win
Brad Keselowski - Team Penske - 1 win
Matt Kenseth - Joe Gibbs Racing - 1 win
Denny Hamlin - Joe Gibbs Racing - 1 win
Kurt Busch - Stewart-Haas Racing - 1 win
Carl Edwards - Joe Gibbs Racing - 1 win
The remaining seven positions are currently being held by those highest drivers in the point standings who have yet to win a race. Those seven after Dover are Martin Truex Jr. (2nd), Jamie McMurray (7th), Kasey Kahne (8th), Jeff Gordon (9th), Aric Almirola (10th), Paul Menard (12th), and Ryan Newman (13th).
If any driver inside the top 30 in points were to win over the next three months, they would instantaneously join that aforementioned group of nine. At this point in 2014, only one driver outside the top 20 went on to make the Chase and that was Kurt Busch, who was 27th.
The curious case of Kyle Busch
One competitor sitting in a very unique situation is Kyle Busch. After missing the first 11 events due to leg injures suffered in the season-opening Xfinity race at Daytona, he has returned. NASCAR officials granted him a waiver, meaning that if he can reach 30th place in the championship and win by the time the checkered flag flies at Richmond, he can be part of the Chase.
Busch started off his comeback with 11th and 36th place finishes, now sitting 40th in the standings. He needs to gain 168 points on 30th over the next 13 races and manage to win at least one of them in order to join his three JGR teammates in the Chase. It's quite a daunting task with only 48 points up for grabs in any given Sprint Cup event.
Whitt, Bayne and Allgaier (currently 29th - 31st) are averaging roughly 16 points per race in 2014. If that pattern persists, then Busch would have earn at least 13 points more than them each race in order to even have a shot. Fifteenth place earns a driver 29 points, so if Busch can win one of the next 13, finish well inside the top 15 week after week and those around 30th continue to run around the same positions they've been all year, then the No. 18 might just make the cut.
No doubt, it's going to be an uphill climb, but he's got a chance.