Drivers position themselves for stretch run to postseason
STANDINGS *Wild Card
|5.||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||-116||--|
|Pos.||Driver||Pts back of 10th||Wins|
|14.||Martin Truex Jr.*||-15||1|
In the green
Kasey Kahne (Change: Ninth to eighth)
The one-place change in the points standing isn’t what Kahne will take out of Pocono Raceway. Although he moved up to eighth, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet more importantly increased his victory total this year from one to two by winning the GoBowling.com 400. Two wins should be enough for Kahne to punch his ticket into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, regardless of whether or not he stays in the top 10.
Jeff Gordon (Change: 10th to ninth)
Perhaps opposite from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, moving up to ninth place in the standings was an important development for Jeff Gordon. Gordon, who turned 42 Sunday and was looking for a birthday breakthrough, finished second at Pocono. The finish slightly stung, because Gordon was the leader on a late restart. The No. 24 team needs wins, but if it doesn't get them, climbing higher in the standings is of equal importance. With no victories to fall back on, Gordon put another space between him and the cut-off line for the 10 automatic bids into NASCAR’s postseason.
Brad Keselowski (Change: 13th to 12th)
Any more questions about Keselowski running double duty this weekend? It’s hard to imagine the past three days going any better for the defending series champion -- except, of course, for a win at Pocono. But Keselowski did get a win at Pocono, of sorts. Ryan Blaney won the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday afternoon, giving Keselowski a win as a team owner. The champ then flew to Iowa and won the Nationwide Series race later Saturday night. Sunday’s sixth-place finish capped a pretty remarkable weekend and perhaps reinvigorated the team after a 21st-place finish last week at Indianapolis. And more than gaining one spot in the standings, Keselowski cut his deficit behind the 10th-place driver (currently Greg Biffle) to seven points.
In the red
Greg Biffle (Change: eighth to 10th)
This is how tight things have gotten. Greg Biffle earned a top-10 at Pocono by finishing 10th, and he lost two spots in the standings. The Biff has a win in his back pocket should he fall out of the top 10, but even that doesn’t make him a postseason lock with so many other drivers running well and challenging for victories. Next week’s road-course race at Watkins Glen International could deliver a major shakeup to everyone.
Martin Truex Jr. (Change: 12th to 14th)
Truex Jr. recovered from a poor qualifying effort to finish 15th Sunday afternoon. Still, it must have been frustrating for Truex to see so many drivers near him in the standings notch strong finishes. Truex Jr. holds onto the second and final Wild Card spot for now, but Ryan Newman -- who also has a win -- is right behind him in the standings after finishing fourth Sunday. If Brad Keselowski or Kurt Busch finally break through and win in the next two weeks, Truex Jr. could see himself out of the Chase.
Matt Kenseth (Change: Sixth to seventh)
This is purely semantics. The points positions didn’t change all that much following a steady Pocono performance from most of the circuit’s top drivers. So yes, Matt Kenseth lost one spot in the standings after being involved in a wreck on the opening lap. He’s still 26 points above eighth-place Kasey Kahne, and he still has four victories this season. He’ll almost certainly be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed when the Chase starts.
Clint Bowyer (Remains second)
Points leader Jimmie Johnson had one of the best cars in the field and started on the Coors Light Pole before blowing a tire and hitting the wall on Lap 76. His No. 48 Chevrolet was taped up almost beyond recognition and Five-Time fell to 30th place before getting caught with too many men over the pit wall, sending him to the tail of the field on Lap 98. And yet Clint Bowyer, second in the standings, actually lost ground to Johnson in the points race. Bowyer withstood some hardships to finish 14th on the afternoon, but the No. 48 charged back through the field late to finish 13th. With the bonus point Johnson earned, he gained two points on Bowyer and increased his lead to 77 points.