One week into the Eliminator Round and the Chase Grid has already seen a huge shakeup. Coincidentally, the winner of the first race was one who doesn't have a shot at the title, leaving the door wide open for the contenders.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one week too late by clinching his fourth win of the season at Martinsville, but he still gets to enjoy his first Grandfather Clock. Meanwhile, teammate Jeff Gordon finished second and sits atop the Chase standings.
Searching for the fifth title and first in the Chase format, Gordon has a host of strong drivers looking to take his place. None of the eligible drivers have a victory with two races left, which means different ramifications for the field.
Any of the eight drivers left have a chance to emerge into the top four, but the bottom racers need some help. Just two races remain before the final showdown in Homestead, so the pressure is on more than ever to perform.
Ahead of the pivotal race in Texas, here's a look at the standings, latest news and predictions for the top drivers.
|2014 Sprint Cup Chase Grid|
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
Race Information for the AAA Texas 500
Where: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas
Date: Sunday, Nov. 2
Start Time: 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Latest Team News
During the Chase, the majority of the focus will remain on the final eight drivers. Those final contenders have a lot to hope for even if they haven't won a race this season.
Had Gordon pulled out a win at Martinsville, there was a chance for just one racer to make it to the final four on points. Instead, there's still no guarantee for Gordon to make it, even if he remains consistent at Texas and Phoenix.
Alan Cavanna of NASCAR.com noted what the result at Martinsville means for the Chase:
Therefore, top drivers like Gordon, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski—who have a combined 15 wins—can still get in with a win.
Then there are the drivers who don't have a win this season but still have a chance. Neither Matt Kenseth nor Ryan Newman has a win, and now both have a much better opportunity to race for a championship in Miami.
Even if Kenseth has a chance to make it to the final race with title hopes, one driver might be looking to change that. Kevin Harvick, who was sent to the garage by Kenseth, had some harsh words for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, via NASCAR:
It will be a dogfight to the finish at both Texas and Phoenix, with at least two spots on the line without a win. Given the fact that several Chase drivers have recent success in the Lone Star State, the number of spots will likely stay the same.
Drivers to Watch
There was no backflip in April, but could we see one with a final-four spot on the line?
Carl Edwards has just 19 total races at Texas, but he has already won three events at the track. The last two events haven't gone as well for Edwards, finishing 14th and 37th, but he is typically a strong contender when he keeps a clean car.
Expectations for Edwards are at an all-time high heading into Texas, per NASCAR:
In his final season with Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards still has a great chance of making it to Homestead with a shot. Sitting at sixth in points right now, a win would clinch a spot with another race before the final.
He might be leaving the RFR garage after this year, but he might leave it with a great parting gift.
Predicted finish: Pushing contenders with late chance for a win.
Logano has been a revelation this season, and it should continue at Texas. Changing teams has been the best thing to happen for Sliced Bread at Texas after getting his first win earlier this season.
Since the switch to Team Penske, Logano has not finished outside of the top five in the last two years at the track. Holding off Gordon back in April, Logano referenced his confidence entering that race, per John Sturbin of NASCAR.com.
"We've been in contention every race this year to win, and I'm proud to be a part of that," Logano said. "I felt very confident about this race. For some reason, I told Todd, I said, 'We're going to win this week,' and I was mad when we didn't get the pole. But I felt like we had a car that could win today."
The Penske driver has rattled off four more wins since that point, including one in each Chase round. Don't expect Logano to slow down any at Texas as he hunts down that sixth victory and a spot in the last race of the season.
Predicted finish: Season sweep in Victory Lane.
Can a spoiler take place in the second race of the Eliminator Round as well?
A week after Earnhardt took the checkered flag at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson enters the Texas event tied for the most wins at the track. The pressure may be off after missing the previous cut in the Chase, but the Hendrick drivers appear to be out to prove a point.
Oh, and he hasn't finished outside of Victory Lane in November at Texas since 2011. That's two straight wins in the late race at the track, so the Hendrick driver will certainly be one to watch yet again Sunday.
Predicted finish: Top-five result while competing for a win.
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