Allen Lessels on Motor Sports: With Chase spots on the line, drivers are hungry
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup stars wrapped up their rain-delayed Fourth of July weekend stay in Daytona with a rain-shortened and topsy-turvy Coke Zero 400 on Sunday. Next stop: Loudon.
Fans in campers started checking in to New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s camping areas over the weekend, vendors are setting up shop at the track now, and the colorful Sprint Cup team haulers will be wheeling in for Thursday night’s FanFest that helps kick off Sprint Cup weekend.
The Camping World RV Sales 301 is set or Sunday at 1 p.m. — the Speedway announced on Monday that New England Patriot Julian Edelman will drive the pace car to start the race — offering drivers one more in a dwindling number of chances to secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
The rules have changed for Chase qualifying. This year, there are 16 slots available, and the top priority for securing spots is winning races. Aric Almirola survived a couple of crashes that took out several top contenders and won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona on Sunday in the No. 43 Ford of Richard Petty Motorsports to become the 11th different Cup winner this year.
Not so good for the rest of the field. Almirola was 23rd in points going into Daytona and likely grabbed one of the Cup spots.
What probably will happen is that there will not be 16 winners, every driver with a win will get in, and there will be a few spots open for drivers to get in on points.
The new format ups the ante on each race, especially a race that also appears later in the season on the Chase schedule.
If the Chase started this weekend, Matt Kenseth (fourth in points), Ryan Newman (eighth), Paul Menard (10th), Clint Bowyer (12th) and rookie Austin Dillon (13th ) all would make the Chase.
Should make for an exciting Sunday.
SUNDAY’S race concludes a busy weekend schedule.
Thursday’s free FanFest event gets things going. It runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m. outside the tunnel that goes into the track and includes the Cup hauler parade, an autograph session with K&N Pro Series East drivers and a Jimmy Lehoux concert at 8 p.m.