Ain’t Easy: Contender Round Poses Tough Task
With NASCAR’s home to history as a backdrop, members of the Contender Round discussed the perils that face them over the next three weeks.
Brad Keselowski, who finished the recently completed Challenger Round first in points, described this upcoming round thusly: “You look at this round, the Contender Round with Kansas, and you've got Talladega at the end. … Two of the three races are as much of a wild card as you can get in NASCAR racing these days. I think when we get all said and done, and it comes to Homestead and the champion’s crown, whoever wins it will have earned it.”
This was Contender Media Day, a two-hour program held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to set up the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The three tracks that will test the versatility of all 12 Contenders: Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
Hosted by ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi, drivers still in contention for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship recapped the thrilling Challenger Round and looked ahead to the 12-driver three-race Contender Round which starts Sunday at Kansas (2 p.m. ET on ESPN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Wednesday’s media day, streamed live on NASCAR.com, was the first of its kind under the revamped Chase format. Starting this season, the Chase is broken down into four rounds. After each of the first three rounds – each consisting of three races – four drivers are eliminated, setting up a four-driver finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The first to the finish line among the remaining four contenders at Homestead will win the title.
And speaking of Miami, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship race just got bigger. Announced today during Contender Media Day, country music superstar Jason Aldean will perform a pre-race concert in the infield prior to the start of the race (Sunday, Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The elephant in the room during today’s media sessions: Talladega Superspeedway, now a cut-off race. Always a wild card in the previous 10 editions of the Chase, it is even more so under this revamped format.
“It will be interesting to see how Talladega plays out from the guys that have a good lead going into the last race, whether they're going to maybe try to hang back,” said Denny Hamlin. “Then you'll have a group that's going to want to be aggressive and lead laps, so it will be very interesting to see how the final Chase cutoff race for this round plays out.”