RELATED: Updated Chase Grid CONCORD, N.C. -- After a tough run of races over the summer heading into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . came into the postseason a bit under the radar. Most don't see us. We're still here. #ambush #truexnation — Martin Truex Jr . (@MartinTruex_Jr) October 13, 2015 The Furniture Row Racing driver's stealth run toward a possible championship continued at Charlotte Motor Speedway on a day that saw Joey Logano dominate his way to victory and several title contenders find trouble. Truex scored a third-place finish in the Bank of America 500 that puts him third in the standings and 12 points above the cutline to be one of eight drivers to advance to the Eliminator Round. RELATED: See how the entire 43-car field fared at Charlotte "Third is great and all, but it's no guarantee," Truex said after the race. "I felt like this round would be good for us. Charlotte and Kansas, we ran so good here in the first race this year, and then after practice I was like, 'oh my God, we're struggling.' This was honestly the worst weekend we've had all season long as far as how I felt about the race car. "So I was like, ok, kind of damage control. Let's just hopefully get a top 10 out of this thing, and to do ‑‑ to get third out of it was a huge step for us." Truex qualified 15th for the Bank of America 500 and finished 16th, 4th and 15th in the three practice sessions. "From the time practice was over on Friday until this morning, we were texting about the set-up and what we were going to do and what we had to do and what to focus on," Truex said of his single-car team's efforts to improve the No. 78 Chevrolet this weekend. " I'm just proud of those guys for what they did. It was a true team effort and a testament to this team and their fight." The run was Truex's best result since a third-place finish at Michigan in August and was his best career finish at Charlotte. The finish also gave Truex a career-high in top-fives for a single season (eight) and matched his career-high in top 10s (19). And now the 35-year-old turns his attention to the next race of the Contender Round at Kansas. Truex led a race-high 95 laps in the spring race at Kansas, the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 , en route to a ninth-place finish. Prior to that, he had four top-four finishes in his past six starts at the 1.5-mile track. "Honestly, I think going to Kansas, a win is huge," Truex said. "It would be so huge. It's so critical to try to get that win out of the way. Logano is the only one that's going to sleep for the next two weeks. You know what I mean? "Kansas has been one of my best race tracks, and certainly one of my best since I went to Furniture Row. Honestly, we're going there as hard as we can go with everything we have to try to win just because we know Talladega is that wild card." Add in his 6.7 average finish in the seven intermediate track races that have used the 2015 rules package and its easy to see why Truex feels confident heading into Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 (2:15 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). "Talladega still looms. It still makes us nervous," Truex said. "But next week could be a really good race for us and we're looking forward to getting that win that’s been eluding me at Kansas for a couple of years."
RELATED: Full Dover race results " Updated Chase Grid " Series standings DOVER, Del. -- It was a second-half battle between Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Jamie McMurray and it wasn't settled until the final lap of Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . It wasn't for the win. But, in this scenario, it was just as important. Earnhardt Jr. finished third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, McMurray finished fourth and that order determined the final spot in the 12-driver lineup for the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The two drivers finished tied in the final points standings after the three-race Challenger Round, but Earnhardt Jr. earned the final transfer position based on having the better finish of the two drivers (his Dover result) in this opening round. A fast restart by McMurray's Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet inside the final 100 laps of the 400-lap event took Earnhardt Jr. by surprise -- "I didn't see that kind of speed in his car all day," Earnhardt said -- and had some wondering if Earnhardt would be the second Hendrick Motorsports to fail to advance. Teammate Jimmie Johnson , felled by a broken rear axle seal, finished 41st and dropped from Chase contention. RELATED: Johnson's hopes for a seventh title come to an end It was a final caution, the result of oil put down by the No. 40 of Landon Cassill on Lap 373, that gave Earnhardt Jr. his opportunity. "Jamie was trying to squeeze down in front of Matt (Kenseth) into Turn 3 and get to the bottom, and they really slow‑rolled that corner for some reason, both of them," he said. "I just went to the outside because it was about the only shot I had to pinch anybody down, pinch Jamie down if I could get to his quarter panel, and that's how it worked out. "I thought we were about the third- to fifth-best car, and we just fought all day for track position, and we passed a lot of cars and had a lot of fun." The No. 88 crew chief, Greg Ives said having the two earlier wins was fortunate but that "we shouldn't even be in this position right now. "Running out of fuel (at Loudon), we ran well enough to finish in the top three (there)," he said. "This is not indicative of where our team is; the heart and the fight we had today showed where this team is at." Earnhardt had finished 12th in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway , then ran out of fuel in the waning laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to wind up 25th. He came into Sunday's cutoff race 12th in points and just one point ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch . "I feel like we've got pretty good speed," Earnhardt said. "We lost a little ... over the summer and I think we're gaining a little bit on it. We've still got some more to find." McMurray was disappointed in the outcome -- he was making his first appearance in the Chase -- but was pleased with what his team accomplished this season. "Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make it into the Chase ," he said. "The unfortunate part is we didn't run well enough the first two races; we ran great today. We got a lap down and then Matt (McCall, crew chief) did a really good job adjusting the car and getting it back to where we had a top five car; our pit crew did an awesome job, our team did a tremendous job today; we just didn't run well enough the first two races." Finishes of 16th and 14th in the first two Chase races put McMurray 11th in points headed into Dover, one point ahead of Earnhardt. Kevin Harvick dominated the race to vault his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team into the Contender Round. Busch, Earnhardt, McMurray and Aric Almirola completed the top five. "I really thought just being consistent would get us in and it was close, we just needed one more point," said McMurray. Bonus points for race wins, awarded for during the first 26 races and used to help determine seeding for the opening round, are not awarded after the first round. Therefore, the 12 drivers advancing into the Contender Round each have 3,000 points heading into next weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway .
