If we determine who is an actual contender, versus being just a pretender race in and race out, based on an average 20th place result, our field would be reduced to 22. Add William Byron and Jamie McMurray to the bottom of our list, and that is all you need to be concerned about. 357 points in 21 races is the line between the haves and the have-nots, from the front to the back of the pack. Except for this race.
Watkins Glen forces you to expand that to the one guy who is averaging 21st each week, 16 points per race. He is the guy who is known for being a left and right expert. He is A.J. Allmendinger. The Dinger has one career win. It was at the Glen four years ago. He has a couple of Top Fives there, as well. Six Top Tens in nine attempts. This is where a nobody can become a somebody, and A.J. has made himself known before. While Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr. could just as likely win it, an Allmendinger win would truly mess up the plans of some others.
He wins on Sunday, and he jumps from 23rd on our charts to eighth, and a lock to be in the Chase. He wins, and Alex Bowman goes from nearly 60 points in, to more than 50 out, just by doing what he has been doing each week. Jimmie Johnson becomes the bubble boy and needing to step it on up just in case another of those outside the Top Sixteen in the standings gets some ideas about shaking up some bubbly of their own later this month.
It all depends on Allmendinger on Sunday. If he can shift from second to third, instead of down to second, he could be a contender. Let us just pretend that Sonoma did not happen.
1. KYLE BUSCH – 6 WINS (891 Pts)
He wins every five years at the Glen (2008, 2013), so will he continue the trend?
2. KEVIN HARVICK – 6 WINS (833 Pts)
Forget the penalty points hit after Pocono. He was never going to catch Rowdy in that department.
3. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 4 WINS (762 Pts)
Won it last year, so if you were wondering if the Big 3 might contend, you have your answer.
4. CLINT BOWYER – 2 WINS (677 Pts)
Fourth is the best the man from Emporia, Kansas has done in New York.
5. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN (690 Pts)
Top Tens in four of the last five runs there, including a win in 2015.
6. ERIK JONES – 1 WIN (533 Pts)
If Stanley comes aboard next season, will that give him the tools needed to win more?
7. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN (402 Pts)
Got his win back in February, so he is fine…at least, until the Chase begins.
8. KURT BUSCH – 677 POINTS
His teammate is Kevin Harvick. Last week, his wife’s teammate was the Duke of Sussex.
9. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 644 POINTS
Running Xfinity again this weekend. The bad news for him is, so is Christopher Bell.
10. KYLE LARSON – 626 POINTS
On Monday and Tuesday, joins Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne for the Osky Challenges in Iowa.
11. DENNY HAMLIN – 618 POINTS
Like all but seven others, he has no wins, but Sunday is one he has won before.
12. RYAN BLANEY – 612 POINTS
His uncle Dale is a six-time champion of the All Star Circuit of Champions.
13. ARIC ALMIROLA – 587 POINTS
Last week, he collided with Harvick in the pits, then upset Matt DiBenedetto battling for 25th.
14. CHASE ELLIOTT – 569 POINTS
The new face of Chevrolet. As of late, he might be the only face.
15. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 547 POINTS
Chevy does have a presence in the Chase, but most of that presence can be found down here.
16. ALEX BOWMAN – 496 POINTS
10th, 14th, 15th, and 16th are not going to sell a lot of cars Monday after the race Sunday.
17. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 440 POINTS
Bowman can take the weekend off and still be in the Chase…unless a certain someone wins.
18. PAUL MENARD – 440 POINTS
Make that, two certain someones.
19. RYAN NEWMAN – 408 POINTS
Okay, okay. Unless someone down here wins, Bowman is fine.
20. DANIEL SUAREZ – 400 POINTS
His gloves, and those of 35 others, might appear a bit familiar to fans of Dale, Jr.