With the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup “regular season” already past the halfway point. For fans, the drama is only beginning. For those on the Chase bubble, stress and anxiety will only increase with each passing week.
For three-time winner Kyle Busch and points leader Kevin Harvick, breathing comes a little easier knowing they’re going to compete for another championship. For surprisingly successful rookie Chase Elliott, there’s enough of a cushion that only a drastic change in fortune will keep him from making NASCAR’s playoffs.
Not every driver is in such an enviable position. For the following drivers and teams, there will be some tense times ahead.
Roush Fenway Racing: While the organization has improved over 2015, Roush Fenway is still a step or two (at least) behind the other big teams. None of their three drivers, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. or Greg Biffle would qualify for the Chase if we were heading to Chicago. Of the three, Bayne is the closest in 18th spot, only 19 points removed from the final Chase spot (currently held by fellow Ford driver Ryan Blaney) while Biffle is nearly 100 points back. There was some excitement in the Roush Fenway camp during the Sprint Showdown, but they are still lacking performance during the regular season.
Clint Bowyer: Everyone knew that 2016 would be a lame duck season for Bowyer at HScott Motorsports. Still, everyone was expecting more out of Bowyer. He has struggled throughout the season, with only two finishes in the Top 10 and has failed to finish on the lead lap in eight of his 15 starts. Currently 23rd in points, Clint’s only hope seems to be an unlikely win.
Danica Patrick: Coming into 2016, Patrick’s performance was once again under a microscope. Could this be the year she put up the numbers that allowed her to live up to the hype? The stats say “No.” Her average finish (23.5) is only slightly better than her average start (26.8) and certainly not enough to she can make up the 99 points that stand between her and Blaney. A win seems unlikely for her as well, as she has yet to record a top-10 finish.
Richard Childress Racing: This might be a surprise, seeing that RCR currently has two drivers (Austin Dillon – 12th and Ryan Newman – 15th) who would make the Chase on points if the postseason began today. However, neither driver has been making too much noise with their performance (Dillon’s third-place Talladega finish notwithstanding). With Kasey Kahne just outside the cut-off point (11 points behind Blaney) and with Hendrick resources behind him, expect him to dislodge one of RCR’s potential Chase contenders before Richmond.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.