Why clinch scenarios for Talladega mean nothing

Talladega racing is always unpredictable and the "big one" is always a possibility. (Getty Images)
Talladega racing is always unpredictable and the "big one" is always a possibility.  (Getty Images)
Talladega racing is always unpredictable and the “big one” is always a possibility. (Getty Images)

NASCAR released the clinch scenarios for Talladega Tuesday. It’s something they do time to time during the Chase.  For the race that sets the 16 driver field, to every third race, which sets the next round eliminating 4 drivers.

Many weeks during the Chase the clinch scenarios are pretty spot on.  Since the format switched to an elimination one, the only real surprise it seems as been Kevin Harvick, who has won his way forward and after winning at Kansas Speedway last week, remains the only driver under the new format to have made it through all the rounds. Jimmie Johnson, who won the race at Charlotte to open the Round of 12, is also secure.

Beyond those two drivers however,  no one is secure. That’s because the wild and unpredictable restrictor plate racing at Talladega does not lend itself to sedate fuel mileage racing with little passing.  No driver has ever led all the laps, and few have pulled off a Martin-Truex -Jr.-at- Charlotte-in-May, type of domination.

Driver’s know only one thing can ensure they will survive Talladega, winning there.

“The best place to be at Talladega, as everybody knows, is to try to be out front,” said Chase Elliott, the rookie driver who is 12 in the Chase standings. “That is hard to sustain for a long period of time in those races, but we’ve seen guys who have gotten good at it over the past few years. They make it happen and are able to control a race really well. I do think there is an art to it. There are obviously a lot of things you can’t control and running as close as we do there, that is a big factor, but I do think there is something that you can do better than others rather than just riding around and hoping for the best.”

One of those drivers who seem to be doing it better than others right now is Brad Keselowski.  He’s won two of the last four races at Talladega, including the race in May.

“I like Talladega,” Keselowski said after crashing out at Kansas last week and tumbling down the grid. “Talladega has been good to me and I am going to drive my butt off and at the end of the day I have faith that if it is meant to be it is meant to be. We can’t get down. There is a long way to go still.”

Perhaps no driver understands how much of a wildcard Talladega will be than 2015 champion Kyle Busch.

“You never can have any comfort and you do what you need to do in order to transfer through,” Busch said. “It’s all about the racing gods when it comes to the story of Talladega. I’ve been on both sides of it at Talladega in the first two years of this format. We’ve had a cushion before and been wrecked out, and we were on the outside looking in last year and were able to stay out of trouble and make it through to the next round.”

So at the end of the day, “clinch scenarios” are fun to look at. But when it comes to Talladega and the wild and unpredictable restrictor plate racing there, the only real way a driver can be assured he will avoid elimination is by winning.

“Clinch scenarios” were issued last year. There was a controversial ending and at least three drivers who seemed to be secure enough to avoid elimination, had awful days and were indeed eliminated.  A “big one”, the multicar crashes Talladega is famous for, could leave even the most secure driver with a DNF, and eliminated from the Chase.

Here than are the “clinch scenarios” for Talladega. Not that they matter much.

Note: Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have already clinched a spot in the Round of 8. With only one race remaining in this round, a new winner would be a win by Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski or Chase Elliott. A win by any other driver would be considered a repeat winner for the clinching requirements (so, Johnson/Harvick, or a non-Chase driver, or a driver ahead of Logano in points).

Matt Kenseth (0 Wins, 3074 Points) – Would clinch on points with 13 Points (28th and no laps led, 29th and led at least one lap, 30th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 11 Points (30th and no laps led, 31st and led at least one lap, 32nd and led most laps). With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Kyle Busch (0 Wins, 3072 Points) – Would clinch on points with 15 Points (26th and no laps led, 27th and led at least one lap, 28th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 14 Points (27th and no laps led, 28th and led at least one lap, 29th and led most laps). With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Carl Edwards (0 Wins, 3069 Points) – Would clinch on points with 18 Points (23rd and no laps led, 24th and led at least one lap, 25th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 16 Points (25th and no laps led, 26th and led at least one lap, 27th and led most laps). With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Kurt Busch (0 Wins, 3062 Points) – Would clinch on points with 25 Points (16th and no laps led, 17th and led at least one lap, 18th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 24 Points (17th and no laps led, 18th and led at least one lap, 19th and led most laps). With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Martin Truex Jr (0 Wins, 3058 Points) – Would clinch on points with 29 Points (12th and no laps led, 13th and led at least one lap, 14th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 28 Points (13th and no laps led, 14th and led at least one lap, 15th and led most laps). With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins.

Joey Logano (0 Wins, 3045 Points) – If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 41 Points (2nd and led most laps). With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help.

Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 3045 Points) – If there is a repeat winner,  would clinch on points with 41 Points (2nd and led most laps). With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help.

Denny Hamlin (0 Wins, 3039 Points) – With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with help.

Brad Keselowski (0 Wins, 3038 Points) – With a win,  would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with help.

Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 3020 Points) – With a win,  would clinch a

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