LEARN MORE: About Bing PLAY NOW: Play the Chase Grid Battle Game here Statistical analysis has taken on a life of its own in modern-day professional sports, and NASCAR is no different. And perhaps the most important number in the sport this week is 16 -- as in the drivers eligible to advance to the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Who's going to make the 16-driver field when the smoke clears at Richmond? We're glad you asked. One of the exciting new features in this year's Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing is the inclusion of Bing Predicts, a methodology that will provide round-by-round forecasts and help you advance to a fantasy championship. And as you sign up for the game and start to make your picks, keep in mind Bing recently has made accurate forecasts for the Women's World Cup and the Tour de France. To whet your appetite, below is a list of which drivers Bing predicts will make the 2015 Chase (ordered by points , which is why you will see Kyle Busch in 16th place). Come back in future weeks for more predictions by Bing . 1. Kevin Harvick 2. Joey Logano 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr . 4. Brad Keselowski 5. Jimmie Johnson 6. Martin Truex Jr . 7. Matt Kenseth 8. Kurt Busch 9. Denny Hamlin 10. Jamie McMurray 11. Jeff Gordon 12. Ryan Newman 13. Carl Edwards 14. Paul Menard 15. Clint Bowyer 16. Kyle Busch Notes: -- Entering Richmond, Kyle Busch was 27th in points but had a win and was in the top 30, making him eligible for the Chase . Bing predicts he will rise to 25th in points after Richmond. -- Entering Richmond, Kasey Kahne was 17th while Aric Almirola was 16th. Bing predicts Kahne will overtake Almirola after Richmond, but it will not be enough to pass Clint Bowyer , who will earn the final berth in the Chase for a winless driver.
RELATED: Full Dover results " Updated Chase grid " Updated standings DOVER, Del. -- Kyle Busch , still looking for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, remains in the title picture thanks to a runner-up finish in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . The result proved to be more than enough to push the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the top 12 in points , a necessity for those hoping to advance into the Contender Round of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Busch led five times for 19 laps in an event that was dominated by defending series champion Kevin Harvick . During a weekend that saw rain limit practice time and force the cancelation of qualifying, Busch said there was enough of an unknown going into Sunday's race to hold his attention. "I had a little bit of concern just based off the short amount of practice time that we got and the way the car was feeling in those practice sessions," Busch said. "You know, I just wasn't quite as confident in it as I wanted to be. "I never really got a good feel for what I thought I needed to race. But right then and there, for today, the way we ran, I can't say enough about my team. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys, they made some really good calls and … some smart changes overnight, and we had a really fast car today. "You know, I shouldn't have been too worried, I guess. I should have put my faith in my team, which they prevailed today for me." Busch missed the season's first 11 races after suffering a broken leg and fractured foot in an XFINITY Series crash in February at Daytona International Speedway . He returned to Victory Lane five races later, and captured four of five during a hot summer stretch that saw him begin to work his way back inside the top 30 in points . Now, he's one of 12 still contending for this year's title. He's advanced through the opening Challenger Round by rallying from a 37th-place finish a week ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Although outside the top 12 heading into Dover, Busch said he wasn't counting points as the race played out. "I think when you're in the position that we were in when we were running second there the whole race, you don't have to watch it," he said. "You just do the best you can and that was the best that we were going to do today. "Fortunately we came out with that finish and second-place was what we needed to do. ... The points reset so we're back even with those guys and hopefully we can have a good, solid next three races." Bonus points for race wins, awarded for during the first 26 races and used to help determine seeding for the opening round, are not awarded after the first round. Therefore, the 12 drivers advancing into the Contender Round each have 3,000 points heading into next weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway .
