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