When word first trickled out about NASCAR’s new Chase format this season, fans and the motorsports media spent countless hours discussing all the possible implications and ramifications.
Now, we get to see them put into practice.
Here’s a refresher on how the new Chase format will unfold over the final 10 races of the Sprint Cup Series season:
• The 16 drivers in the Chase are seeded based on their number of wins in the first 26 races, with drivers receiving three points for each win. Ties are broken broken by number of second-place finishes, then thirds and fourths, etc.
• There will be three elimination rounds made up of three races each. A win by a driver in a round automatically advances him into the next round. The 16-driver field will be cut to 12 drivers after the third race; eight drivers after the sixth race; and four drivers after the ninth race. Slots in each round not filled by winners will be filled with the drivers remaining that are highest in points.
• The final four drivers enter the season finale at Homestead, Fla., with their points reset to zero. Whoever finishes the highest in the season finale is the series champion.
Here’s a glance at the 16 drivers who will compete for the 2014 Cup series championship:
Best finish: first (1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001)
He’s running like it’s 2001 all over again.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Best finish: third, 2013
Comment: Perhaps the best opportunity he’s had in his career to win his first championship.
Best finish: eighth, 2013
His performance is eerily similar to Brad Keselowski’s two seasons ago (which resulted in a championship).
Best finish: first, 2012
In better position than when he won the series championship in 2012.
Best finish: first (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013)
Not running well before the start of the Chase? We’ve seen this story before. In fact, last season, and it ended with a title.
Best finish: second (2008, 2011)
Even with Roush Fenway Racing’s struggles, Edwards has a chance to bring home a championship in his final year with the team.
Best finish: third (2010, 2011, 2013)
This team has been in a class by itself when it comes to raw speed this season.
Best finish: fourth, 2012
Looked like he would be odd man out at Hendrick Motorsports until his victory at Atlanta.
Best finish: fourth, 2013
Not the best summer for Busch with five straight finishes of 16th or worse.
Best finish: second, 2010
Struggled early in the year but he and Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have made big speed gains.
Best finish: first, 2004
His victory at Martinsville, Va., this season has pretty much been this team’s shining moment.
Best finish: 18th, 2003
Continues to make big strides at Richard Petty Motorsports.
Best finish: 15th, 2011
Too bad there’s not a road course in the Chase.
Best finish: first, 2003
Has the consistency this season. What he lacks is wins.
Best championship finish: sixth (2002, 2003, 2005)
Comment: His Richard Childress Racing team has steadily gotten better as the season has progressed.
Best championship finish: second, 2005
Comment: Just making the Chase is almost like a win for Biffle’s Roush Fenway Racing team this season.