Drivers jockeying for spots
Ryan Blaney has the edge in the race for the final spot in NASCAR’s championship. Four other drivers are right are behind him at Phoenix Raceway.
AVONDALE, ARIZ. — There’s no denying the rapid changing of the guard in NASCAR, and this year’s playoffs proved how quickly the young new drivers can make their way in this sport.
Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson claimed four of the 16 playoff positions — a glimpse of the future of NASCAR.
Blaney and Elliott are the only two drivers still in the playoffs, and the two are among five drivers racing Sunday at Phoenix Raceway for one spot in next week’s championship
deciding finale. Blaney will start from the pole , and Elliott will start fourth.
Their competition? Seven-time and defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson , 2012 champion Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, probably the most successful active driver without a title.
A win Sunday by any of the five earns them an automatic berth into the finale at HomesteadMiami Speedway. Already qualified for the title race are 2015 champion Kyle Busch, 2014 champion Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., the most dominant driver this season. Blaney is ready to roll. “I don’t really feel a lot of pressure in any situation,” he said after winning the pole. He also noted that by points, he’s not currently eligible for the fourth spot. Should none of the contenders win at Phoenix, the final spot at Homestead will go to the highest-ranked driver, and that is currently Keselowski.
Chase Elliott, right, talks to a crew member in the garage during a practice session for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3 in Fort Worth, Texas.