Tony Stewart (left) and Kasey Kahne are in jeopardy of not making this year's Chase if they don't win between now and Richmond, 5 weeks from now. (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Three drivers fail to clinch Chase berth at Pocono; Atlanta could be most crucial race before Richmond

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If at first you don’t succeed, try again next week.

That’s the case for three drivers who failed to officially clinch a berth in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup in this past Sunday’s 400 at Pocono Raceway.

According to NASCAR statisticians, Kevin Harvick was the only driver of four that mathematically could clinch a berth in the Chase, having done so with his runner-up finish Sunday at Pocono.

Those failing to clinch a berth were Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola. That trio will have another chance to officially lock themselves into the Chase in this Sunday’s road course race at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York.

In addition to Harvick, those drivers already locked in to the Chase are Pocono winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano.

In addition to those drivers who have won at least one race this season but as yet have not officially clinched a spot, there are still five other spots that remain open for the Chase.

Right now, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, rookie Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer would make the Chase if the standings remain the same after the Chase cut-off qualifying race at Richmond a month from now.

Five races remain to qualify for the Chase.

Nine drivers who earned at least one win last season have yet to win thus far this season, and several of those find themselves in jeopardy of missing the Chase, among them Tony Stewart, who is 19th in the standings after this past Sunday’s race at Pocono, and Kasey Kahne, who is 14th.

Atlanta Motor Speedway, which hosts the next-to-last Chase qualifying race prior to Richmond, is looking forward to some significant juggling in the standings both heading into and after its annual Labor Day weekend race.

“For teams that have not secured a Chase spot yet, Labor Day Weekend is going to be huge,” AMS president and general manager Ed Clark said in a media release. “For teams and drivers who have not had the season they may have hoped for, they’re in must-win mode.

“If you’re trying to get into the Chase, there’s no time to settle for a good points day. That should lead to some of the most exciting racing of the entire season (at Atlanta).”

If they remain winless heading into the Labor Day weekend race, AMS could potentially be the best place for drivers like Stewart and Kahne to finally cement a Chase berth.

Stewart is a three-time winner at Atlanta, his last triumph being in 2010, while Kahne is a two-time winner there, including making the 2009 Chase with a win at AMS.

Other drivers who remain eligible to make the Chase, but will have to win a race to make it are Sprint All-Star race winner Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, A.J. Allmendinger, Martin Truex, Jr. and Brian Vickers.

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Sainz uninjured, but to remain in hospital overnight

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Carlos Sainz Jr. will remain in hospital overnight following a terrifying crash during practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Sainz slammed into the wall at turn 13 after losing control of his car, pitching in underneath the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.

Medical crews spent 20 minutes extricating Sainz from his car due to the barriers’ placement before he was taken away to hospital for a check-up.

Sainz tweeted a picture to his followers confirming that he was okay, and Toro Rosso has now released a second statement confirming that the Spaniard was fully conscious throughout the crash and is uninjured.

“After arriving at the Sochi Hospital 4, Carlos Sainz, who never lost consciousness, underwent a medical examination, including a full body scan,” the statement reads. “The scan showed that the driver has no injuries.

“However, he will be staying in the hospital overnight as a precautionary measure, which is the normal procedure in these circumstances.

“We will release further information when it is available.”

Sainz tweeted that he was hoping to convince the doctors to release him from hospital early enough so that he could take part in tomorrow’s race, but any steps taken will be with his well-being in mind.

Rosberg charges to Russian GP pole in Sochi

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Nico Rosberg will start tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix from pole position after topping the timesheets in Saturday’s qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:37.113 to edge out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by three-tenths of a second to score pole position in Russia.

Following on from its dominant display in Japan two weeks ago, Mercedes showed few signs of easing up at the front of the field as it stormed to another front-row lock-out.

Having traded fastest lap times throughout the earlier stages of qualifying, Hamilton and Rosberg renewed their battle in Q3 at Sochi, but it was Rosberg who finished on top.

Rosberg drew early blood in Q3 by going three-tenths faster than his teammate on his first run, and when Hamilton locked up late on and opted to pit, pole was safely with the German driver.

Valtteri Bottas finished as the best of the rest in third place, beating the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who finished fifth and sixth respectively as all of the drivers struggled to improve on their second runs.

Nico Hulkenberg and Force India teammate Sergio Perez will start sixth and seventh, while Romain Grosjean qualified eighth. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten in P9 and P10 respectively.

Home favorite Daniil Kvyat was unable to delight the local fans as he would have liked to in qualifying, dropping out in Q2 by finishing 11th ahead of Felipe Nasr. Pastor Maldonado was also eliminated, finishing 14th, but it was Felipe Massa who was the biggest casualty of the second session, ending up 15th for Williams.

McLaren experienced something of a mixed qualifying session on Saturday as Fernando Alonso was knocked out at the end of Q1. Teammate Jenson Button managed to improve late on to dump the Spaniard out and leave him 16th overall, while the Briton went on to finish 13th in Q2.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson also dropped out at the first hurdle alongside the two Manor drivers, while Carlos Sainz Jr. took no part in the session following his practice crash. The Spaniard still hopes to take part in tomorrow’s race, but will remain in hospital overnight.