The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase ended round one of the Championship Chase with the running of the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. The race was won by former Cup Champion Jeff Gordon. His win helped seal the fate of several Chase drivers. All were hoping a miracle win would send them to the next round.
The drivers eliminated from the original sixteen driver field were AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola. All four missed the mark during the first three races of the Chase in the Challenger Round. A near-perfect performance at Dover, and hopefully a win at the track known as the Monster Mile, would have helped them advance but it was not in the cards.
Kurt Busch said that in his case the lap times killed their chances. Busch joined Stewart-Hass racing last season and hoped for a better showing in the Championship run.
“You can’t run 15th every week expecting to advance. That’s just where we got caught. The lap times that we’re running aren’t top-five lap times to continue to push for a championship. We can run for pride. These next seven weeks are learning and building and trying to get all we can.”
AJ Allmendinger drove his No. 47 car hard during a road race earlier in the season at Watkins Glen and made it into the Championship Chase. It was the best outing for JTG Daugherty Racing in the small team’s history. Even though his team was considered an underdog the driver felt that the organization made great strides in the right direction.
Despite his best efforts the final race a Dover proved to be too much for the driver as the car never seemed to come around. It was a defeat that Allmendinger felt was frustrating but admitted that his team’s accomplishments this season were something to be proud of.
"I said at the beginning of the Chase, no matter what happened in the Chase we've got to be proud of what we accomplished," he said. "To win a race our first year together as a small single-car team, it's a big deal. Honestly, it's disappointing to not move on, but we've got to look at is as we have seven races to go and the way this Chase format works, we could still get as high as fifth in the points. So, it's not the end-all, it doesn't mean the season's over.”
Allmendinger put on a good face after the Dover race but the frustration of the day was evident when he spoke about his feelings on a “moral victory.”
“It was an awful day. … I’m not going to take a moral victory out of it to miss it by two points,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but we know we are making steps in the right direction.”
NASCAR is moving on as four drivers have been eliminated from Cup Championship eligibility. The points are re-set and the remaining twelve drivers will head to Kansas Speedway next weekend. The Kansas Hollywood Casino 400 race weekend signals part two of the chase with three races.
After Kansas the series moves to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500. The third race in the Contender round will be at Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500. The remaining eligible Chase drivers are Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and Kasey Kahne.