Top-three finish for New Hampshire Motor Speedway vet has him thinking Chase
In the green
Brad Keselowski (Change: 13th to 9th)
It’s too soon to say that Keselowski is “back”, but he’s at least in possession of a Chase spot, whereas he wasn’t heading into the race. New Hampshire isn’t historically one of his better tracks, so a fourth-place finish is huge for the reigning champ, who is still trying to get his mojo going in 2013.
Jeff Burton (Change: 21st to 17th)
Jeff Burton still believes he’s capable of making the Chase, and he’s racing like it. As a veteran of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, his third-place finish shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the fact that he’s in 17th place and 25 points out of 10th should.
Aric Almirola (Change: 19th to 16th)
It’s been easy to count Almirola out as a legitimate Chase contender over the past month (maybe even longer), but his shocking fifth-place Loudon finish has him back in the middle of Wild-Card contention. But will he get the win he needs to make it worthwhile?
Kasey Kahne (Change: 12th to 10th)
Kahne was on thin ice heading into the race, sitting in 12th place while holding onto the final Chase spot. As the defending race winner, he came into Sunday as a favorite, and while he didn’t quite deliver a repeat, his 11th-place finish was enough to move back into a non-Wild Card spot.
Jeff Gordon (Change: 14th to 12th)
Gordon is in a bit of a unique position, in 12th place but not currently in a Chase-eligible spot because of Tony Stewart’s lone victory. Still, he’ll enjoy the move up from 14th, which ties him with Martin Truex Jr. (who also has a victory) and has him just two points behind 10th-place Kasey Kahne.
Jamie McMurray (Change: 17th to 15th)
With his 12th-place Loudon finish, McMurray didn’t exactly set the world on fire coming off a seventh-place Daytona finish, but it does move him up to 15th. With just 25 points separating him from a non-Wild Card spot, the book can’t be closed on McMurray’s Chase chances.
In the red
Kurt Busch (Change: 9th to 14th)
Much like Stewart, Busch was the running with the class of the field all day, leading the most laps (104) of any driver before running into an unfortunate circumstance when he and Ryan Newman were wrecked from contact with Matt Kenseth. Busch falls out of a Chase spot, and has never won at the upcoming Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Joey Logano (Change: 15th to 18th)
New England native and former New Hampshire winner Logano struggled right out of the gate on Sunday after his tire blew five laps in. It’s hard to recover from a catastrophe like that, and while he did come back out to run 211 laps and finish 40th, it’s hard not to count the 18th-place Logano out of contention.
Ryan Newman (Change: 16th to 19th)
Some expected Newman, potentially inspired by “current events,” to come out to New Hampshire, where he has a career-best three wins, and tear it up. His day was ended after a wreck with Kurt Busch, but even then he wasn’t making much noise. In 19th, his season is headed in the wrong direction.
Tony Stewart (Change: 10th to 13th)
What a heartbreaking race for Stewart, who led 84 laps (second only to Kurt Busch’s 102) and was second on the final restart before running out of gas on the green-white-checkered overtime finish. With his disappointing finish of 26th, Stewart drops five spots and only holds onto a Chase spot because of his lone victory.
Kyle Busch (No change)
It’s hard to complain about a second-place finish, especially as the first Cup driver to get the checkered in the field, but Busch wouldn’t have minded getting his third victory of the season. It would have put him in elite company with Jimmie Johnson (four wins) and teammate Matt Kenseth (four) as the only drivers with at least three wins. And he’d be in fifth place, not seventh.
Clint Bowyer (No change)
With two Loudon victories to his name, Bowyer really needed to add a third on Sunday but fell quite short. His 13th-place finish kept him in second place behind Jimmie Johnson, but he’s one of just three drivers in the top 10 without a victory and you have to figure sooner or later, it could come back to bite him.