With two races remaining before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, let’s take a look at how the 16-driver field appears to be shaping up:
▪ Jimmie Johnson (4): He’s been inconsistent since winning at Dover in June. But he always seems to find his stride in the Chase.
▪ Kyle Busch (4): He worked his way safely into the top 30 (he’s 29th) with a tear that included four victories in a five-week stretch.
▪ Joey Logano (3): He won recently at Watkins Glen and Bristol (and was second at Kentucky and Indianapolis). He’s hitting a peak at the right time.
▪ Matt Kenseth (3): Engine problems doomed him at Bristol, but there’s no reason he won’t be a factor in the Chase.
▪ Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2): Like other Hendrick Motorsports drivers, he’s had trouble finding the right combination recently.
▪ Kevin Harvick (2): He’s finished second an astounding 10 times this season, including last week at Bristol.
▪ Kurt Busch (2): He was really hot during a four-race stretch this summer, with a victory (Michigan), runner-up (Sonoma) and two fifth-place finishes (Daytona, Pocono).
Single winners (4)
▪ Brad Keselowski: His only victory was at Fontana, but he has been consistently strong with seven consecutive top 10s.
▪ Martin Truex Jr.: He had one of the season’s more popular victories at Pocono, which was the third consecutive race he led the most laps.
▪ Carl Edwards: He contributed to a strong season at Joe Gibbs Racing Racing, winning Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600.
▪ Denny Hamlin: His Toyota has been getting stronger recently, with a second-place finish at Michigan and a third at Bristol.
In on points (5):
▪ Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer: They’re all inside the top 16 for now, but each would love a victory to cement themselves in the Chase. Bowyer has a 35-point lead over Aric Almirola, who is 17th on the grid. Of course, if somebody such as Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle or Austin Dillon wins in the next two races, at Darlington or Richmond, Bowyer or Gordon could be out.
On the grid
Sprint Cup Series is off this week.
This week’s races
▪ Road America 180: Xfinity Series, Elkhart Lake, Wis., 3 p.m. Saturday, NBCSN.
▪ Chevrolet Silverado 250: Camping World Truck Series, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, 1:30 p.m. Sunday, FS1.
▪ Grand Prix of Sonoma: IndyCar Series, Sonoma, Calif., 3 p.m. Sunday, NBCSN.
Worth mentioning: A low-drag aerodynamic package will be tested at Darlington, similar to the one used at Kentucky in July.
Who’s hot/who’s not
Joey Logano: Holding off Kevin Harvick at Bristol, Tenn., was one of the top performances of the season.
Kyle Busch: Seems as though he’s winning at least one race each week, whether it’s Cup, Xfinity or Truck. This time it was Bristol’s Xfinity race.
Ryan Blaney: Won Bristol Truck race — coming from a lap down to do it.
Michael Waltrip Racing: Tough times at this shop, which won’t run full time in 2016 and released Clint Bowyer. Then teammates Bowyer and David Ragan involved in same wreck at Bristol while both were in the top five.
Matt Kenseth: He had to leave Bristol early with broken engine.
Matt Crafton: Led Truck race at Bristol but was beaten on restart by Blaney before green-white-checkered finish and ended up seventh.