Drivers on Chase bubble in the hot seat today at Dover

Joey Logano takes a break on Day 2 of NASCAR racing.

Joey Logano takes a break on Day 2 of NASCAR racing. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

DOVER — It’s now or never for the drivers in the danger zone of the Chase for the Sprint Cup title.

Four drivers will be eliminated as NASCAR’s playoff trims itself from 16 to 12. The green flag for the Citizen Soldier 400 drops today at 2 p.m. at Dover International Speedway.

Headed into the race, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher currently are the four outside of the top-12.

Since qualifying was rained out on Friday, the field was set by owner points. It means the Chase drivers are all starting in the top-16 and will be racing each other for key positions as soon as the race gets underway.

“I won’t get to see it, but you will,” said pole-sitter Brad Keselowski. “That will be fun to watch.”

Buescher, a surprise qualifier into the Chase thanks to a victory in a rain-shortened race at Pocono, has the most work to do. Only a victory can send Buescher through to the next round.

It means Buescher will likely take any risk he can to move toward the front.

“We don’t have to play it safe at all,” Buescher said. “We can go out here and we can try to gamble on fuel, we can take two tires … we have an endless amount of options that are open for us. The only way to go is up and that means we can take whatever chance we feel is necessary.”

Buscher is 30 points back of Kyle Larson for the 12th and final spot.

The closest driver to Larson is his teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, McMurray. McMurray trails Larson by five points.

McMurray said team orders won’t exist if there’s a close battle for that final spot to advance.

“I’m not going to race Kyle any different than anyone else” McMurray said. “You’re going to let the race play out and get the best finish you can.”

Dillon is tied with McMurray, also five points back from the last transfer spot. Stewart, who is retiring at the end of the season, sits 15 points back.

Dover throws the most variables at drivers of any track in the first round. One crash here can take out a lot of cars with the track’s high banks and narrow straightaways, for example in the spring when a wreck on a restart took out 18 cars.

McMurray knows that a lot of that is out of the drivers hands.

“This is just one of those places that a lot can happen.,” McMurray said. “I haven’t worried about it at all because there is nothing I can do about it.”

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are the only two drivers who are safe from elimination thanks to a win by each driver in the Chase’s first two races. Whoever wins today will also automatically move on to the round of 12.

Count on the rookie Buescher to pull out all the stops to see if he can keep his Cinderella run going.

“We really don’t have anything to lose,” Buescher said. “This should be a place where we can really have a good run and see if we can advance to that next round. It’s gonna be tough at this point, but this is probably our best race track of this round, so I’m excited to get going.”

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