After falling from fourth to 29th on the final turn at Watkins Glen and a disappointing 24th-place effort at Bristol, Kyle Larson knew he would most likely have to win to get into the Chase, as he lost crucial ground in the points race.
He did exactly that on Sunday at Michigan, finally reaching victory lane in his 99th career Sprint Cup race.
As the 13th driver to win a race this season, the magic number is down to three in terms of drivers who can make the Chase on points. Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Jamie McMurray currently occupy these spots. Also keep in mind that Chris Buescher must stay in the top 30 in points in order to qualify. After a rough Sunday, he sits seven points ahead of David Ragan.
So it begs the question. Should guys like Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney, and Trevor Bayne be considered risky fantasy options as they will need to do whatever it takes to try grabbing a win to clinch their spot in the Chase?
In my opinion, the answer is “no”. Will teams take more risks than usual? Possibly. But this Sunday they head to Darlington, where a fair result is far from a guarantee for anyone. And anything can happen at Richmond in two weeks. Then there’s the fact that Chris Buescher is mired in a points race in his own right, so it’s still possible that four spots could be available to get in via points. No, teams on the outside looking in can’t bank on the misfortune of the guys they’re chasing, but teams can responsibly push the envelope while also making sure they don’t ruin their own season for good in the process.