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

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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