Race to Chase update: Kenseth, Bowyer clinch berths

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Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol was the 24th of 26 regular season races before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Matt Kenseth clinched a berth with his Sprint Cup season-high fifth win of 2013 and despite a frustrating night, Clint Bowyer clinched a berth as well.

Kasey Kahne came up just short of what would have been a crucial third win for him, which would have all but secured his Chase position. Still, he advanced to eighth in points with the runner-up finish. Joey Logano has also vaulted into the top 10 for the first time in the Race to the Chase run, and his Michigan win looks even more important now.

Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman’s subplot of where both are racing in 2014 may not have a direct impact on their 2013 seasons. But coincidentally, both struggled on Saturday, as did defending series champion Brad Keselowski. Keselowski and Busch are now on the outside looking in in 11th and 12th, neither with a win yet this year, while Newman still has a win but ranks 15th.

Here’s where things sit as of now:

1. Jimmie Johnson, 821 points, 4 wins
2. Clint Bowyer, 803, 0
3. Carl Edwards, 768, 1
4. Kevin Harvick, 760, 2
5. Kyle Busch, 739, 3
6. Matt Kenseth, 736, 5
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 714, 0
8. Kasey Kahne, 701, 2
9. Greg Biffle, 698, 1
10. Joey Logano, 685, 1
11. Brad Keselowski, -4 behind Logano, 0
12. Kurt Busch, -6, 0
13. Jeff Gordon, -11, 0
14. Martin Truex Jr., -22, 1
15. Ryan Newman, -26, 1
16. Jamie McMurray, -38, 0
17. Paul Menard, -47, 0
18. Aric Almirola, -69, 0
19. Tony Stewart, -91, 1
20. Jeff Burton, -93, 0

Wild Card leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman have a win apiece to their credit, but if any of Keselowski, Kurt Busch or Jeff Gordon win one of the next two races, their chances are in jeopardy.

LOCKED IN: Johnson, Bowyer, Kenseth
VIRTUAL LOCKS: Edwards, Harvick, Kyle Busch
ALMOST LOCKS: Earnhardt Jr., Kahne
GOOD FOR NOW: Biffle, Logano, Truex, Newman

IN RANGE: Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Gordon
OUT OF RANGE: McMurray
VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED: Menard, Almirola, Stewart, Burton

PREVIOUS RACE TO CHASE UPDATES: Indianapolis, Pocono 2, Watkins Glen, Michigan 2

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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