Kansas City, Kan. — official release — Nick Laham/Getty Images North America photo — The Monster Mile shattered the hopes and dreams of four former Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers at Dover.
AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch were all eliminated from Chase contention following the last race of the opening Challenger Round as the field shrunk from 16 to 12.
Going into the race, Allmendinger stood in good shape to advance to the Contender Round. He ranked 10th on the Chase Grid, one point ahead of Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman, and seven points ahead of 13th-place Denny Hamlin for the final spot. Biffle (-6 points below the cutoff), Busch (-8) and Almirola (-10) were all on the outside looking in, manning the 14th-16th positions respectively, but still had realistic chances of climbing into the top 12.
Hamlin – who earlier dubbed the race as the most important of his career – vaulted himself into the top 12 with an 11th-place finish, but his performance alone was not enough to bump the 23rd-place Allmendinger from the Chase. Kasey Kahne battled from four laps down on Lap 240, finishing 20th to hold off Allmendinger by two points for the final Contender Round spot.
The four now have a new goal: Fifth place. Even though they were bounced in the first round, Allmendinger, Almirola, Biffle and Busch can still battle for fifth in the final championship points. From here on out, any driver eliminated from the Chase will have his points reset to 2,000, with any points accumulated during the Chase (as well as bonus points to start the Chase) added to that total.