The Grid Is Set For The 2015 Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cupby Hunter Thomas September 13, 2015 0 comments
Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
RICHMOND, Va. – The regular season is over for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, and now there are 10 races remaining to crown the 2015 series champion.
On Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, no driver raced their way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but the ones who were on the bubble all night breathed a huge sigh of relief once the checkered flag flew. The drivers who were mathematically locked into the Chase heading into the night were Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
Heading into the night, the final five spots were up for grabs. Jamie McMurray will make his first appearance in the Chase after just starting the Federated Auto Parts 400. He finished out the first 26 races with two top-five and seven top-10 finishes. McMurray will be seeded 12th.
“I’m thrilled to get to be a part of it,” McMurray said. “Our team has been super consistent this year. It’s been great. Matt McCall has done a phenomenal job coming in being a rookie crew chief. I’m super proud of him and our whole team.”
Jeff Gordon who is in his final fulltime season qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Saturday night. Gordon entered the night just 18 points ahead of Clint Bowyer who held the final transfer spot, so there was a little pressure throughout the night, but a seventh place finish solidified his spot in this year’s Chase. He’ll enter the Chase with three top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Gordon will be seeded 13th.
“I think Junior (Dale Earnhardt) is probably the best in our stable right now and he proved that again tonight, but we work hard together to try to improve for each of us, and if we continue to do that, we’ll make gains,” Gordon said. “There was a lot of pressure in this final season to make that Chase, so I’m glad we got that done.”
Ryan Newman finished runner-up in the standings last season, and thanks to a 20th place finish, he’ll compete in the Chase, once again. Newman will be seeded 14th with four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes.
“Well, we had to overcome a lot of adversity this year and just come back and have a better shot at it in the 26th race than we did last year,” Newman said. “It says a lot about our sponsors and our team. We haven’t performed the way that we need to.”
Newman’s Richard Childress Racing teammate, Paul Menard will make his first appearance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after finishing 26th on Saturday night. Although the finish wasn’t a strong one, Menard and his team got the job done. He’ll kick-off the Chase seeded 15th with two top-five and four top-10 finishes.
Justin (Alexander, crew chief) and I were just talking, we don’t know whether to be happy or sad, it was such a bad race for us,” Menard said. “Obviously very excited to be in the Chase. It was a goal that we set at the beginning of the year. Everybody at RCR and the 27 guys and ECR, they work hard. We’ve had a lot of good runs this year. Tonight just wasn’t one of them, but we did what we had to do.”
Filling out the final spot in this year’s Chase will be Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer. Earlier this season, the organization announced that they wouldn’t field a fulltime car next year, so that means Bowyer is looking for another ride, and more than 200 employees are looking for jobs. Although the team sits 16th in the Chase with only two top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, Saturday night’s 10th place performance at least guaranteed the team’s last hurrah will be Chase worthy.
“Relieved,” Bowyer said. “Obviously everybody knows the news, all the stories, all the stuff. But to be able to battle through that, all the people at the organization, just a great deal of thanks, to keep your head down, keep digging, got ourselves in the Chase.
“A big monumental thing for an organization to go through what we’re going through and to push through and get into the Chase, this is the best of the best, the elite of all of motorsports. MWR is once again part of it.”
The only driver who came close to racing his way into this year’s Chase was Richard Petty Motorsports’ Richard Petty. The team made it into last year’s Chase after winning at Daytona International Speedway, but this season, they came up just 17 points shy. The team had an incredible performance, finishing fourth, but at the end of the night, it just wasn’t enough.
Disappointed for sure,” Almirola said. “I drove my heart out tonight. All year long, really. I feel like we’ve certainly overachieved this year. Our cars just haven’t had the speed, and we’ve managed a way to get good results, and really proud of this race team. Really proud of all of our partners, Smithfield Foods, STP, Air Force, Ford Motor Company. Everybody has done so much to support us, and to come up short, it hurts. We were in it last year and we got a taste of what it was like to be in the Chase. This race team is a great race team and we wanted another shot at it, and we just came up short. Just wasn’t meant to be.”
The first race of the Chase will be the MyAFIBRish.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, September 20. Coverage for the event will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 3 p.m. ET.
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings:
1.) #48 Jimmie Johnson, 2012
2.) #18 Kyle Busch, 2012
3.) #20 Matt Kenseth, 2012
4.) #22 Joey Logano, 2009
5.) #4 Kevin Harvick, 2006
6.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2006
7.) #41 Kurt Busch, 2006
8.) #19 Carl Edwards, 2006
9.) #2 Brad Keselowski, 2003
10.) #78 Martin Truex Jr., 2003
11.) #11 Denny Hamlin, 2003
12.) #1 Jamie McMurray, 2000
13.) #24 Jeff Gordon, 2000
14.) #31 Ryan Newman, 2000
15.) #27 Paul Menard, 2000
16.) #15 Clint Bowyer, 2000