The NASCAR “playoffs” are heating up! There is just one race left in the Challenger Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
“Freaky Fast” Kevin Harvick grabbed the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's AAA 400 at “the Monster Mile” (Dover International Speedway).
However, NASCAR Race Mom will be keeping her eyes glued to a pair of underdogs*; the two Double A drivers – Aric Almirola and A.J. Allmendinger.
|A.J. Allmendinger and Aric Almirola are still the underdogs for |
advancement to the Contender Round of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup series
Both drivers secured their Chase berth by virtue of a 2014 race win. Almirola qualified for the Chase by winning the rain-shortened Firecracker 400 in July at Daytona. Allmendinger’s win on the Watkins Glen road course in August, after a thrilling duel with Marcos Ambrose, landed him in the chase.
Talking about underdogs; these wins were the first Sprint Cup wins for each driver. They are also first-time entrants into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason.
For this weekend’s race, Almirola qualified twenty-first and Allmendinger will start just seven positions back. Unfortunately, AJ Allmendinger’s starting position of twenty-eighth is the worst of the Chase Challengers!
With a ranking of 10th after the opening two races, but with just a slight twelve points separating eighth place from sixteenth, Allmendinger will need another solid finish to make the cut.
Earlier this month Allmendinger reported, "We've just got to be perfect. We've just got to be at our best." He added, "I look at a race like Dover, depending on how the first two (races) have run, if we have to win it to stay in it, then you start taking some chances."
Almirola suffered engine failure in Chicagoland and finished a dismal forty-first. Although he still occupies the last place position in the chase points coming into Dover, he finished sixteenth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This respectable finish, coupled with bad luck for many of the chase challengers, is keeping Aric’s chase dreams tangible.
“I said all week the best thing we can do if we can’t win is we need to go and try to run top five,’’ Almirola said. “We ran sixth and we’ve got to try and put pressure on those other guys. We’re down, but we’re not out.’’
With this new chase format, where a win will automatically advance a driver to the next round, only one fact is a certain: both Aric and A.J. will have to achieve the abstract combination of luck and skill to avert the bottom four of the Chase Point Standing in order to advance to the Contender Round.
NASCAR Race Mom will be rooting for them both!
*Underdog is cartoon character Shoeshine Boy's heroic alter ego. He appears whenever Sweet Polly Purebred, Underdog’s love interest, is being victimized by villains.
**Track Stats: Since February of 2012, Almirola has an average Dover finish of 15.4 in five races. Allmendinger’s average finish at Dover is 21 in three races attempted.
Photo Credit: NASCAR Media Site.