Following A.J. Allmendinger's win on Sunday at Watkins Glen, just four open slots remain for the Chase for the Sprint Cup with four races to go before the field is set for the 10-race playoff. A total of nine drivers who won a race last year have yet to win this season, including some highly talented drivers who will be fighting to claw their way into the Chase during the next four events which includes the Labor Day Weekend Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
A win by any driver who has not yet won in 2014 and is within the top 30 positions in the points standings earns a berth in the Chase. Three of the drivers who have won a race in 2014 are currently outside the top 16 in the points standings, further raising the sense of urgency for drivers to win a race and not rely on their position in the points standings to qualify.
"Winning races has unquestionably become critically important with the new Chase format. Drivers are facing the prospect of not making their way in — and having a chance to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship — despite being higher in points than other drivers who would get in ahead of them because they have a race victory," Atlanta Motor Speedway President & GM Ed Clark said. “An exciting all-or-nothing scenario is starting to build as Labor Day Weekend gets closer, and it can only get more exciting from here.”
If the Chase field were set this week, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer qualify for the Chase. Kenseth is third in the overall points standings and Newman is eighth. The 10th and 11th positions are filled out by Larson and Bowyer, respectively. That would mean that drivers failing to qualify for the Chase would include four drivers currently in the top 16 positions of the points standings — Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose.
If fewer than 16 drivers have a race victory following the next four races, the final Chase positions would be determined by the highest ranking drivers in the points standings yet to win a race. Because of this, the performance of any driver seeking a Chase berth will be more important than it has all season long, with a difference of one finishing position possibly determining who makes it into the Chase and who does not.
All of this builds drama as NASCAR continues to move toward the return of NASCAR night racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 29-31 with the Oral-B USA 500.
For more information on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Labor Day weekend of night racing, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.