Opportunity to slip into Chase field closing after Watkins Glen

At the second (and final) road course of the season, it became clear that The Race to The Chase was going to be a problematic road for some. Even worse, the ten-race playoffs won’t be a picnic, either.

Watkins Glen produced a fantastic race with a dramatic finish as expected. Kyle Busch held off a charging Brad Keselowski the entire last lap, getting revenge from what happened at the track a year ago. This is his third win this season, securing him a chance to go after the championship. If we look at what tracks are coming up (Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta, and Richmond), it’s easy to see that the no. 18 has multiple opportunities to head to Victory Lane.

I want to focus on tenth through fourteenth in the standings after this race, mainly because that’s where the biggest shakeup took place. First, let’s look at the point standings after The Glen:

Point standings after Watkins Glen

1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Clint Bowyer (-75)
3. Carl Edwards (-80)
4. Kevin Harvick (-101)
5. Kyle Busch (-115)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-138)
7. Matt Kenseth (-149)
8. Brad Keselowski (-174)
9. Greg Biffle (-181)
10. Martin Truex Jr. (-183) (1)
11. Kurt Busch (-185) (0)
12. Kasey Kahne (-186) (2)
13. Jeff Gordon (-198) (0)
14. Ryan Newman (-203) (1)

For better understanding of the situation, I put the number of wins next to each driver that I will be discussing.

The last time we were on a road course, Martin Truex Jr. shocked everyone with the win in Wine Country. Fast forward to Sunday, and he impressed yet again with a third-place finish. It would be great to see him contending for the title, but his problem? He isn’t consistent. He has to play defense, and I don’t think he does that well.

Kurt Busch is officially the Comeback Kid of 2013. The change I’ve seen within his method of racing and himself is remarkable. That Furniture Row Racing team has stepped up to the plate and worked wholeheartedly to give Busch cars he can win in, but the team has admitted they aren’t the best for his talents. That may make him wonder, “Should I move to a different team?” Uncertainty throws off focus, and he misses The Chase? A very possible scenario.

First last week, definitely not first this week, Kasey Kahne continues his up-and-down season after being wrecked with ten laps to go. As frustrating as this must be, the no. 5 team doesn’t let it faze them. They’re as resilient as it gets, but how long can that last? If they make it into The Chase, do they burn out?

This has been a rough year for Jeff Gordon, who’s failed to get a good rhythm going all year. While some believe it’s his age, I think it’s some discord between him and the team. However, rookie mistakes like the one he made at The Glen are quite puzzling. That whole conglomerate needs to sit down and find that motivation again.

Finally, it’s the 2013 Brickyard 400 winner, Ryan Newman. Being handed the pink slip looks good on the no. 39 team. It’s sparked something and pushed them to perform, something other teams are lacking. If he can keep it up, there’s nothing stopping him from becoming the number one free agent on the market. A championship wouldn’t hurt, either.

So, who makes it in, and who doesn’t make it at all? It’ll be a tough battle the next four races, but only the strongest will survive.

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