|12/03/15||The Champion By NHMS Numbers|
|11/20/15||The Championship Four Preview|
|11/13/15||Phoenix: Three To Watch|
|10/30/15||Martinsville: Three To Watch|
|10/18/15||Kansas: Three To Watch|
|10/05/15||Charlotte: Three To Watch|
Floating the Chase Bubble
Joey Logano's win this past weekend did nothing to clear up the Race for the Chase picture. In fact, that picture might as well be turned around and pointed at the wall. With three races left before the Chase begins, the only thing we really know for sure is that we don't know anything at all.
Jamie McMurray is in 16th in the standings, 41 points back of 10th place Greg Biffle and without a win. He won't make; he's the cut off. The 15 drivers above him all still have a realistic opportunity of making the Chase.
The top-6 have all but mathematically clinched a spot: Jimmie Johnson (who has clinched), Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. That leaves nine drivers left to vie for the final six spots.
Here's a look at those nine and a synopsis of how they will or won't make the Chase:
(The probabilities add up to 600% to account for the six spots available.)
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (679 points, 0 wins) - Junior isn't safe because he doesn't have a win to fall back on. He's currently 20 points up on 11th place Kasey Kahne, but it's much easier to fall several spots in one week than gain ground.
He'll make the Chase if: he continues points racing like he has done much of the season. He's been smart enough to take the finish he's been dealt and it would be a shock if he didn't make the Chase.
He'll miss the Chase if: he suffers a string of bad luck. He'll probably need two finishes of 20th or worse in two of the final three races to fall out.
Chase probability: 95%
8. Brad Keselowski (667 points, 0 wins) - Keselowski isn't on nearly as solid of footing as Earnhardt Jr. He hit a bad midseason slump and has only recently recovered. He's only eight points into the Chase right now, so he needs to close the regular season strong.
He'll make the Chase if: he races like the defending champ. En route to last year's Championship and at the start of this season, he strung together top-fives. He's been very good at Bristol, and a win there this weekend would all but assure him a spot.
He'll miss the Chase if: he records a DNF. The points are too tight around the 10th position for him to suffer a DNF.
Chase probability: 80%
9. Kurt Busch (665, 0 wins) - I might as well copy and paste what I wrote for Keselowski, as Busch is only two points different from the defending champ.
He'll make the Chase if: he puts up three consistent weeks. He only has 9 top-10s in 22 Atlanta starts and 8 top-10s in 25 Richmond starts, but he does have nine combined wins at the next three tracks (five at Bristol). Consistency has been lacking in the past at these venues, so he'll need to be on his game.
He'll miss the Chase if: he can't put up a top-five. He'll need one in the next three weeks to pull ahead of the pack that's chasing him.
Chase probability: 75%
10. Greg Biffle (663, 1 win) - The win is Biffle's saving grace. He's only four points up on Kahne for the final automatic spot, then he leads Martin Truex Jr. (one win) by 10 and Joey Logano (one win) by 17. He'd need to fall past all three to miss the Chase.
He'll make the Chase if: he holds serve. As mentioned, the win helps him a lot. He's averaged a top-10 every other race at both Bristol and Atlanta, and if he can finish around 10th in the next three races, he'll probably have done enough to get in.
He'll miss the Chase if: Richmond goes wrong. With only six top-10s in 22 starts at that track, it looms as a storm cloud to wash away his season.
Chase probability: 85%
11. Kasey Kahne (659 points, 2 wins) - He's the only driver on the bubble with two wins, which means that unless two other drivers on the list get to two wins, he's guaranteed a spot. His focus is not so much on making the Chase, but getting into the top-10 where his wins will give him bonus points entering the postseason.
He'll make the Chase if: he starts two of the next three races.
He'll miss the Chase if: pigs fly over Bristol and a unicorn sings the national anthem in Atlanta.
Chase probability: 99%
12. Martin Truex Jr. (653 points, 1 win) - He's in the second Wild Card spot right now, but Joey Logano is nipping at his heels only seven points back. Ryan Newman (17 points back) is also a threat.
He'll make the Chase if: he can improve on his track history. He has only seven top-10s in 44 starts at the next three tracks on the schedule. He's raced better than his stats the past two seasons and will need to do that be a sizable margin in the next month.
He'll miss the Chase if: he settles for finishes. He has only nine top-10s in 23 races, which is less than both Logano (12) and Newman (10). He's finished between 11th and 16th in four of the last five races and needs to be a tad better.
Chase probability: 60%
13. Joey Logano (646 points, 1 win) - The bad news is that he's seven points out, but the good news is that he's a heck of lot closer than he was a week ago, thanks to the Michigan win.
He'll make the Chase if: he stays out of trouble. Logano has three more top-10s than Truex this season and should be able to close seven points. "Should" being the keyword, as he's been his own worst enemy much of the season.
He'll miss the Chase if: (see above) he gets in his own way.
Chase probability: 61%
14. Jeff Gordon (637 points, 0 wins) - You needn't look farther than five DNFs to figure out where things went wrong for the No. 24 this season. Is it possible to make the Chase? Yes, but he's 26 points back of 10th and without a win, so it's not likely.
He'll make the Chase if: he wins two races. He has five wins at Bristol and five at Atlanta, so this isn't as ridiculous as it sounds.
He'll miss the Chase if: he plays out the string. He needs somewhat of a Hail Mary and anything short of that will come up short of the end zone.
Chase probability: 10%
15. Ryan Newman (636, 1 win) - The win keeps Newman in contention, but he needs to jump both Logano and Truex to make it. That's only a difference of 17 points, so he's not out of it, but he needs better fortune than his five DNFs have given him.
He'll make the Chase if: he wins. It's pretty simple: a win should be enough. That said, he only has one career win at the upcoming three tracks.
He'll miss the Chase if: he finishes outside the top-15. He needs three consistent weeks for a shot at the Chase.
Chase probability: 35%
The projected bubble standings look like this:
7. Earnhardt Jr.
10. Kurt Busch
11. Biffle (1)
12. Logano (1)
13. Truex Jr. (1)
14. Gordon (0)
15. Newman (1)