RELATED: Race results " Chase bubble watch MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Yes, Jeff Gordon celebrated his 93rd career victory in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway . Yes, Gordon will compete for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Yes, there were tears of joy in Victory Lane for Gordon, who's at the tail end of his final season in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with just three races remaining. But Sunday's race at Martinsville had so much more -- most notably, " Matt Kenseth 's Revenge." RELATED: Chase contenders involved in big wreck Long before Gordon held off Jamie McMurray in a two-lap run to the finish as darkness consumed the .526-mile short track, Kenseth ended polesitter Joey Logano 's remarkable winning streak in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by pile-driving Logano's No. 22 Team Penske Ford, which was leading the race at the time, into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 454 of 500. Kenseth's car was crippled at that point, the victim of a Lap 434 wreck that also involved the No. 2 Ford of Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski . But when Kenseth clipped the left rear quarter panel of Logano's Ford and slammed him into the SAFER barrier, it was retaliation for Kansas two weeks earlier, when Logano knocked Kenseth out of the way -- and effectively out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- in the closing laps of the second race of the Contender Round. Kenseth failed to advance to the Eliminator Round, which started at Martinsville on Sunday. And now Logano likewise is in dire jeopardy of seeing his dream season end before the Championship Round. "I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal," Logano said after a visit to the infield care center. "We were racing for the win, and he blocks you a few times, and then we raced hard and he blocked me the last time and we spun out. That's what happened there. "Here it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don't have anything else to say. It's a chicken-you-know-what move to completely take out the leader when your race is over." Logano, who was bidding for his fourth straight victory, finished 37th and is eighth in the Chase standings, 28 points behind Kevin Harvick in fourth, the last transfer position into the Championship Round. It was clear from Kenseth's post-accident comments that the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota felt it was important to assert himself. "You never like to be in these situations," Kenseth said. "They really stink, to be honest with you, but sometimes you get put in these spots, and you've got to try to keep respect in the garage area. You can't get yourself ran over. "You can't get in the Chase next year and get ran over for the same reason. Like I said, hate the way it ended. Wish we were out there celebrating or having a shot for the win like we did before we got wrecked, so a disappointing day." NASCAR called Kenseth, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and team owner Joe Gibbs to the sanctioning body's transporter after the race. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said the incident will be reviewed and subsequent action, if any, will be announced later this week. None of the Kenseth-Logano drama, however, could mute the elation of Gordon, the first driver to clinch a spot in the Championship Round at Homestead. "Yeah, baby, yeah -- we go to Homestead!" Gordon screamed after crossing the finish line .335 seconds ahead of McMurray. "That was huge! That was huge! Boys, I love you guys. "That's what I was talking about. We just keep digging and fighting..." WATCH: Gordon celebrates 'sweetest, most amazing feeling' A few minutes later, in Victory Lane, Gordon couldn't resist a joke. "It was a joke. I'm coming back next year!" Gordon quipped about his impending retirement. "This is the sweetest, most amazing feeling. I am so proud of this team. You want to talk about holding back emotions; right now man, wow, we're going to Homestead! I can't believe it." Kyle Busch had a fight on his hands, too, after spinning in Turn 2 on Lap 170 and damaging the front suspension of his No. 18 Toyota during contact with the No. 3 Chevrolet of Austin Dillon . But Busch rallied to come home fifth and is tied with sixth-place finisher Martin Truex Jr . for second in the Chase standings. Denny Hamlin recovered from two pit road speeding penalties to run third on Sunday, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr . Ryan Newman and Harvick and were seventh and eighth, respectively. Keselowski and Kurt Busch , victims of the same wreck that ended Kenseth's strong run, finished 32nd and 34th, respectively, and are approaching must-win status at the next two races in the Eliminator Round, at Texas and Phoenix. Notes: Before the wrecks that ruined their chances, the Team Penske cars were dominant. Logano led a race-high 207 laps. Keselowski led 143 laps, and at one juncture had built a lead of 8.9 seconds before Kyle Fowler smacked the Turn 3 wall to cause the 12th of 18 cautions. ... The victory was Gordon's first of the season and his ninth at Martinsville, breaking a tie with teammate Jimmie Johnson for most among active drivers.
