By Stephanie Adair – During the final ten races, most of the focus shifts to the Chase and its contenders. The season is coming to a close and it all comes down to this year’s thirteen drivers battling for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. With so much attention on this group of drivers, what is a non-Chase driver to do?
They are still competing on track – isn’t their season finished? Not quite. These drivers will not be hoisting up the championship trophy after the last race at Homestead Miami Speedway, they are still contending for wins.
In the Chase, non-championship contenders don’t often clinch victories, but it still happens from time to time. The last driver to do this was Kasey Kahne, in 2011, at Phoenix International Raceway. Who might be the non-Chase driver to defy the odds and get a victory this year?
Here are four drivers to watch. While their stats aren’t stellar, they have been contenders at the end of some races earlier this year with one even making it to Victory Lane.
Brad Keselowski – starting in sixth position.
The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion missed the Chase this year. He is still a contender in races with seven top 5s. On the upcoming tracks, his best shot at getting his first victory this season rests at Dover International Speedway or Talladega Superspeedway. Last year at Dover, Keselowski won the Spring race. Talladega, on the other hand, is his best track where he has three top 5s and two wins.
Martin Truex Jr. – starting in tenth position.
After being involved in the controversy that unfolded after Richmond, Truex was taken out of the Chase replaced by Ryan Newman. Last week, fallout from the incident continued. His sponsor, NAPA Autoparts decided they would pull out from MWR after this season. With his current situation, the driver of the No. 56 might be more motivated than ever to win a race. With a win at Sonoma Raceway and six top 5s, can he clinch a second victory this season? It may come at Texas Motor Speedway. He finished second to Kyle Busch by about five tenths earlier this season.
Jamie McMurray – starting in seventh.
McMurray has quietly made notable finishes this season. Currently he has three top 5s, which includes a second place finish at Kentucky Speedway. His two other top 5 finishes were made in the past three starts. Charlotte Motor Speedway looks to be his strongest possibility at victory this year with two previous wins and five top 5s.
Juan Pablo Montoya – starting in 13th.
While Montoya may not be an obvious contender, his stats this year make him one to keep an eye on during these final races. Montoya has four top 5s this season. He came close to a victory earlier this year at Dover. Race leader Jimmie Johnson was black-flagged on the final restart, which gave Montoya the first place position. He was leading the field with Tony Stewart quickly approaching. With two laps to go, Stewart gained the lead and won the race. Coming back to Dover this week, can Montoya finally get his first win on an oval track in NASCAR before he leaves the sport to compete in IndyCar?
While it may be a challenge for a non-Chase driver to win one of the last eight races this season, it could potentially happen. Don’t be surprised if there is an unexpected winner in the next few weeks.
Stephanie Adair is a Popular Speed Development Journalist.