RELATED: Meet all 16 drivers in the Chase JOLIET, Ill. -- Thursday's playoff-opening media day for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was graced by the arrival of two newcomers in the 16-driver field. Neither was new enough to need a name tag, but Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard both savored the spotlight that comes with their newfound championship eligibility. "Quite honestly, I've never paid attention to what happens at Chase Media Day," McMurray said as he made media rotations at The Murphy in downtown Chicago. "I don't know that I had any idea what all of this was. When we showed up today and took our photo out front when we initially got here, I thought we were literally here for a photo in front of this building and I wasn't sure why. And then when I walked in and saw all this -- amazing. It somewhat reminds you of a condensed version of what we do at Daytona every year." With the meet-and-greets out of the way, both first-timers settle down to the business end of their Chase debut this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway , site of Sunday's MyAFibRisk.com 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the first of 10 playoff races that will determine the Sprint Cup champion. Both found out quickly that the event is no ordinary race, as evidenced by the build-up and obligations before the Challenger Round opens. Both drivers participated in Chase Across North America activities Tuesday: McMurray loaded into Talladega to help a group of middle school students paint a car in Victory Lane, while Menard traveled to Martinsville for a parade and the key to the city. Both then traveled to Kansas Speedway for Wednesday's test session before arriving for Thursday's festivities in the Windy City. The Chase marks uncharted ground for both, but on-track activity and the normal flow of the weekend schedule should provide some familiarity. "I've never been in this position before, so I'm just taking it like I take every week with a busier week leading up to the event this week obviously," Menard said. "But ... I feel good about how we're approaching it. We're just going to put our heads down and go as far in this deal as we can." The wait for a Chase berth has been a lengthy one for McMurray, whose first premier-series start came roughly a year and a half before the 10-race playoff system debuted in 2004. Since then, his career has been dotted with Chase near-misses, but he secured his spot in the field as the top points -earner among non-winners. The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver doesn't see the zero in his win column as an impediment, citing the example of Ryan Newman last year in the first go-round for the new-look Chase . Newman weathered eliminations all the way to the championship round without a win in 2014, something McMurray said he's capable of replicating thanks to the No. 1 team's consistency this season. "For sure, it obviously has been a long time," McMurray said. "I'm really proud of our team and what we've been able to do to make the Chase . I think I'm most proud that we would've made it in any format. It wasn't necessarily that you're the last guy to get in. We were in the top 10 in points all year long and that's a huge accomplishment for us." The wait has been slightly less prolonged for Menard, who joined the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2007. He wound up as the final driver to qualify for the Chase , 17 points ahead of Aric Almirola . RELATED: Top quotes from Chase Media Day If the Richard Childress Racing driver has an X-factor, it could be from his cult following in social media circles. Though he's among a handful of drivers who aren't on Twitter, he said he's felt the modest groundswell of support from the loyal Menard faithful. "What is there -- 15 nations and one empire? Is that what they say?" Menard said, referring to both the Chase "driver nation" branding and the @PMenardEmpire Twitter account. "No, it's cool. I've actually met Jory, who does the Paul Menard Empire. He's been to a few races and I've met him. Then just randomly … somebody came up -- it was in Richmond -- and said they wanted to meet the emperor. So I signed an autograph. It's cool. I hear about it and it's a pretty cool deal."