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- NASCAR whittles its field of championship contenders in half here this weekend, in a manner of speaking, with seven drivers trying to squeeze into three spots and join Jeff Gordon next week at Homestead to race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway , which will be renamed Jeff Gordon Raceway for the event, could boost Gordon's career stats, but the results won't make or break his chances at a fifth title. It will be Gordon's last official start as a full-time competitor at PIR, and no doubt he'd like to go out a winner. For everyone else, Sunday will be a potential train wreck. RELATED: See the updated Chase Grid Kyle Busch , second in points , doesn't need to win, but he can't afford to stumble either. Think last year's result at Talladega has been forgotten? Think again. Busch was second in points going into that elimination race as well, before getting swept up in a crash and swept out of the Chase . He also hasn't forgotten the painful road back from injuries earlier this season that resulted in his missing the first 11 points races. All Busch did after climbing back in the car was reel off four wins in five starts, and with only one race standing between himself and a shot the title, don't expect Busch to go quietly into the night. Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick sits third and doesn't need a win. The thing is, Harvick's done nothing but win at Phoenix since joining Stewart-Haas Racing . He's unbeaten on the 1-mile track in his last four starts and has won here seven times overall. If there's a concern in the No. 4 camp, it's the unknown. Cut tires at Texas? Had 'em. Shifter issues at Kansas? Yep. But no one has been better when backed into a corner. RELATED: Can anyone dethrone the king of Phoenix? Looking for a darkhorse? Look no further than Martin Truex Jr . The Furniture Row Racing driver has defied the expectations of others, but in his world he's simply doing what he knows he and his team are capable of -- consistently running in the top 10. Another top-10 finish could be enough; however, since he is fourth in points , he would be the first casualty should one of those behind him wind up in Victory Lane. Carl Edwards leads those on the outside, sitting six points behind Truex Jr. in fifth. He finished 13th here earlier this season, back when he and his Joe Gibbs Racing team were in their "just getting to know you" phase. Edwards had just two top 10s in his first 17 starts with JGR; he's managed 13 more in 18 starts since. Also looking to re-ignite their Chase hopes are Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano , as well as SHR's Kurt Busch . The good news for Keselowski, the 2012 champ, is that he has led 455 laps in the last two races. The bad news -- he failed to win both times. Sure, he's won only once this year, but he's finished second five times, including last weekend. Second, though, likely won't be enough this weekend. Expect Keselowski to swing for the fences. Logano appeared to be the driver most likely to advance to Homestead when he swept the Contender Round, winning all three races. But his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, with finishes of 37th and 40th. He enters Sunday's race eighth in points , and knowing that a win is the only way he can assure himself of a shot at the championship. RELATED: Chase -clinching scenarios for Phoenix Rounding out the Chase contenders is Busch, possibly as much of a darkhorse as Truex. The No. 41 team has been as fast as anyone at times this season, it just hasn't done it as often as several of those Busch will need to outrun. Seventh in points , a win is all but necessary if the 2004 champion hopes to advance. It's the same as any other week, and it's nothing like any other week -- seven drivers battling for three positions and a shot at the championship. Sunday isn't about a race, it's about a season.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- As Carli Lloyd sat for an interview behind the XFINITY stage set-up just outside the Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday morning, a long, committed and excited line of assorted people waited for her autograph, a chance to meet one of the United States' all-time most accomplished soccer players. Joking a bit about the extreme South Florida humidity, Lloyd, 33, was gracious and truly as interested in learning about NASCAR as sharing her incredible personal story as one of the world's greatest soccer players. "When the World Cup finished, my agent busy with a lot of requests, and my first big-time commercial was with XFINITY , and I thought it was so well done and I really enjoyed it," Lloyd said. "That was the start of the partnership between us. And then this came up and I was thrilled. I said I'd love to do this. "What's great about what happened from the World Cup is I've gotten to get out of the bubble of just soccer and gotten to experience so many different things, meet different people and go to different events. When would