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Kahne seeks win while in familiar Chase bubble spot
RELATED: Standings heading into Sunday BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It's an unfortunate yet familiar position for Kasey Kahne , driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports . Unfortunate because with only three races remaining before the 16-team field is set for this year's NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup , Kahne finds himself winless on the season and 17th in points. Familiar because the 36-year-old has been here before. Kahne slid into the Chase field in 2014, the inaugural season of the format awarding positions to full-time competitors that managed at least one victory through the season's first 26 races, with a late victory at Atlanta, just one stop from the cutoff event. Three races remain before this year's field is set, beginning with Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 here at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Then it's on to Darlington and Richmond to determine the remainder of this year's Chase field before the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway . Two years ago, the final three-race run consisted of stops at Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. "I don't think that was anything like this year; I think this is a lot different," Kahne said Saturday at Michigan. "That was a great night for us and we were right there all night, got in the right position on restarts … we were fast all night. I think restarts were big for us. I could run really fast for 15 laps. It's been a while since we've been like that." Indeed. The Atlanta win was Kahne's 17th but it was also his last. He enters Sunday's race shadowed by a 70-race winless streak. In the meantime, Kahne's Hendrick teammates have won 14 times since his Atlanta victory. "For us, I think it's been so many areas, so many little things that add up to being four-tenths (of a second) off per lap often," he said. "I don't think it's from a lack of effort because the effort is there. But it's maybe working in the right areas or trying to understand things that will make it easier for me to drive for my driving style. That's been a huge part of the last couple of years. "It doesn't matter what other guys are doing, (it's) 'what will help Kasey? What will help him with his car because he drives a little different?' I feel like this weekend we've kind of done our thing and it seems to be working pretty well so car." Ten Sprint Cup drivers have one or more wins this season and sit inside the top 16, virtually assuring themselves of a slot in the Chase . Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher also have one win each, and while further back in points, their status likely leaves only four Chase positions up for grabs. Seventeen others are still mathematically alive, should they earn a win in one of the next three races. If no different winners emerge, points will be used to determine the remaining spots. Kahne trails the holder of the last spot in the Chase Grid, Ryan Newman by 39 points, with Trevor Bayne and Kyle Larson sandwiched between the two and chasing one of the final playoff spots as well. Austin Dillon , Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray and Newman are just on the right side of the Chase bubble as of now. Hendrick drivers qualified second (Johnson), fifth (Elliott), sixth ( Alex Bowman driving in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr .) and 11th (Kahne) at Michigan. It is the seventh time this season Kahne will start from the No. 11 spot on the 40-car grid. "We run 13th to 18th every week; we qualify there and we race there," Kahne said. "That's just the speed we have. And then we do the same thing the next week. It's nice to do something a little different this week and to have speed to show it's helping." Kahne, 10th in Saturday's morning practice and fourth in the weather-shortened final session, has qualified for the Chase five times, the last coming in '14.
Updated Chase Grid after Michigan
RELATED: Larson wins, Newman drops out Below is the updated Chase Grid following the race at Michigan International Speedway : 1. Brad Keselowski 2. Kyle Busch 3. Kevin Harvick 4. Carl Edwards 5. Denny Hamlin 6. Jimmie Johnson 7. Matt Kenseth 8. Kurt Busch 9. Joey Logano 10. Martin Truex Jr . 11. Kyle Larson 12. Tony Stewart 13. Chris Buescher 14. Chase Elliott 15. Austin Dillon 16. Jamie McMurray
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Chase -clinching scenarios for Michigan and Road America
With three races remaining in the regular season, 10 drivers have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , assuming each driver starts the remaining races. The 10 clinchers: Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . and Denny Hamlin . Everyone who has a win this season is locked in -- except for Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher , both of whom have yet to clinch a top-30 spot. Stewart can clinch a top 30 spot at Michigan with some help as he must be 91 points ahead of the 31st position in the standings. A number of drivers who currently have no wins can clinch this weekend, but only if they win the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Winless drivers in the standings from Austin Dillon all the way to Aric Almirola could lock in a spot with a victory. See the Sprint Cup standings here . Possible to Clinch: -- Tony Stewart (1 Win, 400 Points, +85 Points Ahead of 31st): Could Clinch a Top 30 spot with help (magic number is 91 points), which is all he needs to do to clinch on wins. The following drivers would clinch with a win: -- Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 596 Points, +281 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 588 Points, +273 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Jamie McMurray (0 Wins, 583 Points, +268 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Newman (0 Wins, 576 Points, +261 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Trevor Bayne (0 Wins, 541 Points, +226 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Kyle Larson (0 Wins, 537 Points, +222 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Kasey Kahne (0 Wins, 537 Points, +222 Points Ahead of 31st) -- AJ Allmendinger (0 Wins, 518 Points, +203 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr (0 Wins, 514 Points, +199 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Blaney (0 Wins, 508 Points, +193 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr (0 Wins, 461 Points, +146 Points Ahead of 31st)** -- Greg Biffle (0 Wins, 441 Points, +126 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Danica Patrick (0 Wins, 432 Points, +117 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Paul Menard (0 Wins, 431 Points, +116 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Clint Bowyer (0 Wins, 407 Points, +92 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Aric Almirola (0 Wins, 406 Points, +91 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Casey Mears (0 Wins, 375 Points, +60 Points Ahead of 31st): With a win, he could clinch a Chase spot on wins if he got help with clinching a Top 30 spot. **Not entered at Michigan XFINITY The following drivers have already clinched a spot in the top 30 of the points standings, so a win at Road America (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would lock them into the Chase field -- Justin Allgaier , Ty Dillon , Brendan Gaughan , Brennan Poole , Brandon Jones , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Ryan Reed , Blake Koch , Ryan Sieg , Ross Chastain , Dakoda Armstrong , Jeremy Clements , Ryan Preece , Ray Black Jr . and BJ McLeod . Joey Gase would also clinch a Chase spot with a win. Camping World Truck With a win at Michigan (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), any of the four drivers currently sitting with one win would clinch their Chase spot. -- Johnny Sauter (1 Win, 306 Points, +243 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Christopher Bell (1 Win, 296 Points, +233 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ben Kennedy (1 Win, 287 Points, +224 Points Ahead of 31st) -- John Hunter Nemechek (1 Win, 281 Points, +218 Points Ahead of 31st) Daniel Hemric (0 Wins, 312 Points, +249 Points Ahead of 31st) -- With a win and help, he would clinch a Chase spot on wins. (The help would be in the form of all winless drivers being eliminated from leading the standings after Chicago.)
