|Hamlin and Gordon finished 1-2 at Atlanta last season|
Labor Day Weekend traditionally marks the end of summer for vacationers and students. It similarly signals for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship contenders that it’s go or go-home time.
Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET ESPN, Performance Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Radio) is the next-to-final race before this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ field is set. Three spots in NASCAR’s postseason have been spoken for; nine remain.
Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth have qualified. Up to four competitors could join them late Sunday night although the focus remains on those drivers on the outside looking in – among them former NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon, ranked 11th through 13th.
Keselowski is four points out of the top 10. Positions nine through 13 are spanned by just 24 points.
Sam Hornish Jr. remains the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead with 10 races remaining in this year’s schedule. Hornish’s lead, however, is anything but comfortable – six points over Austin Dillon with 39 markers covering the current top five-ranked drivers.
None of the top five has been able to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which hosts Saturday night’s Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 (7:30 p.m. ET ESPN2).
Two milestones await NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams on Sunday. They’ll compete outside the borders of the continental United States for the first time. The Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park near Toronto marks the first series road race to be held in 13 years.
Four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., a three-time series road-race winner, is the only entered driver to compete in the most recent left-and-right-turn event held in June 2000 at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – ADVOCARE 500, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 7:30 P.M. ET ON ESPN
Bowyer, Kenseth Join Johnson In The Chase
Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth clinched top-10 and Wild Card berths, respectively, in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. As many as four more postseason spots could be locked up on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kenseth On Target To Claim No. 1 Chase Seeding
Should Matt Kenseth clinch a Chase top-10 position, his five victories – worth three points apiece when the standings reset – would make the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion the No. 1 seed when postseason competition begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Johnson Loses Momentum At Critical Point Of Campaign
With the Chase due to start in just three weeks, Jimmie Johnson no longer is the prohibitive favorite to capture a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title. Johnson’s 77-point lead of just two races ago has shrunk to 18 markers on finishes of 40th (engine failure) and 36th (accident).
Past Champions Facing Postseason Shutouts
Three NASCAR Sprint Cup champions find themselves on the outside looking in with the Chase just two races away. Reigning titleholder Brad Keselowski is 11th, four points out of the top 10. Kurt Busch is 12th (-6) and Jeff Gordon is 13th (-11). Each is without a victory.
More Movement In Chase Wild Card Battle
With the ascent of Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano to the top 10, the provisional Chase Wild Card picture has changed yet again. Martin Truex Jr. (14th) and Ryan Newman (15th) hold the winning hands this week. Newman’s only top-five finish at Atlanta came in March 2004, while Truex’s only top five came in last year’s AdvoCare 500.
Split Chase Owner/Driver Lineup Definitely Possible
A "split" driver/owner Chase Wild Card picture continues with Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 pursuing history as the first owner to qualify for the postseason without an eligible driver. The No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, driven by Martin Truex Jr., holds the second owner Chase Wild Card.