NASCAR points observations through nine races

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It was quite a night in Richmond last Saturday night, between drama for the win and drama in the garage after the race between Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears.

But here’s how the points are now following the off week, the Richmond race, and the fact the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is already more than a third of the way through the regular season (9 of 26 complete).

LOGANO, HARVICK SEPARATE THEMSELVES

The seven winners in seven races kickoff to the 2014 season basically amped up the pressure to win multiple races and begin to separate themselves from the clump of those with only a single win. But with late moves to win in Darlington and Richmond, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, respectively, have emerged as two-time winners and in even better shape than those with one. Logano’s sixth in points, Harvick 20th, thus far.

THE REMAINING FIVE WITH ONE WIN ARE DOING ALRIGHT

Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are third through fifth in points, with Brad Keselowski seventh and Kurt Busch 25th. Kurt Busch has a very interesting month ahead of him with his Indianapolis 500 debut coming for Andretti Autosport. While he gains track time in preparation for his open-wheel sidebar, he needs to ensure the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 team on the Cup side doesn’t fall into the danger zone of losing more positions in the standings.

RUNNING GREAT, EVEN WITH NO WINS

The refrain of Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are running well but haven’t won is a consistent one thus far. Kenseth was again in prime position to break through Saturday night before contact with Keselowski. As it is, Gordon still leads the points with Kenseth second. Johnson is eighth after a roller-coaster stretch of finishes: 24th, 2nd, 25th, 3rd and 32nd in the last five races. That famed consistency for the No. 48 team has taken a brief hiatus.

THE NEXT TIER – ROUGHLY P9 TO P27

From Ryan Newman in ninth to Martin Truex Jr. in 27th is separated by 90 points, and only the Stewart-Haas pair of Harvick and Kurt Busch have wins in that standings range. We’ll see if anyone in this group – names like Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer, or rookies Kyle Larson or Austin Dillon for instance – breaks through anytime soon to bring the winner total to eight and halfway to a possible 16.

STANDINGS: Through 9 of 26 races.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III