Sunday’s race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, dominated by fuel mileage, mistakes, and both Stewart Haas cars continued what has been a season of parity and added another contender to the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Ryan Newman’s victory made him the 13th different winner after 19 races this season and gave him a one spot boost in the points. Perhaps more importantly, it gave Newman a win, further strengthening his chances at a spot in the Chase.
Past the halfway point of the season and with just seven races to go until the Chase begins, who gets in is still very fluid. At the top, Carl Edwards retook the points lead from Kyle Busch after Busch cut down a tire early on, and Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch made up spots. At the bottom, Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost one spot to ninth, while David Ragan and Kasey Kahne picked up two and three spots respectively to 13th and 14th (Kahne and Greg Biffle each have 523 points). Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin both have 570 points in 10th and 11th.
With wins being the ticket to the Chase outside the top-ten, there are currently four drivers who fit the bill and have been to victory lane – David Ragan, Brad Keselowski, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne. Of those four, two have a realistic shot of making it into the requisite top-20.
The first of those two, David Ragan, is in good shape with his 13th place points position, but Brad Keselowski sits 23rd in the points – losing two spots this weekend. If Keselowski hopes to compete for a championship this year, he’s going to have to make up some ground – lucky for him there are only 95 points separating 23rd from 12th. With a good run over the next seven races that is certainly surmountable.
Competing with those two are the other chasers without a win, and those within the top-20 without a win. Considering the amount of parity there has been this season who makes it and who doesn’t is still wide open.
So what do you think? Who makes the Chase, who doesn’t? Feel free to sound off on the Championship Chase and the race at New Hampshire.