I have ever gotten the chance to see something like this?" Lloyd was surprised at the number of people waiting on the other side of our interview area for a chance to meet her and get an autograph. Minutes earlier, she played a little soccer with current XFINITY Series championship leader Chris Buescher -- part lesson, part shootout. In the end, Buescher beat her 4-1 -- kicking shots into a much larger goal. "It was really cool chatting with him about his preparation and how he trains and then kick it around with him," Lloyd said. "The first shot he used his toe and I was like, 'Hey, you've got to use the inside of your foot.' Then he started killing it. I was thinking, 'I shouldn't have given him any pointers.' "I said, 'Have you ever kicked a soccer ball?' He said, 'Yeah, when I was four.' " Lloyd said she mostly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Buescher, who leads defending XFINITY Series champ Chase Elliott by 18 points entering Saturday's season finale. "You don't realize how cool these races are until you actually come and see these things, see the pits, how fast they change tires, see the drivers and their training and preparation," Lloyd said. "They are really fit and it takes a lot to drive the car around the track, you don't just hop in and go. It's been really cool, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be here. "Just doing our Q&A, it's really fascinating to see the parallels, even though they are different sports. The mental aspect of his sport ... if he switches off, something terrible could happen on the track. It's the same thing with us. If you're not mentally prepared, you could risk being injured on the field." After finishing up her time at NASCAR's season finale -- she was Saturday's official starter, as well -- Lloyd and her team will return to the field for four more matches as part of the World Cup-winning team's U.S. Tour. Then in 2016 it's time to start preparing for the Olympics -- the nation solidly behind them "We're in November and the World Cup happened in July and people are still wanting to come see us and I think that speaks volumes," Lloyd said. "If something isn't going to be around and popular, it fizzles out in a month or so. That's not happening and that's a really good sign. "It's really cool people are here in their uniforms and want autographs on their soccer balls. I think it's great. I'm enjoying being able to do different things and be a part of this. "I think we captivated a nation and inspired not only young girls, but boys and even adults. That's just what it's all about. I want people to hear my story, the ups and downs. You can't pick things out of successful moments and get better. The moments people don't see, what they don't realize is it takes a lot of hard work, ups and downs and obstacles to get to this point. That's the message I'm trying to get out."
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: 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: Race results " See who advanced, who was eliminated post-Phoenix AVONDALE, Ariz. -- For Kurt Busch , the high hopes for a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title were dented almost before they started Sunday, the result of a first-lap penalty for jumping the initial drop of the green flag at Phoenix International Raceway . For the 2004 champ and three other drivers on an odd, rainy Sunday, there would be no sun in the Arizona desert and no safe passage to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Round next Sunday. Rain brought an early halt to a NASCAR premier-series event for only the second time in 39 races at the 1-mile track, leaving 93 laps on the board and four drivers wondering what could have been over the final stretch. Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski both entered the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 in essentially must-win situations to clinch a berth in the season finale next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway ; Logano wound up two positions short and Keselowski missed it by eight. Edwards just needed a better points day than the three drivers ahead of him; he fell short by five points , telling his crew "they can't let it end like this" as the curtain-closing showers intensified. The sour taste was perhaps most pungent for Busch, who started in second place but was just inches ahead of pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson once the race started -- nearly seven hours late and with Busch ruled just a split second too soon. "That wasn't a penalty," said Busch, who wound up seventh of the eight title hopefuls after the Eliminator Round cutoff. "That's a reason to start a survey and right now, I encourage everybody to go onto Twitter, my Facebook, my Instagram and follow it, and we're all going to have a survey." Restarts -- an increasingly intriguing topic in the second half of the season -- were again on the front burner in the pre-race drivers' meeting, with four-time champion Jeff Gordon asking if the second-place car could