With the completion of the 59th Annual Federated Auto Parts 400, the field for 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set. While the 400-lap, regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway was action-packed with some drama in between, the top 16 playoff standings didn’t see a real shake up.
Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray held on to the bottom three spots on points while Chris Buescher avoided adversity on the track to finish 24th, good enough to maintain the 13th position entering the next 10 weeks of competition.
However, there were some who were not so lucky.
Ryan Blaney started the night within striking distance in the 19th spot in the Chase standings. Unfortunately, the driver of the No. 21 SKF Ford went out of the running early when he was involved in an accident at lap 12 with Trevor Bayne, another driver within earshot of the Chase top 20.
“I don’t really know what happened to be honest with you. I thought I was clear. It looked like we were clear and could get down,” Blaney said in a Ford Racing transcript after the incident. “The No. 6 got us in the left rear pretty good and it eventually cut our rear tire down. I don’t know. I have to see it but I thought I was clear and he didn’t think the same way. It is an unfortunate race deal. I definitely thought we were clear. They were telling me we were clear. Apparently the 6 just came up and got us in the rear. It was probably a stubborn headed thing by both of us. I should know better than that. It is unfortunate that we didn’t get to run to see where our car was going to go. That is the most unfortunate part about this. We didn’t even give ourselves a shot at it. That is something I will have regret about.”
As a result, Blaney fell out of the Chase standings. His team worked to get him back out on the track but it took 100 laps to do so. He eventually finished 39th.
“The goal was just like every week, to win the race. That would have gotten us in,” Blaney said. “We had some bad stuff happen really early and that made for a long night for sure. There could have been some more give on my side and the other party’s side but it didn’t happen like that and unfortunately it ended with us cutting our tire. It is one of those things that you hope doesn’t happen but sometimes they do.”
Bayne finished 14th at Richmond and moved up to the 19th spot in the Chase standings. Although the driver of the No. 6 Advocare Ford driver has made some gains this season with Roush Fenway Racing, the effort was still not enough to get into the playoffs.
“We tried. You have to go for it every way you can,” Bayne said, also in a Ford Racing advance. “The cool box went out on like lap 20 so that was a long night of melting down inside the car. We had a fast race car but it didn’t play out strategy wise like we needed it to. I am really proud of my guys and the car they brought this weekend. It was a car that if it was put in the right situation could have won the race. We had a really good long run car tonight but it didn’t matter tonight because there were so many short runs it just killed us.”
Ryan Newman came in ranked 17th and needed to make a big splash in order to move into the top 16. The No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet driver’s chances went out the door on Lap 363 when he got involved in a multi-car accident with the No. 14 of Tony Stewart.
“I think it was pretty obvious watching the video. I don’t even have to watch it,” Newman said in a Team Chevy release. “The No. 14 cut across my nose into Turn 1 and I got into him after that, but he’d already chopped into me and messed up my line and I clipped him a little bit coming off of (Turn) 2; but he just cut across my nose. Going down the back straightaway there, I guess he thought he was in a Sprint Car again; did not know how to control his anger. We’ll keep fighting like we always do. It’s just unfortunate not to end the way we wanted to. I’m fine I just got Tony Stewarted.”
Kasey Kahne earned a top-six finish in Saturday night’s race but it wasn’t enough to get the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet driver into championship contention.
“We got up there because of the right pit call,” Kahne told NBC. “We got tires at the right time and got by those guys and when they pitted, they were too far behind us to get us back. I think we were in fourth at best and we ended up sixth with that final restart. It was a good effort by our Farmers Insurance team, just not good enough.”
Although Kahne fell short of the playoffs, he and the other drivers will still contend for race wins throughout the next 10 weeks.
“The team’s doing a nice job. We just have to keep going from there,” Kahne said. “Our whole deal these last 10 races is to get consistency and keep running in the top 10 and work on winning races but we haven’t been anywhere close to that this year. We’ve been (finished) like a 13th to 18th and we want to be in the top 10 or top five. We need to keep pushing forward on that.”
AJ Allmendinger ended the regular season 20th in the playoff standings, 93 points away from the 16th spot. Despite getting involved in an on-track incident, that is also the position the driver of the No. 47 Kroger/Scott Products Chevrolet finished at Richmond.