With 10 races remaining until the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins, the field is starting to take shape with several drivers looking for a win to lock themselves into the hunt.
NASCAR changed the format for the 2014 championship Chase with drivers securing a victory almost assured of a starting spot in the 16-team field. The remaining positions will be determined by season points.
Eleven drivers have recorded at least one victory to date as the series heads to Kentucky Speedway this weekend. Jimmie Johnson, the defending series champion, has recorded three wins. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards have two victories each.
Drivers with one victory are Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.
Kurt Busch is the only race winner currently not in the top-16 point standings.
Matt Kenseth is fourth in points, Ryan Newman is eighth, rookie Kyle Larson is 10th with Paul Menard, Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne making up the remainder of the top 16.
With Kurt Busch having a victory, if nothing were to change over the next 10 races then Kahne would not be in contention for the championship.
Tony Stewart is currently without a victory and sits 17th in the point standings.
For Kenseth, Stewart, Newman, Larson, Menard, Biffle and Kahne, a victory in one of the remaining 10 races before the Chase starts is imperative.
Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers and Marcus Ambrose lead the drivers not locked into a Chase position currently with two top-five finishes in the first 16 races. I suspect if there is going to be another race winner it will come from this group of drivers.
Drivers in the top 16 that I anticipate having a victory before the Chase are Kenseth and Kahne. Kahne is the only driver with Hendrick Motorsports without a win. Johnson, Gordon and Little E have won six of the first 16 races and hold down the top three point positions.