27 non-chase drivers will compete in each Chase race.
Now that the 26-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season is over, most of our focus turns to the Chase, and rightly so.
The Chase will determine which of the 16 drivers who earned berths in the 10-race playoff ultimately will claim the series championship.
But let’s not forget the other 27 drivers who will compete in each Chase race. History tells us that, in all likelihood, at least one of those drivers, maybe more, will win a race in the Chase. That in turn could influence which Chase drivers advance from one elimination round to the next.
Last year, three non-Chase drivers scored victories in the last 10 races, Jamie McMurray at Talladega, Denny Hamlin at Homestead and reigning series champion Brad Keselowski at Charlotte.
In 2006, Tony Stewart won three times in the final 10 after failing to make the Chase. Guess who’s not in the Chase this year?
Kyle Larson has been touted universally as the next likely first-time winner. He has 10 races to get it done. And don’t forget Clint Bowyer, who narrowly missed the Chase. Bowyer is a demon at New Hampshire, and he’s not bad at Talladega either.
So when you’re handicapping the next 10 races, resist the temptation to focus solely on the Chase drivers. Otherwise, you’re almost certain to miss a couple of winners.
Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service