Matt Kenseth doesn’t have to win and he’s still in.
But he’s the only driver locked in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup who is guaranteed to make the 16-driver field without visiting Victory Lane.
With 13 different winners this season and only Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway left before the start of the Chase, Kenseth has accumulated enough points to make the field on points alone.
Kasey Kahne’s win at Atlanta leaves just two other berths up for grabs at Richmond.
There are still four drivers (other than Kenseth) who could make the field based only on points – Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and rookie Kyle Larson.
Anyone else in the Top 30 of the series standings will need a victory at Richmond to secure a spot in the Chase.
Of the four drivers who could get in on points, Newman is in the best position.
If there is a repeat 2014 winner (or a Kenseth victory), Newman is guaranteed a spot in the Chase if he finishes 41st or better; or 42nd with at least one lap led; or 43rd and the most laps led.
If there is a new winner (not Kenseth), Newman is guaranteed a Chase spot with a finish of 18th or better; 19th and at least one lap led; or 20th and the most laps led.
Biffle controls his own destiny if there is a repeat winner. If there is, (or if Kenseth or Newman win), Biffle is guaranteed a spot in the Chase if he finishes 22nd or better; or 23rd with at least one lap led; or 24th and the most laps led.
If there is a new winner (not Kenseth or Newman), Biffle needs to best Newman by 19 points and also stay ahead of Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson.
“If (Kahne) wouldn’t have won (last weekend), we would have been close to getting locked in with the way all the points shook out,” Biffle said. “I don’t think we would have been able to lose two spots, but it is what it is.
“We’ve got to race as hard as we can. We know if one of those guys behind us wins next week it bumps us out, so we’ll run as hard as we can.”
Larson, who ran strong at Atlanta and finished eighth, had mixed feelings about Kahne’s unexpected victory.
“A Top‑10 is not bad, but it doesn’t really matter anymore because Kasey won,” Larson said. “So happy for Kasey, but that pretty much ends our Chase hopes, unless we win.”