Analysis: The final race to make the Chase

Four positions are still up for grabs in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Analysis: The final race to make the Chase
Race start
Race action
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Winner Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet pole winner
Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
A.J. Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet, Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Casey Mears, Germain Racing Chevrolet

With just one event — Richmond International Raceway — to decide which drivers transfer into the playoffs — who has the best shot of moving on afterSaturday night? 

Here’s how the top candidates line up:

Chris Buescher

He has a win, but must remain in the top 30 in points to be eligible. Buescher, 30th in the standings, is currently 11 points ahead of 31st-place David Ragan and needs 34 points to guarantee he stays there. The Roush Development driver can lock himself in automatically with a seventh-place finish and no laps led, eighth-place finish and one lap led or ninth-place finish and most laps led.  As long as Buescher remains in the top 30, only three Chase positions will be open.

Buescher finished 34th in his Cup debut at RIR but posted three top 10 in five Xfinity starts. 

Chase Elliott 

He is the driver highest in the Sprint Cup standings without a win. He’s currently 10th in the standings, 312 points ahead of 31st-place David Ragan. Elliott needs to earn 24 points to clinch. The driver of the No. 24 Chevy can accomplish that by finishing 17th with no laps led, 18th and leading one lap or 19th and leading the most laps. If one of the 13 winning drivers repeats, a new winner emerges or Buescher falls out of the top 30, Elliott locks in with a finish of 39th or higher — with no laps led —25th and leading one lap or 26th and leading the most laps. If there’s a repeat winner or Buescher drops out of the top 30, it doesn’t matter where Elliott finishes. Then again, if Elliott wins, he’s in. 

Elliott has two Cup starts at RIR and an average finish of 14th. He’s completed every lap in both races. The former Xinfity Champ also completed every lap in NXS competition with one win and four top fives in as many starts.

Austin Dillon

He is 12th in the Cup standings with a 304-point advantage over 31st-place Ragan. Dillon clinches by earning 33 points or finishing eighth and no laps led, ninth and leading one lap, 10th and leading most laps. With a repeat winner, a new winner, a win by Chase Elliott and Buescher falls out of the top 30, Dillon needs 11 points to clinch: 30th and no laps led, 31st and one lap led, 32nd and most laps led. Dillon clinches with a win or regardless of where he finishes if there is a repeat winner and Buescher falls out of the top 30. 

Dillon has five Cup starts at RIR. His best finish was 20th twice. In eight NXS starts, the former Xfinity Champ has one top-five finish and five top-10 finishes. 

Jamie McMurray 

He is currently 13th in the standings, 295-points ahead of Ragan. Newman’s misfortunes expanded McMurray’s cushion. Instead of a six-point advantage, McMurray must remain 21 points ahead of Newman and hope that someone outside of the top 12 doesn’t win. Obviously, McMurray makes his second trip to the Chase if he wins. He’s also guaranteed a spot if Buescher drops out of the top 30 and one of the current 13 winners repeats or if Elliott or Dillon win as long as he finishes 21st with no laps led, 22nd and leads a lap or 23rd and leads the most laps.

In 27 Cup starts at RIR, McMurray has three top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 20.1.

Ryan Newman 

He remains 14th in the Sprint Cup point standings despite his car failing the Laser Inspection Station at Darlington Speedway and being docked 15 points on Wednesday. Newman is currently 273 points ahead of 31st-place Ragan and can still clinch a Chase spot should he win at Richmond. However, if there is a new winner, Newman must score 22 more points than McMurray, 32 more points than Dillon and 40 more points than Elliott. With a repeat winner — or if Elliott, Dillon or McMurray wins and Buescher drops from the Top 30, Newman still needs 20 points to clinch (21st-place finish with no laps led, 22nd-place finish with one lap led or a 23rd-place finish with most laps led).

Newman has one win and one pole in 29 starts at RIR. He’s led 454 laps while posting six top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. Newman’s best career track average (11.7) is at Richmond.

Kasey Kahne 

He is currently 13th in the standings and 251 points ahead of Ragan. Kahne’s entry into the playoffs is assured with a win. He’ll transfer into the Chase if there is a repeat winner, a win by Elliott, Dillon or McMurray, Buescher slips out of the Top 30 and he finishes 22 points (or 23 depending on a tie-breaker) ahead of Ryan Newman.

Kahne won from the pole at Richmond in 2005. In 25 starts, he’s posted five top fives, nine top 10 and led 281 laps 

Win and you’re in:

Ryan Blaney (17th in the standings, 226 points ahead of 31st)

AJ Allmendinger (18th in the standings, 215 points ahead of 31st)

Trevor Bayne (19th in the standings 212 points ahead of 31st)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr (20th in the standings, 204 points ahead of 31st)

Greg Biffle (21st in the standings, 130 points ahead of 31st)

Paul Menard (22nd in the standings,132 points ahead of 31st)

Danica Patrick (23rd in the standings, 120 points ahead of 31st)

Aric Almirola (25th in the standings, 84 points ahead of 31st)

Clint Bowyer (26th in the standings, 80 points ahead of 31st)

Casey Mears (28th in the standings, 63 points ahead of 31st)

Landon Cassill (29th in the standings, 21 points ahead of 31st)

Win and move into the top 30:

David Ragan (31st in the standings, 11 points behind Buescher)

Regan Smith (32nd in the standings, 28 points behind Buescher) 

shares
comments
Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick trade crew members
Previous article

Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick trade crew members

Next article

Gayle tapped as Erik Jones' crew chief for rookie Cup season

Gayle tapped as Erik Jones' crew chief for rookie Cup season
Load comments
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021