NASCAR points observations through 10 races

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Talladega is in the books for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and, as my colleague Jerry Bonkowski noted immediately after the race, there wasn’t a ton of movement in the standings.

Doesn’t mean there aren’t trends, though. Here’s where things sit with 10 of 26 regular season races in the books:

AND HAMLIN MAKES EIGHT

Basically, half the 16-driver Chase field is already set with Denny Hamlin joining the seven other winners thus far this season. And how relieving is this for Hamlin? After his nightmare 2013, he can now afford to experiment in the remaining regular season rounds while Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who’s been excellent but unlucky thus far in 2014, is still yet to get on the scoreboard.

BIFFLE, BOWYER SURGING

Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer aren’t in the winners’ column yet, but trending upward after a solid last few weeks.

For “The Biff,” three top-six finishes in the last four races, including second on Sunday in Talladega, have vaulted him from 18th in the standings up to eighth.

Meanwhile for Bowyer, who had a banner Monday in announcing both a new baby and a new contract extension, he’s climbed five positions in the last five races to 18th with four top-12 results. Combined with Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers, who’s 10th in points, this team might be starting to hit its stride.

SNEAKY GOOD LAST FEW WEEKS FOR ‘DINGER

The single-car JTG Daugherty team has delivered back-to-back top-six results courtesy of AJ Allmendinger, and the driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet is up to a season-best 15th in points. If you’re looking for a possible surprise race winner over the next several weeks, this could be the guy, as Allmendinger’s coming back to form after the post-Penske fallout of 2012 and his reclamation project bouncing between teams, cars and series last year.

THE STEWART-HAAS QUARTET IS ALMOST ALL OUTSIDE THE TOP 20

As we’ve written before, it’s a good thing both Kevin Harvick (19th in points) and Kurt Busch (27th) already have wins in the bag because the rest of the Stewart-Haas Racing team’s results this year have not justified how well they’ve run.

Stewart got caught up in the Lap 136 crash at Talladega and registered a 43rd and last place finish; that dropped him from 15th to 21st in points. And at a restrictor plate track, where you’d expect her to do well, Danica Patrick was involved in a wreck as well, and ended 22nd. She sits 29th in the standings.

POINTS: Through 10 of 26 races

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.