Race to Chase update: Kahne enhances his chances

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Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono was the 21st of 26 regular season races before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kasey Kahne’s second win of 2013 moved him into eighth in points. While it didn’t solidify his status, the second win could prove crucial from a Wild Card standpoint if the No. 5 Farmers’ Insurance Chevrolet drops outside of the top 10. Ryan Newman is now within nine points of Martin Truex Jr. for the second Wild Card position; Kurt Busch’s top five also helped him.

Here’s where things sit as of now:

1. Jimmie Johnson, 772 points, 4 wins
2. Clint Bowyer, 695, 0
3. Carl Edwards, 688, 1
4. Kevin Harvick, 675, 2
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 656, 0
6. Kyle Busch, 646, 2
7. Matt Kenseth, 638, 4
8. Kasey Kahne, 612, 2
9. Jeff Gordon, 602, 0
10. Greg Biffle, 599, 1
11. Tony Stewart, -5 behind Biffle, 1 win
12. Brad Keselowski, -7, 0
13. Kurt Busch, -11, 0
14. Martin Truex Jr., -15, 1
15. Ryan Newman, -24, 1
16. Jamie McMurray, -33, 0
17. Joey Logano, -38, 0
18. Aric Almirola, -45, 0
19. Paul Menard, -67, 0
20. Jeff Burton, -92, 0

Despite a tire issue, Johnson increased his lead over Bowyer to 77 points. A couple changes from last week’s Race to Chase update in terms of “lock status” are below.

VIRTUAL LOCKS: Johnson, Bowyer, Edwards, Harvick, Kenseth
ALMOST LOCKS: Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Kahne
GOOD FOR NOW: Gordon, Biffle, Stewart, Truex

IN RANGE: Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Newman
OUT OF RANGE: McMurray
VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED: Logano, Almirola, Menard, Burton

‘Still quite early’ for Ricciardo to think about Red Bull F1 future

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Daniel Ricciardo feels it is “still quite early” to make a decision about his Red Bull Formula 1 future despite seeing teammate Max Verstappen announce on Friday he would be staying with the team until 2020.

Verstappen, 20, put pen to paper on an enhanced F1 contract with Red Bull, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of next season in parallel to Ricciardo’s own agreement.

Ricciardo was asked following practice on Friday why he is yet to strike a new deal for himself with Red Bull, and explained he is in no rush to make a final decision when he has over a year to run on his current contract.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything. It’s just still quite early I think,” Ricciardo explained.

“People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It’s still quite early.

“If I’m to try and extract some positives out of his news it’s that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

“I’m 100 per cent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we’ll keep progressing the way we are.”

Red Bull said upon announcing Verstappen’s new deal that it wants to “build a team around him”, with the 20-year-old standing out as a once-in-a-generation talent.

The focus surrounding Verstappen has not left Ricciardo feeling as though he is in the shade or in any way playing second-fiddle to the Dutchman, stressing he has no internal concerns at Red Bull.

“For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention. He’s broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so,” Ricciardo said.

“Take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there’s always been parity and equality.”

Verstappen is only the third driver to commit to a deal beyond the end of next season, following Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at McLaren on multi-year contracts.

All 10 F1 teams have at least one free seat for 2019, making Ricciardo a possible candidate for seats with either Mercedes or Ferrari were he to consider a move away from Red Bull.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Red Bull F1 advisor Helmut Marko said he felt Ricciardo was “putting himself on the market” by waiting to make a decision on his future, but that talks would take place when possible.