|The 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup field|
Credit: Getty Images/Matt Sullivan
The Chase for the Sprint Cup is NASCAR’s version of the “playoffs” in other professional sports leagues. This year, 16 drivers will spend the last 10 races of the season fighting for Sprint Cup supremacy, whittling away at the field until there are just four left fighting for the title. Here’s a look back at previous Chases.
- The first Chase – the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup – took place in 2004; in 2008, it became known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The first three champions crowned in the Chase were Jeff Gordon (2004), Tony Stewart (2005), and Jimmie Johnson with his first title (2006). From 2004 through 2006, the field consisted of 10 drivers.
- In 2007, the field was expanded to the top 12 drivers in points – the results, however, were very similar to 2006, with Johnson bringing home the hardware after securing the top spot going into the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. Rounding out the top 12: Gordon, Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.
- In 2008, Johnson tied Cale Yarborough for the most consecutive Cup Series championships when he won the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kyle Busch came into the fight as the top seed, followed by Edwards, Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bowyer, Hamlin, Burton, Stewart, Greg Biffle, Gordon, Harvick and Kenseth.
- 2009 saw Mark Martin as the top seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, joined in the top 12 by Stewart, Johnson, Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Gordon, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, Edwards, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya and Biffle. Johnson brought home title No. 4 when all was said and done.
- In 2010, Hamlin came in as the top seed and gave Johnson a run for the title until the very last race, but Johnson came out on top to become a five-time champ. Joining them in the top 12 were Harvick, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Stewart, Biffle, Gordon, Edwards, Burton, Kenseth and Bowyer.
- 2011 provided fans with a nail-biter down to the final checkered flag, with Stewart beating Edwards in a tie-breaker after “Smoke” won five of the last 10 events. Rounding out the top 12 were Harvick, Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., Gordon, Hamlin, Newman, and Kurt and Kyle Busch.
- Keselowski picked up the Cup Series title in 2012, while Bowyer beat out Johnson for second by just a point. Kahne, Biffle, Hamlin, Kenseth, Harvick, Stewart, Gordon, Truex Jr. and Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 12 in ’12.
- In 2013, Johnson picked up title No. 6, putting him one championship behind NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for titles won. Kenseth was second in points, with Harvick, Kyle Busch and Earnhardt Jr. rounding out the top five. Gordon, Bowyer, Logano, Biffle, Kurt Busch, Newman, Kahne and Edwards also appeared in the Chase.
- The championship field expanded to 16 in 2014, with four drivers eliminated from contention every three races, until four drivers battled for the Cup at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick took home his first Cup Series title by winning the race, just ahead of second-place Newman; Hamlin finished seventh in the race and third in points, while Logano finished 16th in the race and fourth in points.
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