The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend with only two races until the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. The top ten drivers in points following race 26 at Richmond next Saturday night and the two drivers with the most wins between 11th and 20th in the points will make the Chase.
Jimmie Johnson – The five-time champion clinched a place in the Chase after Watkins Glen. A string of bad finishes has dropped his points lead to only 18 points. His four wins are second on the season.
Clint Bowyer – Bowyer clinched a Chase spot on Saturday night at Bristol by finishing 14th. Although Bowyer does not have a win in 2013 he is a major title contender and is only 18 points behind Johnson after 24 races.
Matt Kenseth – By winning his fifth race of 2013 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night Kenseth clinched at least a wild card position. He is currently sixth in points and 55 points ahead of 11th. Any driver that leaves Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night at least 49 points ahead of 11th will clinch a top ten spot. Kenseth can do that with a finish of seventh or better which would mean he can use his bonus points for his five wins.
All But Locked
Kyle Busch – With his three wins it looks like there is no way he won't at least have a wild card spot. He can clinch a Chase spot at Atlanta with any finish of tenth or better. He is currently fifth in the points and is 58 points ahead of 11th.
Carl Edwards – He is third in points and 87 ahead of 11th. Edwards can clinch a Chase spot by finishing 38th or better so it is certain that Edwards will be one of the 12 drivers in the Chase.
Kevin Harvick - His two wins have him in good shape for a wild card but he can clinch as Chase berth with any finish of 31st or better. He is currently 79 points ahead of 11th in fourth place.
Kasey Kahne - He moves up to "all but locked" after a strong second place run at Bristol. The main reason is his two wins. Kahne is currently eighth in points and 20 ahead of 11th. He can reach the 49 point magic number at Atlanta to clinch a top ten spot. A third win or solid runs would surely put Kahne in the Chase.
In the Fight
Dale Earnhardt Jr – He is still winless in 2013 which still has him squarely on the bubble. He is seventh in points and 33 ahead of 11th. He can reach the 49 point magic number but at the same time a bad finish would be devastating.
Greg Biffle – With a ninth place finish at Bristol Biffle moved up to ninth in points and is 17 points ahead of 11th. He has one win on the season. He can reach the 49 point magic number to clinch a spot and also can clinch a wild card with a win and other help.
Joey Logano – Logano sprang into the top ten with his fifth place finish. He also won at Michigan two weeks ago. He is currently only four points ahead of 11th but has big momentum on his side. He can reach the 49 point magic number and also can clinch with a win and other help.
Brad Keselowski – The 2012 champion is still in the thick of the battle and right now is not in possession of one of the 12 Chase spots. He is 11th in the points after finishing 30th at Bristol and because he is without a win he is in major trouble. Keselowski is only four points out of tenth though.
Kurt Busch – The new fourth-driver at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 is trying to land Furniture Row Racing in the Chase for the first time and right now is 12th in points and only six from tenth. He does not have a win right now which has him in basically the same position as Keselowski.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon had a strong car at Bristol but slipped back to a seventh place finish late in the race. It moved him up to 13th in points and more importantly 15 points closer to tenth than when he entered Bristol. He is now only 11 points away from the top ten. Without a win, Gordon is in the danger zone big time. He needs to win badly now but could also still race in with solid finishes.
Martin Truex Jr – He currently holds wild card number one and is in the Chase. But if Kahne, Biffle, or Logano fall out of the top ten he could be in trouble. Truex will be driving with a cast after breaking his hand at Bristol in a crash where he finished 35th. That has to be a major concern. He is 22 points out of tenth. A second win would put him in great shape.
Ryan Newman – He is currently 15th in points and 26 points out of tenth but has his win from Indianapolis that currently has him in the second wild card position. Like Truex he is in trouble if Kahne, Biffle or Logano fall from the top ten. A second win would be great for Newman.
Jamie McMurray – He is 38 points out of tenth and 16th in points. McMurray really needs to do what Logano did at Michigan and win to make his Chase chances look brighter.
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