Now we know why they call it Silly Season. 16 drivers will make the Chase, and we already know that three who have done well enough thus far this season may not have done well enough to save their rides for next.
Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500, but Stewart-Haas has not yet picked up his option for next season. Even he does not know if they will or won’t. Kasey Kahne claimed Indianapolis, but Rick Hendrick will be replacing him with young William Byron next year. Matt Kenseth holds down the final place for the moment, but Joe Gibbs is bringing Erik Jones back to the mother ship to take that ride.
Usually we are interested in the winners. This week, other than for Joey Logano, past winners mean nothing. A new winner, or Logano, could really have an impact on who makes it and who might not. Wins have all but locked up 13 positions. Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and Kenseth hold down the next three, separated by just 11 points. Three positions, three drivers. Good for them, unless someone behind them in the standings wins and turns this into a game of musical chairs, with one of those chairs removed.
Anyone within the top 33 in the rankings still has a mathematical shot. Even Aric Almirola, who missed seven races due to injury but remains within the Top 30 and thus eligible for the free pass a non-encumbered win would give him. Matt DiBenedetto, Cole Whitt, and Landon Cassill are close enough that an unlikely win could spring them into eligibility.
Michigan might not be the most exciting venue to watch a race, but the result could be very interesting.
1. MARTIN TRUEX, JR – 4 WINS (881 Pts)
Truex and girlfriend Sherry Pollex have given us the season’s most compelling story.
2. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 3 WINS (574 Pts)
The King, the Intimidator, and Jimmie…all seven time champions.
3. KYLE LARSON – 2 WINS (759 Pts)
After back-to-back runner up finishes, has been outside the Top 20 in his last three attempts.
4. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2 WINS (681 Pts)
Left a nice note to Truex for the win. Not sure if he left a nice note to Rowdy after the bus stop.
5. RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. – 2 WINS (486 Pts)
Nobody is talking about his sponsorship disappearing and, this season, that is saying something.
6. KYLE BUSCH – 1 WIN (765 Pts)
M&M’s are good. Any sponsor sticking around is very, very good.
7. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN (746 Pts)
Figures some of NASCAR’s problems stem from its most popular not being its most successful.
8. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN (687 Pts)
As of mid-Wednesday afternoon, we were still waiting.
9. RYAN BLANEY – 1 WIN (565 Pts)
Moving from Wood Brothers to Penske, and the world is his oyster.
10. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (528 Pts)
Not everyone has such a smooth transition going from this year to next.
11. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN (503 Pts)
Ryan should know what that is like.
12. KASEY KAHNE – 1 WIN (437 Pts)
Despite Indianapolis, his future in the Cup series could depend on what he does to November.
13. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN (406 Pts)
Meanwhile, some others have job security.
14. CHASE ELLIOTT – 648 POINTS
With the exception of a seven-time champion, Hendrick turns it all over to the kids in 2018.
15. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 643 POINTS
Has finished in the Top Twenty is all but three. In this race, Jamie has become the turtle.
16. MATT KENSETH – 637 POINTS
If he gets the results, others do not get the wins, all he would need is a damn ride for next season.
17. CLINT BOWYER – 609 POINTS
Clint is not wishing Chase, Jamie, or Matt any ill fortune…but if it happens…
18. JOEY LOGANO – 542 POINTS (1 Win)
You could say that encumbered win is something of an encumberment.
19. DANIEL SUAREZ – 508 POINTS
Third last week means nothing, but could it be a harbinger of what is to come?
20. ERIK JONES – 477 POINTS
Crew Chief Chris Gale gets two race vacation, but $50,000 fine might keep him close to home.
Then we have the Not So Hot, all who can be in with a win…
21. TREVOR BAYNE – 408 POINTS
22. PAUL MENARD – 383 POINTS
23. DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – 379 POINTS
24. TY DILLON – 378 POINTS
25. MICHAEL MCDOWELL – 351 POINTS
26. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 349 POINTS
27. CHRIS BUESCHER – 346 POINTS
28. DANICA PATRICK – 325 POINTS
29. DAVID RAGAN – 276 POINTS
30. ARIC ALMIROLA – 242 POINTS
31. MATT DIBENEDETTO – 242 POINTS
32. COLE WHITT – 229 POINTS
33. LANDON CASSILL – 227 POINTS