Who still has a chance?
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Nine drivers still have a mathematical chance at the Sprint Cup championship with two races remaining, but three find themselves on the cusp of elimination after Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. And Jimmie Johnson could win Sunday and still find himself removed from title consideration.
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman were mathematically eliminated at Texas. This week, it’s Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and even Johnson who find themselves in a situation where they cannot control their destiny.
NASCAR has not officially released elimination scenarios, but a review of points available and possible tie-breakers reveals these unofficial numbers:
If Carl Edwards finishes 34th or better — or Tony Stewart winds up 31st or better — Kurt Busch will be eliminated, even if he wins and receives the maximum number of points. If Carl Edwards finishes 28th or better — or Tony Stewart winds up 25st or better — Gordon is out, too.
Edwards can add Earnhardt to the elimination list with a 26th-place finish, or Stewart can do the same by finishing 23rd. And five-time champion Johnson could win Sunday but be eliminated from contention if Edwards winds up second.
The elimination scenarios for Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick are more complicated, and involve multiple variables too complicated to explain here.
Finally, there is a very slim chance Edwards could make the season finale a coronation. If he wins and Stewart finishes 43rd — and Keselowski, Kenseth and Harvick are all subsequently mathematically eliminated — Edwards would clinch the championship at Phoenix.