We’re just eight races into the season and two drivers living or working in The Herald Weekly’s coverage area have already qualified for playoff spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
NASCAR is putting more emphasis on wins than points this season. So if you win a race, you get into the Chase (unless more than 16 drivers win races, then we get into tiebreakers).
Here’s a recap of how hometown drivers are faring so far this season:
• Kyle Busch (No. 18) – Busch, who drives for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing, won March 23 at Auto Club Speedway. He ranks sixth in the standings after two top-five and four top-10 finishes. He also won the pole at Martinsville.
• Joey Logano (No. 22) – The Huntersville resident won April 6 at Texas Motor Speedway. He ranks eighth after four top-five finishes. Last year was the first time the 23-year-old qualified for the Chase.
• Matt Kenseth (No. 20) – Kenseth, who drives for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing, ranks second in the standings, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by one point. The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has two top-five and six top-10 finishes. He’s been hot the last four races.
• Brian Vickers (No. 55) – Vickers, who drives for Cornelius-based Michael Waltrip Racing, ranks 13th in the standings in his first full season since 2011. He has one top-five and three top-10 finishes.
• Kyle Larson (No. 42) – The Huntersville resident ranks 14th in the standings, but second behind Austin Dillon among rookies. His four top-10 finishes have come in the last five races. He came in second to Kyle Busch in the Auto Club race.
• Denny Hamlin (No. 11) – Hamlin, a Cornelius resident who drives for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing, won March 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway. He ranks 15th after one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
Other local drivers to watch: Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, AJ Allemendinger, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Reed Sorenson and Josh Wise.
Want to watch? After a one-week hiatus, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to FOX with the Toyota Owners 400 at 7 p.m. April 26 at Richmond International Speedway.