James: Kasey Kahne missing it. Even though the performance has never quite matched the mystique created in his 2006 season, when he amassed six of 16 career wins, Kahne is a talented driver competing for the most resourceful team in the series, and all of his Hendrick Motorsports teams have multiple wins. At Watkins Glen, his hope for a good finish rested on gleaning information from his more successful teammates, and that didn't help much, either. Excuses seem hard to come by.
McGee: Kahne missing it. The moment we learned about the new Chase format, I believed that both Larson and Dillon could potentially make the Chase as rookies. But I never expected to see Kahne fighting through the summer just to grab hold of the bottom rung.
Oreovicz: In February, the answer would have been Larson making the Chase. Now, looking back over what has been disappointing season by his own and Hendrick Motorsports' standards, it has to be the fact that Kahne is in jeopardy of failing to get in.
Hinton: You gotta be kidding me, right? If you have a whopping 16-driver field, you have to have an underdog or two to keep things interesting. And the ways in which Almirola and Allmendinger won were such feel-good stories that the public's eyes will be on them in the Chase. They may not contend seriously, but just their presence will make it more fun.
James: Do you like underdog stories? Do you like stars? That is the question. Maybe Almirola and Allmendinger can be the Virginia Commonwealth and Valpo of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but chances are, given their overall performances, they will be predictable first-round bow-outs. Allmendinger admitted as much before winning at Watkins Glen, although victory and some serious browbeating by Brad Daugherty changed his tune once he got his hands on a trophy. But ultimately, they won their way in. That matters.
McGee: More interesting. The reality is that these teams don't likely have what it takes to win the Cup, but by being in the Chase field, at least that possibility exists. It would be great to see one of them make a Cinderella run through the first eliminations, like Davidson or Butler in the NCAA tournament.
Oreovicz: More interesting. The top two finishers at Watkins Glen (Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose) are a perfect example of drivers and their teams stepping up and performing at their best with a playoff berth on the line. Almirola, Allmendinger and the drivers who scrape into the Chase on points are unlikely to make it to the final four at Homestead, but they add great underdog value to the overall championship storyline.