Chase Bubble: Stewart in; Larson sparks shake-up
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway . NEW WINNER, NEW SHAKE-UP Kyle Larson 's victory in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 altered the complexion of the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, securing another postseason berth for a first-time winner. The result means one less postseason berth for drivers hoping to qualify for the Chase on points, knocking Ryan Newman out of the provisional field of 16. Jamie McMurray , Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, currently clings to the final Chase berth with two regular-season events (Darlington, Richmond) remaining. FORMALLY WIN AND IN Tony Stewart wound up 21st in his final Michigan race, two laps off the leader's pace. It was enough to formally clinch a postseason spot, pairing his Sonoma victory in June with a steady hold on 26th in the driver standings. Stewart missed the first eight races of his final championship campaign with a back injury. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher limped to a 35th-place finish, slightly weakening his grasp on a postseason slot. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway earlier this month to check one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, but his margin over 31st-place David Ragan shrank from 13 to seven points. LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 400-miler, just two regular-season races (Darlington, Richmond) remain before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 24 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Michigan. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
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Chase -clinching scenarios for Bristol
With four races remaining in the regular season, 10 drivers have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , assuming each start the remaining races. The 10 clinchers: Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . and Denny Hamlin . Everyone who has a win this season is locked in -- except for Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher , both of whom have yet to clinch a top-30 spot. A number of drivers who currently have no wins can clinch this weekend, but only if they win at Bristol Motor Speedway and leave the race with at least a 136-point lead over Stewart and Buescher. There's also the potential for the points leader to be a guaranteed winner after race No. 26 at Richmond, the final regular-season race. If that's the case, the below drivers would only need to have a 136-point lead over Buescher. The XFINITY Series clinch scenarios follow as well. Possible to clinch: Tony Stewart : (1 Win, 389 Points, +97 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Could clinch a Top 30 position with help Possible to clinch at Bristol with a win: Ryan Newman (0 Wins, 562 Points, +270 Points Ahead of 31st) Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 561 Points, +269 Points Ahead of 31st) Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 559 Points, +267 Points Ahead of 31st) Jamie McMurray (0 Wins, 550 Points, +258 Points Ahead of 31st) Kyle Larson (0 Wins, 520 Points, +228 Points Ahead of 31st) Trevor Bayne (0 Wins, 512 Points, +220 Points Ahead of 31st) Kasey Kahne (0 Wins, 509 Points, +217 Points Ahead of 31st Ryan Blaney (0 Wins, 502 Points, +210 Points Ahead of 31st) AJ Allmendinger (0 Wins, 486 Points, +194 Points Ahead of 31st) Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (0 Wins, 475 Points, +183 Points Ahead of 31st) Dale Earnhardt Jr .* (0 Wins, 461 Points, +169 Points Ahead of 31st) Paul Menard (0 Wins, 422 Points, +130 Points Ahead of 31st) Possible to clinch at Bristol with a win plus help: Greg Biffle (0 Wins, 416 Points, +124 Points Ahead of 31st) Danica Patrick (0 Wins, 413 Points, +121 Points Ahead of 31st) Clint Bowyer (0 Wins, 397 Points, +105 Points Ahead of 31st) Aric Almirola (0 Wins, 379 Points, +87 Points Ahead of 31st) *Not currently entered at Bristol XFINITY Series The following drivers have already clinched a spot in the top 30 of the points standings, so a win would lock them into the Chase field -- Ty Dillon , Justin Allgaier , Brendan Gaughan , Brennan Poole , Brandon Jones , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Ryan Reed , Ryan Sieg , Blake Koch , Ross Chastain , Dakoda Armstrong and Jeremy Clements . Ryan Preece would clinch a top 30 spot in the points with a win, so he'd be in the Chase , too, if that happened. With a win, and some help in the points, Ray Black Jr . and BJ McLeod could qualify for the Chase .
Chase Bubble: Analyzing the playoff picture post-Watkins Glen
RELATED: See the full Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase Grid and bubble picture following Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International . BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher remains on the cusp of a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup because of his win at Pocono Raceway , but the rookie's involvement in a wreck with six laps remaining at the Cheez-It 355 hurt him greatly. Buescher still sits outside of the top 30 in points -- a requirement to make the Chase -- and is 31st, just three points behind 30th-place David Ragan . Ragan also was involved in the wreck on Lap 84, so Buescher stood to gain some ground if he could have found a way back into his car, but his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford couldn't be fixed in time to get back on the track. Buescher, the reigning XFINITY Series champion, has four races to get into the top 30 and lock in his playoff spot. LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr . WIN, BASICALLY IN With one win and a place in the top 30, Tony Stewart has all but claimed one of the remaining six spots. That accounts for 11 drivers in the 16-driver postseason field, leaving five spots up for grabs via points, with Buescher still sitting outside the top 30 in the standings. Here's how that picture looks post-Watkins Glen. BUBBLE WATCH Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the Sprint Cup Series drivers standings.