Complexion of Chase bubble takes shape at topsy-turvy Bristol; Keselowski, Busch falter
STANDINGS *Wild Card
|7.||Dale Earnhardt Jr.
|Pos.||Driver||Pts back of 10th||Wins|
|14.||Martin Truex Jr.*||-22||1|
IN THE GREEN
Kasey Kahne (Change: 11th to 8th)
Saturday night’s stellar drive to second place at Bristol Motor Speedway fueled a major jump in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings for Kasey Kahne, who moved from Wild-Card position just outside the top 10 to 16 points ahead of 10th place in eighth. His two victories this season make him a virtual lock for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs field, but had he passed Matt Kenseth for the victory in the Irwin Tools Night Race, a third win would have made his future even more secure.
Joey Logano (Change: 13th to 10th)
Momentum has been palpable in recent weeks for Penske Racing’s Joey Logano, who escaped Bristol with a hard-fought fifth-place run despite a beaten-up No. 22 Ford. His fifth straight finish in the top 10 helped separate him from the gaggle of one-win drivers battling for one of two Wild-Card positions in the Chase, moving him to the 10th-place bubble spot in the Sprint Cup standings.
Greg Biffle (Change: 10th to 9th)
It wasn’t a monumental change for Greg Biffle, who has been clinging to the back portion of the top 10 for several weeks now. Still, to escape the dangers of Bristol with a ninth-place finish was a change that was just positive enough. In moving up one spot in the standings, Biffle padded his cushion from four to 17 points ahead of 11th place.
IN THE RED
Brad Keselowski (Change: 8th to 11th)
The forward push of Brad Keselowski hit a road hazard in the form of Bristol Motor Speedway. After finishing sixth, second and 12th in consecutive weeks, the defending Sprint Cup champ crashed into a 30th-place finish, increasing the degree of difficulty in making the Chase. He essentially swapped places in the standings with Kahne and now sits four points behind 10th-place Logano, his Penske Racing teammate.
Kurt Busch (Change: 9th to 12th)
The “two steps forward, one step back” season of Kurt Busch crept up again Saturday night at Bristol. For the second time this year, Busch encountered trouble just one week after moving into one of the top 10 Chase qualifying spots. This time, a 31st-place finish 24 laps off the lead was the culprit after a wheel issue forced the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevy behind the wall early. Now instead of being four points ahead of 10th place, he’s facing a six-point deficit to get back into the top 10.
Martin Truex Jr. (Change: 12th to 14th)
Although Truex slipped back two spots in the Sprint Cup standings for the second consecutive week, he remains the holder of one of two Wild-Card berths based on his victory earlier this season at Sonoma Raceway. Yet after running in the top five much of the night at Bristol, a crash-related 35th place certainly left Truex’s outlook on shakier ground.
Carl Edwards (Remained 3rd)
Edwards left Bristol in the same spot in the standings, but missed an opportunity to gain points and confidence for the stretch run. With Jimmie Johnson finishing many laps down in 36th place and Edwards leading for 119 laps, the chance to whittle away at Johnson’s points lead was there. But a progressive engine failure relegated Edwards to 39th, keeping him from raising his stature on a night he had a car capable of winning.
Jeff Gordon (Change: 14th to 13th)
The four-time Sprint Cup champion jumped a spot in the standings, but had a clear opportunity to fare better. Gordon was third on the final restart, but faded to a seventh-place finish. While Gordon grabbed points in an effort to push into the top 10 Chase-eligible positions, a potential victory would have gone a long way toward boosting his Wild-Card stature.