RELATED: Full standings " Chicagoland race results Advancing: Denny Hamlin rebounded from a 29th-place starting position and an early spin to win Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in the opener for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . As a result, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver advanced to the Contender Round. It was Hamlin's first win in 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Chicagoland, and it came a little more than a week since the Joe Gibbs Racing driver tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee playing basketball. Four out: These four drivers would not advance to the next round (Contender) if the Challenger Round ended today. (Note: The Challenger Round ends in two weeks at Dover International Speedway .) Jamie McMurray (two points behind 12th-place driver) Paul Menard (-3) Clint Bowyer (-5) Kevin Harvick (-22) Reason for hope: Ryan Newman kept his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet out of trouble on Sunday and posted a fourth-place finish, his ninth top-10 finish in 14 starts at Chicagoland. He moved up to eighth place in the Chase standings and is 12 points ahead of McMurray, who is in 13th place. Reason for worry: Defending champion Kevin Harvick ran into trouble on Lap 135 when his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet came into contact with Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS. A few laps later Harvick's tire went down and caused him to spin and wreck. He had to go to the garage and finished 42nd. Now Harvick needs a win in the next two races -- or to be near-perfect and see someone else fall behind in points -- for him to advance. Up next: Sylvania 300 , 2 p.m. ET, Sept. 27 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) Who it favors Most wins: 3 -- Jeff Gordon , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Ryan Newman Best driver rating: 106.7 -- Jeff Gordon Best average finish: 10.2 -- Brad Keselowski Who it hurts Fewest top 10s: 6 -- Jamie McMurray (in 25 starts), Carl Edwards (22), Martin Truex Jr . (19) Worst driver rating: 61.4 -- Paul Menard Worst average finish: 20.7 -- Jamie McMurray
RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase Bubble Watch Kyle Larson spent three intense days at Homestead-Miami Speedway last week logging laps, studying data and working on what could potentially be the most important homework assignment of his career. So far. Knowing that the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will be crowned at the Nov. 22 season-finale at the 1.5-mile speedway, the test session -- a two-day Goodyear tire test followed by a one-day open test -- was an essential learning tool. Thing is, Larson, last year's Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, still has to earn a spot in the 16-driver Chase field to even be among the title discussion by the time the series heads back to the South Florida track to race. And time's running out. Only two chances remain to grab one of the playoff spots -- this week at Darlingon and next week at Richmond. Because Larson is not currently ranked among the top-16 in the points standings, his only chance of earning a Chase berth is winning a race and making his first career trip to a Sprint Cup Victory Lane. It's crunch time, and Larson knows it. "We know we have to win," Larson said. "And still right now, we have to find some more speed to compete for a win. We've been close a couple times this year just based on strategies. "It could happen even with just two races left. We tested at Richmond earlier in the year and it went well. I always run just outside top-10 at Richmond and I thought I learned a lot (at the test). So we've got good stuff for Richmond, and Darlington is a track I like a lot." Having his season's fate decided in such dramatic fashion wasn't exactly what Larson or others predicted. Larson was widely considered a shoe-in for a title run -- at least a playoff berth -- after an impressive rookie season. A natural talent from the same kind of open-wheel background as three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart and four-time champ Jeff Gordon , Larson has emerged as one of the sport's new young headliners and is widely regarded as future championship material. Now the 23-year-old must seal the deal. "I'm definitely surprised it's come down to this," Larson said while waiting out a rain delay last week at Homestead. "The way both Jamie (McMurray, CGR teammate) and I ended last year, we thought we'd be a contender this year. "We've been fast but just haven't had any luck at all this year and that's been really frustrating. When we have speed in the cars we run in top-10. At Bristol, for example, we blew two front tires. Last year we'd run way worse but have better finishes." WATCH: Rough night for Larson at Bristol There's no denying it's been a no-luck, hard-knock kind of season despite the team's best efforts. While Chip Ganassi Racing 's other Chevrolet driven by McMurray is in promising position to earn a Chase position based on points , it's been a tough road for the team's second-year driver. Larson's third place at Dover in May is his best finish of the season and only top-five showing after a rookie year when he was regularly mixing it up at the front of the field, posting five top-three finishes, including three runner-ups. He's had only two top-10s in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet since Dover this spring, and his four DNFs equal the number he had all of last year. But there is encouraging news to consider, and Larson has not conceded a thing. His No. 42 Chevrolet was easily one of the best cars in the Chase last year with six top-10 finishes in the final 10 races, including a streak of five consecutive as the postseason kicked in. MORE: Larson's Darlington 'Days of Thunder' throwback scheme Should Larson earn a playoff chance, he feels the team should be strong down the stretch. "Last year I thought we were running better at this point in the season than we are now," Larson said. "But a lot of the tracks in the Chase I really enjoy running at and I think that's part of why we had success in the Chase . "I think we'll be good again this year in the Chase . It's just right now, we're not in it." He added quickly: "That could change." MORE: Who's most likely to win way into Chase ?
