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

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.