The Chase Grid means when things get closer to the end, the pressure goes up. It doesn’t matter if a win is already in the bank, or if the quest to get that first win is still there. It also means the intensity to get that win, or even to be in position to win, goes up.
It came to a head at Kansas.
The most dominant car of the entire race, the No. 20 of Matt Kenseth, did everything to keep his closest competition behind him. As the laps clicked away, Joey Logano began closing, and closing, and finally made it to the bumper. Try as he might, he couldn’t get around. Kenseth cut off his line, his momentum, and his attempts to get around. With traffic ahead, Logano was still trying to get around, and made contact.
The contact ended, then began again, and around went the yellow and black Toyota. Gone was a victory, gone was a good points day, and gone was a chance to not have to go into the final race of the round in a must-win situation.
Logano, meanwhile, made the Contender Round the one where he is the most dominant. Two races, two victories. No one has swept an entire round of the Chase, not since the grid design was introduced, but now the opportunity is there.
In all of that, with Kenseth getting spun out, it cost one writer a possible victory. It’s another week of it being good points days in the pool, but all are still craving that win. Here’s where we now stand after the Hollywood Casino 400:
Dustin Parks (3084) Jimmie Johnson finished 3rd – 3
Misan Akuya (3068) Martin Truex Jr. finished 15th – 2
Rob Tiongson (3054) Martin Truex Jr. finished 15th – 4
Sal Sigala Jr. (3045) Kyle Busch finished 5th – 3
Kara Martin (3040) Jeff Gordon finished 10th – 2
Patti Rodisch (3038) Matt Kenseth finished 14th – 4
Mary Jo Buchanan (3035) Carl Edwards finished 8th – 1
Ashley McCubbin (3032) Kevin Harvick finished 16th – 1
Rob Blount (2115) NO PICK SENT – 2
Klarissa Mitchell (2112) Jeff Gordon finished 10th – 0
Next Race: Through five races in the Chase, no writer has found victory lane. The probability of that happening is one that is very rare. Then again, when the next track comes up on the schedule, the probability of any one of the 43 drivers is highly possible. The reason why is because right away, every car, every driver, and every team is on an even playing field.
The true wild card race looms, and it has become a big deal when someone wins here, whether it is a Chase driver or someone outside the top-12.
Aerodynamics become extremely critical, because the restrictor plates mean the draft plays a key role. It’s the biggest, the baddest, and the absolutely most evil track on the circuit, one where anything can, has, and often will happen. This…is…Talladega.
To those in the pool, two writers will be taken out at the conclusion of next weekend’s race. Pick carefully, because the most unlikely winner could come next weekend. That being said, have your picks locked in by Thursday, October 22, at 10 p.m. ET for the CampingWorld.com 500.