Sunday’s win for Kasey Kahne all but locks him into the Chase, at the expense of his teammate having a safety net. Here’s the points breakdown.
IN CONTROL: Jimmie Johnson
No change here, Johnson was out front Sunday until his right front exploded, leaving the door open for his teammates. A rally to 13th was just another example of why this team is so strong. Points lead: 77
SLIPPING BACK: Matt Kenseth
With 4 wins, Kenseth is sitting pretty come Chase time – if he stays in the top 10. Currently 41 points ahead of 10th with just 5 races left it’s hard to see him fall out, but his performance has been so hit or miss you just don’t know. Indy was his first non-victory top five all season, and even with those wins his average finish is 14.5 after spinning late Sunday.
BUBBLE WATCH, IN: Greg Biffle
Said it last week, the Biff is in trouble. A quiet 10th place finish at Pocono helped reduce the damage, but all the drivers he is racing against finished in front of him. Currently just 5 points ahead of 11th Tony Stewart, but has a slight cushion of 15 points back to the next Wild Card contender Martin Truex Jr. If replaced by Stewart in the top 10 there is another 9 points back to the third Wild Card contender Ryan Newman.
BUBBLE WATCH, OUT: Brad Keselowski
A 6th place finish moved BK up to 12th, but one point further behind 10th, now 7 back of Biffle. Without a win the 2 car is still not in contention for a Wild Card. If he is unable to get a win he must surpass both the 14 and the 16 in points and get in the Chase as a top 10 driver.
LOCKED IN: Kasey Kahne
There’s still a chance Kahne doesn’t make the Chase, but after getting his second win Sunday, I don’t see that happening. Right now the 5 car is 8th in points, but if he were to fall out would have the top Wild Card position. The only way he could miss the Chase would be if two other drivers outside the top 10 got a second win, passed him in points, but stayed outside the top 10. Not a likely scenario, especially with just 5 races left.
THIN ICE: Jeff Gordon
Gordon had a win slip away from him Sunday on the Green White Checkered, a tough pill to swallow on your birthday. The impact that could have is huge. A win would give the 24 team the security it needs as the Chase draws nearer. They did move up to 9th in points, but are just 3 ahead of Biffle in 10th, and 8 ahead of Stewart in 11th. He is 10 back of Kahne.
The Wild Card race is a mess if you’re in it. Currently there are 3 one win teams outside the top 10, with Stewart consistently 11th, Truex slipping back, and Newman charging closer. Inside the top 10 there’s Biffle who has been dropping steadily and likely to complicate the Wild Card picture soon, Gordon, precariously holding on to 9th without a win, and Kahne, who should be in no matter what at this point.
NEXT WEEK: The Glen
NASCAR heads back to a road course, and expect it to dd more kinks to the Wild Card.
Marcos Ambrose has won the last two events there, and another could move him into the top 20, but don’t expect it to make him Wild Card material.
Michael Waltrip Racing’s Sonoma success hasn’t translated to the Glen, but it could be a good opportunity for Bowyer to get his first win of the season, or Truex to lock in a Wild Card.
Jeff Gordon has 4 wins on the track, but none since 2001, a win next weekend would take a little pressure off.
Most of the drivers around the cutoff have solid road racing abilities.