RELATED: Full series standings " Richmond results The field is set for the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup following Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway , which was won by Matt Kenseth . Aric Almirola fell short of qualifying for his second consecutive Chase . Almirola, who entered Richmond 29 points behind Clint Bowyer in 16th place, finished 17 points below the cut line after a fourth-place finish at Richmond. Kasey Kahne , who like Almirola had a chance to qualify on points , finished 18th at Richmond and ended up 33 points below the cut line. With Almirola and Kahne staying out, that meant the final Chase berths went to Ryan Newman , Jeff Gordon , Paul Menard and Bowyer. Here's how the field will be seeded entering the first Chase race next week at Chicagoland Speedway . IN THE CHASE (Seeded by points and tiebreakers) 1. Jimmie Johnson , 2012 points 2. Kyle Busch , 2012 3. Matt Kenseth , 2012 4. Joey Logano , 2009 5. Kevin Harvick , 2006 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 2006 7. Kurt Busch , 2006 8. Carl Edwards , 2006 9. Brad Keselowski , 2003 10. Martin Truex Jr ., 2003 11. Denny Hamlin , 2003 12. Jamie McMurray , 2000 13. Jeff Gordon , 2000 14. Ryan Newman , 2000 15. Paul Menard , 2000 16. Clint Bowyer , 2000 JUST MISSED THE CUT Aric Almirola Kasey Kahne * Tiebreaker = Points are reset at 2,000 for the Chase with drivers getting three bonus points for each regular-season win. Ties are broken by runner-up finishes, third-place finishes, fourth-place finishes, and so on until a winner of the tiebreaker emerges.
Got questions about the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format? This brief video will get you up to speed.
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings Joey Logano surged to a dominant victory Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway , landing an automatic berth in the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Logano, driving the Team Penske No. 22 Ford, led 227 of 334 laps in the Bank of America 500 , which was postponed by heavy Saturday night rain. He held off defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick to record his fourth win of the season, his first at the 1.5-mile track and 12th of his Sprint Cup Series career. The victory gives Logano immunity from elimination in the three-race Contender Round, making him one of the final eight title-eligible drivers in the Eliminator Round. His road to last year's championship round took a similar path; Logano also won 2014's Contender Round opener, which was hosted last year at Kansas Speedway . "This makes Talladega way easier," Logano said, pointing toward the always dicey Contender Round finale at the 2.66-mile Alabama track. "I know that's on everyone's mind when this round starts and last year we won Kansas when it was the first race of this round and now we were able to get it this time at Charlotte. We'll get lots of sleep here the next couple of weeks." Logano notched his victory a week after Harvick triumphed at Dover to claw his way back into the Chase . "I think everyone saw how fast he was last week and it probably made a lot of people nervous, but our team kept their heads up and stayed confident," Logano said. "We know we can beat them. We know we've got what we need over here, and our team is as tight-knit as they get. "I'm proud of them. I couldn't be more proud of them. We had a lot of money stops today to keep us out front. The pit stops were great and I couldn't be more proud of what they’re doing right now." Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet finished .704 seconds behind Logano at the end of his 11th runner-up finish this year. Martin Truex Jr ., Denny Hamlin , Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards completed the top six as Chase drivers swept the first half-dozen positions. Seventh-finishing Austin Dillon was the top non- Chase driver. Early trouble made for a difficult day for Chase drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch , all of whom failed to finish on the lead lap. Earnhardt spent much of the race's middle section one lap down after brushing the wall twice, on Lap 69 and 74. He continued after repairs, then scraped the wall again after hitting oil on the track on a Lap 190 restart. Kenseth, the Coors Light Pole Award winner in Thursday qualifying, led 72 laps early before running into his own pitfalls. A pair of errors on pit stops pushed him back in the running order, then things got worse when he made contact with fellow Chaser Ryan Newman on Lap 176, sending his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 entry into the outside wall. After numerous stops for repairs, Kenseth scraped the wall again on Lap 204 and then hammered it on Lap 241, sending him behind the wall. "These are never the kind of days you want to have for sure, but it's just one of those days," Kenseth said. "We're real fast up front and we're real tight in traffic. We got behind on that first pit deal and then didn't catch the cautions right and it went green, overshot my pit and put us in the back so it’s just like one thing led to another and led to another. "We shouldn't have ever been back there to start with. My mistakes and they cost us today so we'll just move on from this and get ready for Kansas." Busch, Kenseth's JGR teammate, suffered damage and lost headway when he collided with Kyle Larson in a quirky collision at the pit-road entrance. Both drivers made moves to fake and entry onto pit road, but when Busch tried to return to the track in third place, he made sizable contact with second-place Larson. Busch wound up with a 20th-place finish, Earnhardt 28th and Kenseth 42nd, leaving all three with plenty of ground to make up in the next two Contender Round races -- next weekend at Kansas Speedway and the following week at Talladega Superspeedway . RELATED: Where Chase bubble drivers stand after Charlotte The race was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but rain forced its postponement to a sunny Sunday. "Well, we definitely had to make some bigger swings at the handling of the car than what we were prepared for last night," said Harvick. "I like racing in the day, and especially here at Charlotte, because it seems like the cars move around more and it's harder to get a hold of your car. "But we never were able to get the balance right on our car all weekend and just never really got comfortable in the car -- but kept grinding away, and it got better throughout the day today, and that's a good thing on race day." Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service