NASCAR’s chase moves forward without Tony Stewart

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The 16-driver field for the 2014 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

RICHMOND, VA –  For many fans of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Saturday was the last chance to make a miserable month take a positive turn.

Thanks to an exemption granted by NASCAR president Mike Helton, Tony Stewart still had a chance to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup despite not making a qualifying attempt for every race up to that point in the season.

Stewart missed qualifying for the Michigan and Bristol race as he dealt with the fallout of the incident at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York in which he struck an killed Kevin Ward Jr on track October 9th after the 20-year old left his car to yell at Stewart after a wreck.

But the potential feel good story was not meant to be for the Columbus native and three-time Sprint Cup champion. Stewart was never far back but never really made a major threat for the lead as he finished 15th during the Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Richmond International Speedway on Saturday night.

It marks the second consecutive season that Stewart has missed the chase. In 2013 he was forced out of contention due to a broken leg suffered during a dirt track race in Iowa.

Brad Keselowski won the race and in the process clinched the the top spot in the chase with his fourth victory of the season.

This year marks the first in which NASCAR will use an elimination system for it’s expanded 16-driver chase. The challenger round will be the first three races of the chase and the top 12 drivers in the field will advance to the contender round.

That consists of three races as well and the top eight drivers for that group advances to the elimination round which lasts three races.

Following the Phoenix race, the top four drivers will be eligible for a one-race, winner-take-all showdown at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. The highest finisher of the four wins the championship.