Race to Chase update: Multiple drivers punch tickets in Atlanta

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As expected, last night’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (the 25th of 26 regular season races in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) saw multiple drivers clinch berths in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Kyle Busch burst into NASCAR’s postseason with a flourish, bagging his fourth win of the year to mark his return to the Chase after failing to make it in last year. Additional Top-10 “automatic” spots were secured last night by Kevin Harvick (who finished 9th), Matt Kenseth (who finished 12th), and Carl Edwards (who finished 18th).

Also, despite finishing 36th after an early incident, Kasey Kahne clinched at least one of the two Wild Card spots on the strength of his two regular season wins at Bristol in the spring and at Pocono last month.

Throw in the two other “automatic” drivers – points leader Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer – and that means seven of the 12 Chase spots have been spoken for.

In regards to a Top-10 spot in the Chase, four drivers will head into the final regular season race at Richmond International Raceway in control of their destiny:

  • Dale Earnhardt Jr., who sits seventh in the standings at 37 points above 11th place, can clinch a Top-10 spot by finishing 32nd or better at RIR (33rd with at least one lap led, 34th with most laps led).
  • Joey Logano, who sits eighth in the standings at 16 points above 11th place, can clinch a Top-10 spot by finishing 11th or better (12th with at least one lap led, 13th with most laps led).
  • Greg Biffle, currently ninth in the standings at 14 points above 11th place, can clinch a Top-10 spot by finishing ninth or better (10th with at least one lap led, 11th with most laps led).
  • Kurt Busch, currently 10th in the standings at six points above 11th place, can clinch a Top-10 spot by winning the race (second with at least one lap led, third with most laps led).

Jeff Gordon (11th in the standings), Martin Truex Jr. (13th), and Ryan Newman (14th) can all clinch at least a Wild Card spot with a win at Richmond. All three of these drivers had great results at Atlanta, with Truex finishing third, Newman fifth, and Gordon sixth.

But things are much trickier for Brad Keselowski after his engine failure in the latter stages of last night’s event. He sits 28 points out of the Top 10 and has no wins. Thus, he must be victorious at Richmond to have any hope of a Wild Card spot.

Here’s how the table looks:

1. Jimmie Johnson – 837 points, four wins
2. Clint Bowyer – 809 points, no wins
3. Kevin Harvick – 795 points, two wins
4. Carl Edwards – 795 points, one win
5. Kyle Busch – 786 points, four wins
6. Matt Kenseth – 768 points, five wins
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 750 points, no wins
8. Joey Logano – 729 points, one win
9. Greg Biffle – 727 points, one win
10. Kurt Busch – 719 points, no wins
11. Jeff Gordon – six points behind Ku. Busch, no wins
12. Kasey Kahne – WC #1, -10 points, two wins
13. Martin Truex Jr. – WC #2, -15 points, one win
14. Ryan Newman, -20 points, one win
15. Brad Keselowski, -28 points, no wins
16. Jamie McMurray, -39 points, no wins
17. Paul Menard, -61 points, no wins

LOCKED IN: Johnson, Bowyer, Harvick, Edwards, Ky. Busch, Kenseth, Kahne.
VIRTUAL LOCK: Earnhardt Jr.
ALMOST LOCKS: Logano, Biffle.
IN RANGE: Ku. Busch, Gordon, Truex Jr., Newman.
OUT OF RANGE: Keselowski.
VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED: McMurray, Menard.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”