Not one but four contenders in the Chase for the Sprint Cup are in peril of elimination after meeting the wall at Kansas Speedway yesterday.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup is NASCAR's version of a championship consisting of four rounds. Sixteen drivers are initially chosen as contenders based on wins (or points, if there aren't more than sixteen race winners) during the regular season. The first three rounds (Challenger, Contender, then Eliminator) consist of three races each. Points are assigned to where a driver is finished.
After each round, the four lowest-scoring drivers are dropped from contention in the Chase. The points for the remaining drivers in the Chase are reset to be an equal amount for everyone, giving all the drivers an even playing field before the race begins.
The last round of the Chase is the single-race championship where a winner is chosen. In other words, think of the Chase as playoffs for car racing.
Joey Logano ultimately won the Hollywood Casino 400, but it's who's buried in the results that everyone can't quit talking about:
- Jimmie Johnson: Six-time Sprint Cup champion
- Brad Keselowski: Driver at the top of the points after the previous Challenger Round of the Chase
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: 11-time Most Popular Driver in Sprint Cup
- Kasey Kahne: Johnson's and Earnhardt's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports
All four had significant smacks to the wall that caused a lousy finish at Kansas, the first round of the Contender Round of the Chase. Points for the Chase reset after every three races, meaning that one bad result is near-disastrous. Kahne, Keselowski, Earnhardt, Jr., and Johnson (in that order) now sit at the bottom of the Chase standings.
Only eight of the twelve drivers in the Chase will make it on to the next round, meaning that unless they have a decent finish in the next two rounds at Charlotte and Talledega, they're done.
How did they end up so low in the standings? Let's take a look.
Jimmie Johnson was sent into the wall by Greg Biffle, who then smacked into Josh Wise and Justin Allgaier on the way out. Johnson finished 40th at Kansas.
Brad Keselowski was running in fifth place until a blown right front tire sent him into the wall at Turn 2. He dropped down to a 36th place finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car merely blew a tire, perhaps from hitting debris near the top of the oval. "The whole cap came off - it must've been a recap," joked Earnhardt, Jr. Earnhardt, Jr., finished 39th.
Kasey Kahne suffered a fate similar to Dale's: a blown tire. Kahne finished the best of the imperiled bunch at 22nd, but certainly didn't do anything to improve Hendrick Motorsports' day.
While hopes for a Sprint Cup aren't completely gone for these four, they're going to have to finish well in the next two races to get back out of the elimination zone and move on to the next Eliminator Round.
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