And then there were two. Two non-point positions remain as Kasey Kahne made two tremendous restarts en route to his first win of the 2014 season, locking himself into the Chase. This season marks the first time all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers go into Richmond guaranteed a Chase berth. A winless Matt Kenseth also clinched a Chase berth on points.
If Atlanta was any indication of the urgency for good finishes and momentum, the Bristol Power Rankings top 10 didn’t get the memo as only four finished in the top 10 (Johnson, Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle). Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle made solid cases as to why they deserve to be in the Chase, finishing seventh and tenth respectively, while Clint Bowyer spent a number of laps behind the wall with a broken shifter, finishing 38th.
It all comes down to next weekend. One race left in Richmond to make the Chase. It’s sure to be a race you don’t want to miss. But before mayham ensues, see if your favorite driver made the grade after Atlanta.
How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football. Our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first-place driver, 19 for second, and so on. In the end, Mike Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and… here you go!
Not the way Jeff Gordon, or anyone else for that matter, expected his night to go. Not to worry though. All roads lead through Gordon for the 2014 championship. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 5
It hasn’t been the easiest few weeks for the No. 88 team, but like Sunday night, crew chief Steve Letarte preached patience and they wound up with another top 10. Kelly Crandall, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 2
Has gotten so good this season he is the best thing since sliced English muffins. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
Third time is not a charm. Kevin Harvick still hasn’t been able to nail down that first win since grabbing number two at Darlington in May. Kelly Crandall, Frontstretch.com
Don’t look now but Jimmie Johnson appears to be going on one of this patented runs when it matters the most. Johnson’s fourth-place effort at Atlanta gave him back-to-back top five finishes for the first time since winning at Charlotte and Dover. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
Heard the team bought an even larger beer glass for Brad Keselowski. Is that a sign that they expect a strong championship run? Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
Maybe Matt Kenseth’s 2014 ability to finish up front often, but not win, was just practice for the Chase. Perhaps he’ll show it’s OK to win now. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Solid, almost stealth-like, fifth-place effort by Carl Edwards on Sunday. Has to be a positive sign heading into Chicago in two weeks. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
Championship strategy is for the world’s fastest pit crew to gain more positions on pit road than Denny Hamlin loses on the track. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
Just making the Chase will not get him another contract at Hendrick Motorsports. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
It’s close but Ryan Newman is currently in a position to snag one of the two non-points Chase positions that remain. I’m sure I’m not the only one surprised, and I’m also sure I’m not the only one happy for him. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
Finally putting together some decent runs as we get closer to the Chase. He needs every scrap of momentum he can get. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
A tenth-place effort at Atlanta has Greg Biffle solidly, but far from comfortably, in the Chase as they stand. Needs to avoid all the certain calamity at Richmond and hope for a win or a repeat winner to secure a Chase berth. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
There would be no better time and place for Kyle Larson to get his first career win than Saturday night in Richmond. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com
The way Kyle Busch’s August has gone may indicate yet another year of walls and foes winning over Kyle during the Chase. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Others Receiving Votes: AJ Allmendinger (31), Jamie McMurray (28), Aric Almirola (26), Clint Bowyer (26), Danica Patrick (13), Austin Dillon (12), Paul Menard (9), Brian Vickers (5), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (2), Tony Stewart (2)