After Sunday, we know that Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have nothing to worry about heading to next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson won last week at Charlotte to secure a spot in the next round, while Harvick won Sunday at Kansas to secure his berth in the Round of 8. As he did last year, Harvick came into a Chase race needing a win to advance and did just that. Others were not so fortunate however and will need to win at Talladega or avoid issues in order to advance.
1. Jimmie Johnson 3082 (0). Johnson ran a smart race Sunday, avoiding trouble and coming home fourth. Even though he never led a lap, he looked strong enough at times to contend for victory. Johnson came into Kansas as the favorite, and leaves in that same position.
2. Matt Kenseth 3074 (0). Normally Kenseth lurks back in the field and comes on strong near the end. Sunday was the exact opposite. He started from pole, led a race high 116 laps but faded in the second half of the race in part due to contact with another car, coming home 9th. Kenseth is still well above the cut line and if he can keep his nose clean next Sunday should have no issues advancing to the next round.
3. Kyle Busch 3072 (0). Busch never led a lap Sunday. He did look strong, but admitted that he never had the long run speed to vie for the win. Busch finished fifth after racing as high as second at one point showing that he is still very much in contention.
4. Carl Edwards 3069 (+2). Edwards wanted to win at Kansas, the track he considers his home track. He looked very strong in the second half of the race, and led a total of 61 laps. His hopes for a hometown win were thwarted however on a late race restart and a race with his teammate Kyle Busch for second in the closing laps. If he can avoid trouble at Talladega, Edwards should not have any issues advancing to the next round, and it would be no surprise if he were in the final four at Homestead.
5. Kurt Busch 3062 (0). Busch had issues that started on Saturday. He crashed his primary car in the final practice and had to start in a backup at the rear of the field Sunday. He never gave up though, and despite not having the speed to get to the front, ended the day with a quiet 13th place finish.
6. Martin Truex Jr. 3058 (+1). Truex had mechanical issues, again, that kept him from contending for the win. A fuel problem forced him back in under green and left him deep in the field. He rallied to finish 11th, but will have to hope the pit road/mechanical issues that have plagued his team all season are gone moving forward.
7. Kevin Harvick 3048 (+5). As someone from Harvick’s sponsor, Outback Steakhouse would say, “Good on ya’ mate”. Harvick needed a win to advance, and that’s what he did Sunday. Now Harvick can go to Talladega with “No worries.”
8. Joey Logano 3045 (+3). Logano didn’t have the speed to contend for the win Sunday. He did lead two laps to pick up valuable bonus points, and he kept his nose clean. When the checkered flag fell, Logano was running third. Don’t count Logano out of the Chase just yet.
9. Austin Dillon 3039 (0). Dillon may not win the title this season, but he could come very close. He was nowhere near where he needed to be Sunday to have the speed to contend for the win. However, another smart pit call but Dillon in a position to come home sixth. If the equipment can meet the drivers talent, Dillon could be a contender, he just doesn’t have enough at the moment.
10. Denny Hamlin 3039 (-2). Hamlin had pit road penalties and an issue with his Toyota Sunday. The same things that have haunted the team all season. A meeting with Brad Keselowski late in the going didn’t help. Hamlin did get credit, and point, for leading a lap, but still finished 15th. Hamlin will need to avoid the pit road penalties, and hope for a miracle at Talladega, if he hopes to advance and contend for a title. Another day like Sunday however and Hamlin will be done.
11. Brad Keselowski 3038 (-7). If anyone is going to dig out of a deep hole, it’s Keselowski. He had a terrible day Sunday, misjudging his move in front of Denny Hamlin on lap 190 that ended in a crash, a 38th place finish and the first DNF for Penske Racing this season. Keselowski runs well at Talladega and few would be surprised if he won there, just as he did in May.
12. Chase Elliott 3020 (-2). Elliott has so much talent that it seems only a matter of time before he wins. At Charlotte he was swept up in a crash not of his own doing , and Sunday mechanical issues sent him deep in the field after he led four laps and looked to be a contender for the win. He struggled from that point, smacked the wall on a couple of occasions and finished 31st. There will be a race when everything will line up and Elliott will score his first win, and that could happen at Talladega. If he fails to advance however, this won’t be the last year Chase Elliott will be a Chase hopeful.