Having thirteen drivers eligible for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship doesn’t change a thing.  You still have 43 drivers on the track that are competing in each race and each point is just as precious as it was before.

The first driver to talk nonsense about thirteen drivers in the chase was Jimmie Johnson.  After Jeff Gordon was added to the roll hours before qualifying began at Chicagoland Speedway, ol’ “5-Time” was waxing eloquently about how the algorithms of having an extra driver in the Sprint Cup chase was going to throw everything out of whack.

Now that the first race has actually been run, the field of drivers who actually have a chance to win the title has diminished, rendering Johnson’s point moot.  With the current point system, here’s the quick and dirty breakdown of what the finishing order means for the Chase contenders.

Win: Awesome
Positions 2-5 Great
Positions 6-10 Adequate
Positions 11-15 Worrisome
Positions 15-25 Trouble
Positions 26+ See Ya!

Thus Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson can be satisfied with their results after the rains on Sunday.  Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman are treading water and need to at least duplicate if not improve at New Hampshire next week.

Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne will be required to bust into the top 5 next week to get back into the picture.  Greg Biffle meanwhile would need a dominant run to snap back.  Blown engines for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Joey Logano knock them out of contention.  Unless the 22 and the 88 knock off multiple wins in quick fashion, forget those two.  The thirteen-man Chase to the Championship is now down to eleven.

Considering past results for the drivers involved, nine of the thirteen Chase drivers have won there, so top fifteen finishes won’t be good enough to overcome a breakout performance by one Championship contender.  Drivers with the best average finish at New Hampshire in their careers with wins in parenthesis are Jimmie Johnson (3), Jeff Gordon (3), Kevin Harvick (1), Matt Kenseth (0) and Ryan Newman (3).