Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Field for NASCAR's Chase set for 10 weeks of aggression

RICHMOND, Va. — After seven months and 26 regular-season races, NASCAR has hit that part of the year that really matters. The start of the playoffs signifies a shift in attitude and aggression.

If there were any doubt of that, Kevin Harvick posted a warning about his mood for the next 10 weeks. It was a video of an angry bull charging into the grandstands.

And so the Sprint Cup's Chase for the Championship begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway with 16 drivers laser-focused on the big prize. It's 10 races, three rounds of elimination, and every man for himself.

So don't be surprised if tempers boil over, paint is traded on the track, angry words are exchanged. It has already started, to a degree. Tony Stewart has intentionally wrecked drivers in consecutive races, including Saturday night's regular-season finale with contact that officially ended Ryan Newman's shot, slim though it might have been, at making the Chase.

A frustrated Newman called his former boss "bipolar" and said Stewart had anger issues. Stewart was nonchalant, saying Newman had it coming after running into him three times during the Federated Auto Parts 400 on the 0.75-mile track.

"How many times does a guy get a free pass," Stewart told NBC after the race. "Three times? That's two more times than I normally let somebody run into me."

Smoke has a well-known temper, but the Chase and this format can bring out the worst in even the most mild-mannered drivers. Matt Kenseth tackled Brad Keselowski in a very un-Kenseth type attack in 2014, then earned a NASCAR suspension last year for an intentional crash that ruined Joey Logano's title chances.

Denny Hamlin, who won Saturday, said the jockeying for the final Chase spots led to some recent aggression. He also speculated the length of the season could be a contributor, especially for drivers not battling for the title.

As for the Chase drivers? When the field will be trimmed by four at the end of each round, Hamlin expects to see tense racing.

"As guys get eliminated, it could definitely ramp back up again," he said.

For some, like Chris Buescher, just getting into the 16-driver field was the prize.

Last year's Xfinity series champion made the Chase by winning a rain-shortened race at Pocono, but he doesn't want to settle for a "happy to be here" attitude.

"We look at this first round, and we want to make it past that round. We want to move through the Chase," Buescher said. "Then we can re-evaluate from there. If we can keep going farther and improve our program each and every weekend, that's always going to be what we're aiming to do."

Stewart is also assessing his final Chase appearance before he retires at the end of the year. He slumped his way into the 2011 Chase and said his team didn't even deserve a spot in the field.

Then he won the whole thing, his third NASCAR championship.

"Who knows what's going to happen?" he said Saturday. "All I care about right now is getting ready for Chicago. … This is a stressful 10 weeks and you take it one week at a time. That's what we did in '11, and it worked."

Sprint Cup points

Going into the 10-race Chase for the Championship.

Driver PointsBack

Brad Keselowski 2,012—

Kyle Busch 2,012—

Denny Hamlin 2,009 3

Kevin Harvick 2,006 6

Carl Edwards 2,006 6

Martin Truex 2,006 6

Matt Kenseth 2,006 6

Jimmie Johnson 2,006 6

Joey Logano 2,003 9

Kyle Larson 2,003 9

Tony Stewart 2,003 9

Kurt Busch 2,003 9

Chris Buescher 2,003 9

Chase Elliott 2,000 12

Austin Dillon 2,000 12

Jamie McMurray 2,000 12

Up next

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.

TV/radio: NBCSN; 102.5-FM

Field for NASCAR's Chase set for 10 weeks of aggression 09/11/16 [Last modified: Sunday, September 11, 2016 8:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida beats LSU, wins first College World Series title

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — Florida scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull away from LSU, and the Gators beat their SEC rival 6-1 Tuesday night to complete a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals for their first national title in baseball.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five after a run scores.
  2. As NCAA investigation continues, Baylor dances around sex-assault scandal

    College

    In 1996, Southern Baptist-affiliated Baylor University lifted its 151-year-old ban and allowed dancing on its Waco, Texas campus.

  3. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

    Blogs

    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  4. Rays journal: Alex Cobb brilliant, Alex Colome worrying in 10-inning victory (w/video)

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — RHP Alex Cobb couldn't have been much better for the Rays on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning while working eight solid. And Alex Colome couldn't have been much worse, blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb carries a no-hitter into the seventh and pitches eight shutout innings in his best outing of the season.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb continues to look better and better, which could make the decision whether to trade him tougher. Cobb had a no-hitter through six and threw his biggest pitch with a 1-0 lead in the seventh, getting Josh Bell to roll into a double play.