Kathleen Cassidy

OPINION: Simplifying the Confusing New “Chase”


By Kathleen Cassidy

After nine weeks of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, fans have been able to see nearly all the rounds of the post-season play out. Within these rounds, we have seen exciting finishes, unexpected comebacks, and of course, a variety of fights.

The newly introduced Chase format has brought new light to the NASCAR community, as the intensity of racing has heated up.

Let’s recap the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase format and the intensity of the rounds by breaking down the format introduced this year.

NASCAR presented this new Chase as a way to switch things up. Unlike last year’s format, when drivers were locked into the post-season after the first 26 point races based on one's overall standing, this year took a new turn.

Drivers were able to lock themselves into the Chase by winning a race – easier said than done as we would soon find out. With 16 potential spots up for winners, all but two spots were clamed this season by those who took the checkered flag in the first 26 races. Leaving two additional spots open for those who ranked highest in points after the 26 point races. These 16 drivers then moved on to compete in four rounds of competition, which eventually leaves us with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

The Challenger Round

The first round, known as the Challenger Round, contained all 16 drivers, competing in the first 3 races of the 10 Chase events. These 3 races within this round included Chicagoland, New Hampshire, and Dover. The drivers for the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup included race winners Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger along with those highest in points like Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman. Drivers could advance into the next round with a win. However, the bottom four ranked drivers would be eliminated after these three races.

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon were able to lock themselves in to the second round by winning the Challenger Round races.  Meanwhile, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger and Greg Biffle were eliminated, leaving only 12 drivers to compete in the Contender Round.

The Contender Round

The Contender Round of 12 races were held at Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega. Tempers began to start flaring in this round as race fans were able to see the action they all love.  At Kansas, Joey Logano was able to pull off a convincing win. Kevin Harvick’s win at Charlotte was somewhat overshadowed by the feud involving Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth. Brad Keselowski won Talladega the following weekend in a truly remarkable comeback from his tough week at Charlotte.

Leading into the Eliminator Round of Eight, the teams of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Kasey Kahne saw their title hopes vanish. The eight remaining drivers again had three more races that separated them from the final round of NASCAR’s championship battle. The battlefields in this round were Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix. Martinsville and Texas treated recent Chase eliminated racers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson well, as they clinched the wins at each respective track. At Phoenix, it was do or die for the Chasers, as Kevin Harvick came out on top. 

It's onward to Homestead-Miami for four happy teams!

Homestead-Miami is the 10th and final race in the championship run and the 2014 season. This is the place where dreams turn into reality and hearts are forever broken - at least until the 2015 Daytona 500. With Keselowski, Gordon, Edwards, and Kenseth eliminated, only 4 drivers remain.

Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman have one race which they have to keep their eyes on the prize – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship that is. Whoever finishes highest in the final race at Miami will be our 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion.

 So who will it be? Joey Logano, who has five wins this season, the most of any Chase driver remaining, Kevin Harvick "The Closer," who has been consistent all year, Denny Hamlin, whose Chase has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, or the underdog no one expected in the form of Ryan Newman?

It all comes down to one race and at least 267 laps or 400 miles, all in the search for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion. May the best driver win!


Kathleen Cassidy, 19, is from Ontario, Canada, and a member of Michigan International Speedway’s Youth Fan Advisory. She’s attended races at the track for 11 years, and her favorite driver is Brad Keselowski.  

Cassidy is attending university majoring in sociology and communications, with a minor in marketing. She hopes to one day get a job in the NASCAR industry.  

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