As the 2015 season begins to draw to a close, we make some bold predictions about what will happen next in Nascar.
1. Clint Bowyer fails to qualify for Chase
Amid rumors that Michael Waltrip Racing will close its doors or merge with Chip-Ganassi at the end of the season, Clint Bowyer has been fighting mediocre runs to put himself in the last spot for the Chase. If the Chase were to begin tomorrow, Bowyer would be the 16th driver to qualify, sitting 50 points ahead of Aric Almirola for the final transfer spot. However, the Chase does not begin on Sunday–there are still 4 more races to go, and notable drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, and Kyle Larson are on the outside looking in. A win from any of them would knock Bowyer out of the Chase. Kasey Kahne in particular seems likely to challenge Clint. He’s performed very well at Michigan and Bristol–with those being the next two tracks on the schedule, don’t be surprised to see Kahne end his streak of bad luck and eke out a crucial win.
2. Kyle Busch gets knocked out in first round
Busch has been riding an incredible hot streak. In the 11 races since he returned to racing Busch has posted 4 wins, vaulting him into the top 30 in points and a guaranteed spot in the Chase. Although his run of dominance has been second only to Kevin Harvick’s season, Busch’s go-for-broke style of racing can have consequences. One small mechanical failure or accident in the first round of the Chase could see Kyle get knocked down all the way to the bottom of the grid. We’ve seen it happen before; in the 2008 season, Busch torched the field during the first 26 races before finishing 34th in the first Chase race at New Hampshire. He never recovered, winding up 10th in the standings. If Kyle experiences similar problems this time around, he could easily crash out without making an impact on the Chase.
3. Paul Menard makes the top 8
Paul Menard is famous for not being famous. The stoic Richard Childress Racing driver is known for showing up every week and posting a middling finish. He has just one victory to his name, a fuel mileage gamble in the 2011 Brickyard 400. and has never finished better than 16th in the points standings. Menard, however, is quietly performing well this year. Despite just 4 top 10’s on the season, he has 13 top 15’s and sits 11th in the points standings. Despite the new points format’s emphasis on winning, consistency is key for survival. If Menard can at the very least turn his top 15’s into top 10’s he could go very far in the Chase.
4. Gordon makes the top 4
Jeff Gordon’s final season hasn’t gone exactly as planned. After the 4-time champion’s strong run in 2014, he has struggled for consistency in 2015. Gordon sits 12th in the points standings. Mechanical problems and crashes have caused 3 finishes outside the top-40,leaving Gordon only 60 points ahead of the final Chase transfer spot. However, there is still room for improvement. Despite his bad luck,Gordon has recorded 12 top 10 finishes, the most of any driver outside the top 8 in points. When Gordon hasn’t suffered from bad luck, he’s been fairly competitive. If his crew can avoid costly mistakes and the 4-time champion can step up just a little in the Chase, Gordon may have enough left in the tank for one final run at a championship.