Once Kevin Harvick takes the green flag in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, he will become the fourth driver to clinch a spot into the Round of 12. That leaves eight spots for 12 drivers open and one race to determine who moves on or not.
Currently, 19 points separate Kyle Larson in seventh to Jimmie Johnson in 14th. With a blanket over those eight drivers, two of which likely won’t make it to the next round.
Erik Jones (-21) and Denny Hamlin (-29) are likely in win or go home situations. But, they and some others are in precarious positions.
Do you go for those much needed stage points or position yourself just to win?
We’ve seen how wild stage racing goes on road course races. A lot of drivers give up stage points and hit pit road towards the end the stage in order to get track position to begin the next stage.
Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Harvick don’t have to worry about points. With them being the top four drivers this season, there’s a good chance that they’ll just go for the win on Sunday.
What about Jones and Hamlin?
They need stage points but at one point do they give that up and go for the win? They’re not too far out in points as two stage wins net 20 additional points. Say some drivers don’t go for stage points but these two do. They can close that gap considerably. But, does that hurt them in the end if they don’t win?
See their problem?
Others are in the same boat. They can’t afford to give up points but they also can’t afford to be mid pack to start stages off and risk getting caught up in a crash.
That’s why Sunday will be a game of chess and why these crew chiefs make the big bucks and why the drivers make big bucks to avoid carnages too.