Eleven NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have a win in the 2014 season. Eight races remain before the Chase as NASCAR heads into Loudon, New Hampshire, for the Camping World RV Sales 301.
The Chase math is shrinking, getting skinny for those winless teams seeking a precious win to catapult their efforts this year. A win is almost essential to get into championship contention with the new Chase format.
If one win isn’t critical before Richmond, it certainly is treasured.
CEO and chairman of NASCAR, Brian France, shared his take on the new NSCS playoff format in Daytona recently.
“We can all see the benefits of changing the importance of winning,” France said. “It has changed the racing on the track. The drivers are telling us that. They’re taking different chances. They’re going for wins when they would have played it safe, otherwise.”
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 team joined the Chase contender list with his rain-shortened win at Daytona. Almirola is the 11th different NSCS driver to get at least one win. It’s likely only two or three more might join the winners list, as only twice in NASCAR history have 16 different drivers made it to Victory Lane in one season.
France commented on the competition.
“I think that is just going to get more intense as we close in on Richmond and set the field there,” he said.
The elimination format will benefit drivers who have one or two bad races during the Chase period. France explained.
“We didn’t want to have a bad race or two take somebody out early on in the Chase,” he said.
Five top drivers shared their thoughts before heading into action on the 1.058-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented on the importance of testing.
“We went to New Hampshire trying to find that little bit extra as a whole group,” Earnhardt said. “You only get four tests from which to choose, and the whole company has to agree. It says a lot that we chose New Hampshire as one of those tests.’’
Jeff Gordon looked forward to competitive action.
“Loudon has always been a good track for us,” Gordon said. “We’ve had some good cars and strong runs at Loudon recently, but that doesn’t make a weekend any easier. We still have to work hard from Friday morning through the end of the race on Sunday.”
Jimmie Johnson wasn’t the only driver with momentum to be thwarted by the copious wreckage at Daytona International Speedway last Sunday.
“We were disappointed with Daytona,” Johnson said. “We are looking forward to New Hampshire and then the off weekend. Everyone on this team works so hard, they deserve time off. I hope that we can head into the break with a good finish at Loudon.”
Kyle Busch was upside down in Daytona, but he is on top of requisites at the New Hampshire track.
“At Loudon, you’re looking at how good your fuel mileage is and when you have to make your last pit stop.” Busch said. “You end up running it almost like a road-course race. You want to be the first guy on the last round of pit stops to pit.”
Matt Kenseth is among drivers needing a big win soon. He analyzed Loudon.
“It’s just one of those tracks where you have to turn good in the corner and still be able to get off the corner,” Kenseth said. “It’s about keeping up your middle of the corner momentum the best you can, which is typical of any flat or short track.”
NASCAR Chase math will shrink, and the competition will get more intense as seven events occur before the final qualifying race in Richmond. “One win and you’re in” is probably the most important math for teams right now. One race awaits four finalists in NASCAR’s last event at Homestead, when the only math remaining then is to be leading the last lap to the checkered flag.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.