By earning first place in the Geico 500 at Talladega on Sunday, 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski secured his place in the Eliminator Round of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Matt Kenseth took second place in the action-packed race, with Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, and Ryan Newman taking third, fourth and fifth places respectively. Drivers who will not be progressing into the next phase of the championship include Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Brian Vickers was in pole position at the start of a race that saw a number of changes in the lead, ending the race in 20th position. Johnson needed a win to avoid elimination, but although he did well in parts of the race, ended in 24th position. As green flag pit stops began at Lap 103, Kyle Busch was caught up in a wreck at the back of the field, sending him into the pits. He made it back to the track, picking up 4 points, but ending in 40th place.
At one point Danica Patrick was in the lead, but when a caution came out with only 13 laps remaining, Ryan Newman took the lead and held it until another caution flag came out with only five laps to go. As the race came to an end, Earnhardt got caught up in a wreck, and Keselowski took the lead in overtime, holding back the rest of the field for the final three laps and winning the Talladega race.
The eight drivers competing in the Eliminator Round – Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth – will have their point totals reset to 4,000, while the abovementioned four will have their point totals reset to 2,000 with points gained in the regular season and the Chase being added. The Eliminator Round starts with Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, followed by the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, and the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9. The final Championship race will be the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16.
After proving his talent as a driver in open-wheel racing, AJ Allmendinger is making his mark in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. As the full-time driver of the #47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty, Allmendinger took the checkered flag in the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen on Sunday – his first Sprint Cup victory and a qualifier for the Chase for the Sprint Cup under the current NASCAR rules. Allmendinger was very closely followed by Marcos Ambrose in the #9 Ford, with Kurt Busch (#41 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (#42 Chevrolet) and Carl Edwards (#99 Ford) in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.
After failing a random drug test in July 2012, resulting in a three-month suspension and the terminating of his contract by Penske Racing, Allmendinger’s NASCAR career looked uncertain. Upon completing the Road to Recovery program in line with NASCAR’s requirements, Allmendinger was reinstated in September 2012 and in October he filled in for Regan Smith at Phoenix Racing, with his first race being at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In the 2013 he drove the #51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing on a limited schedule and competed in some IndyCar Races. Through the rest of the season he drove alternately for JTG Daugherty Racing and Phoenix Racing. In August it was reported that he would be JTG Daugherty’s full time driver in 2014.
There are only four races remaining until the Chase for the Sprint Cup – Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway; Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway; Oral B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway; and Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
The current top ten in the standings are:
Dale Earnhardt Jr (773 points) Hendrik Motorsports
Jeff Gordon (769 points) Hendrick Motorsports
Matt Kenseth (703 points) Joe Gibbs Racing
Brad Keselowski (696 points) Team Penske
Joey Logano (671 points) Team Penske
Carl Edwards (658 points) Roush Fenway Racing
Jimmie Johnson (650 points) Hendrick Motorsports
Kevin Harvick (645 points) Stewart-Haas Racing
Ryan Newman (645 points) Richard Childress Racing
Kyle Larson (635 points) Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates