If you thought the wild card field was muddled with four drivers between 11th and 20th sitting on a win apiece, what do you think about it now?
With seven races to go before the Chase field is set, Kasey Kahne now has two wins. That leaves Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano (for now) in line for the final wild card spot, just 12 points apart.
Because of the gap between 10th place Brad Keselowski and 11th place Carl Edwards (46 points), the wild-card drivers are likely to come from the drivers currently 11th-20th in the points standings. (In other words, it's unlikely anyone currently inside the top 10 will fall out.) Will it be two of the four drivers with at least a win? Or will it include someone else like Edwards or Jeff Gordon?
Kasey Kahne (2 wins, 12th place, -66 points from 10th): If you take away Kahne's crashes at Michigan and Pocono, his lowest finish since blowing an engine at Martinsville 13 races ago is 14th. And that 14th-place finish is his only finish outside the top 10 during that span when he's been running at the end. Kahne's only real weakness on the tracks remaining before the Chase begins is at Watkins Glen, where he doesn't have any top 10s. However, with the way he's rolling, another win or two isn't farfetched. Chase chances: 75%
Kyle Busch (1 win, 13th place, -68): We all know he's capable of reeling off consecutive victories at any track over the next seven races. But here's the thing: With the way that his season's gone, he's also proved that it's prone to have engine failure in three consecutive races. Pit-road troubles befell Busch at Loudon when a bad pit stop coupled with a speeding penalty on the first round of pit stops ruined his day. But he started on the pole and had one of the fastest cars on the track. Based on his record at Bristol (5 wins) and Richmond (4 wins), he's still strongly in the mix. But over the last seven races, he hasn't finished higher than 10th. Chase chances: 40%
Ryan Newman (1 win, 14th place, -77): Does anyone really know what to make of Newman? He's stayed around the top 10 by consistently finishing in the top half of the field, but hasn't really challenged for a win. And let's be honest, his win at Martinsville was just a tad fluky. Without it, Newman is likely an afterthought in the Chase discussion. He does have wins at Michigan and Richmond, but they were in 2004 and 2003. His best bet may be to outpoint Busch and hope he doesn't win again. Chase chances: 20%
Joey Logano (1 win, 16th place, -80): Newman's arch-enemy is legitimately in the Chase discussion for the first time in his career. But like Newman, where would you say that Logano has a very good chance of winning before the Chase? He's led 51 laps all year: 2 in the Daytona 500 and 49 in his win at Pocono. But there is still a race remaining at Pocono. If he doesn't repeat there, he's probably going to have to go on the Newman plan. Hope they'll be OK with each other on the same strategy. Chase chances: 20%
Carl Edwards (0 wins, 11th place, -46): If it hasn't been said enough, we'll say it one more time: The time is now for Carl Edwards. He's been on the precipice of being able to sneak into the top 10 without the virtue of a win, but with the way he's been running and the gap between he and Keselowski, his Chase chances rest on his ability to get to victory lane. Given his domination until a restart penalty at Richmond earlier in the year, Edwards going for a win and a Chase berth with a great car could give us some high drama there in September. Chase chances: 10%
Jeff Gordon (0 wins, 17th place, -89): Much like Edwards, the time has been now for Gordon for a while now. Is he capable of two wins in seven races? Yes. Will it happen? Probably not. But we've seen what Kahne's done shaking off the bad luck bug and Gordon's due for some good karma. That, coupled with fast race cars? Well, his chances aren't dead... yet. Chase chances: 10%
Paul Menard (0 wins, 15th place, -79): Menard is the highest ranking driver outside the top 10 without a top five. That speaks to his ability to avoid devastating finishes but not to his ability to win a race or two to get a wild-card berth. But hey, we're heading to Indy, where he won last year on fuel mileage. Never say never, but we're not optimistic. Chase chances: 4%
Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola (0 wins, 18th-22nd): If all the drivers ahead were sitting on one win, Watkins Glen could play a pivotal role for Ambrose and Montoya. However, given their points position, a win doesn't do them much good. Burton's two top fives have come at restrictor plate tracks. McMurray and Almirola don't have any top fives. Collective Chase chances: 1%
Who you got? Let us know below.
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- Kasey Kahne
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- Jeff Gordon