beat the leading "control" car to the start-finish line. The social media jury may still be out, but a NASCAR spokesperson said the ruling was a procedural penalty that race officials stand behind. "Who knows, man?" said Tony Gibson, crew chief of Busch's Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevy. "We've seen guys all year long do that, so it's … I don't know. It's the most inconsistent thing I've ever seen, so it is what it is. We'll just deal with it and go on. "We definitely had a car to win. Just didn't happen. We'll be all right." Busch protested over the radio once the penalty was announced after a brief review, and he eventually served his penalty on Lap 8, stripped of leading the opening laps and left to rally from last place to an eventual seventh-place result. Despite his dismay, Busch was able to find positives in the way his scrappy team responded to its tumultuous season. "I had a great season. We won two races, sat on three poles," Busch said. "We did everything possible to put polish on a season like this and get out there with elbow grease and work hard at it. There's some tarnish that's sitting there. Polish and polish and polish -- that's all I kept doing this whole year." The others dealt with a mixed bag of misfortune, either coming out on the wrong end of a final caution flag that interrupted a green-flag cycle of pit stops and ultimately propelled Dale Earnhardt Jr . to victory, or failing to make up ground on runner-up Kevin Harvick , whose dominance during a four-race Phoenix win streak ended despite leading 143 of the 219 laps. Logano spent the majority of his day among the top five, but couldn't escape the deficit caused by Matt Kenseth 's intentional crash at Martinsville in the round opener. He left Phoenix last among the final eight, but still able to savor a six-win season. "I'm proud of what this team's done," Logano said moments before the race was abbreviated. "We've had amazing runs throughout the year, we've been consistently fast. We showed it again tonight that we've got really good speed in our cars. Our team doesn't make mistakes and it's something I'm very proud of. Today is obviously a high-pressure situation for everyone, and everyone's just been loose and acting like it was a normal day. Couldn't be more proud of this team either way, no matter what happens. I really wanted to get another shot, so we can wait and see." Keselowski, also caught up in one of the Martinsville run-ins, was sixth among the final eight -- a distant 13 points behind final championship qualifier Martin Truex Jr . "I don't think it matters what's fair," Keselowski said when asked about the early end to the next-to-last race of the season. "What matters is what entertains the fans, and if the fans are happy, that's what it's all about." Edwards was vocal on his team radio in his desire to restart the race, potentially waiting out another delay under the lights. The ending left him 12th in the race and fifth in the Eliminator Round standings, five points behind Truex. "How hard they've worked all year to come down to something as simple as a rainout," said Grubb, in his fourth year with Joe Gibbs Racing . "We feel like we could have raced our way back in there and had a shot at it. We were still five points out, just like we were five points coming in. We knew that was going to be a tough situation, but it ended up that it bit us and I just hate it for these guys. I'm very proud to have had a championship in the past and I wanted to help bring one to these guys who have worked so hard for it."
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.
RELATED: Full race results " Update series standings FORT WORTH, Texas -- In order to advance to his second straight Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway , Joey Logano all but needed to win one of the two remaining races of the Eliminator Round of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup . The Team Penske driver's chances were cut in half a mere 10 laps into Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway -- by a cut tire. Running fourth on Lap 10, Logano had a left-rear tire go down in Turn 2, spinning to the bottom of the track and suffering major damage to the left-rear quarter panel of his No. 22 Ford Fusion. The wreck "shredded everything inside the car," according to Logano, and although he was able to get back out on track, he was saddled with a 40th-place finish. With one race remaining in the Eliminator Round and 63 points separating him from the cutoff line, Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Phoenix International Raceway is a must-win situation. "(Today's race is) not what we needed, we need to win. But we're not out of it -- this team's not quitting," Logano said. "... It was just part of it. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. We will be ready for Phoenix. This team is strong. We didn't take any wind out of our sails today, and we showed how fast this thing was even after we crashed." The 25-year-old driver has yet to add a trophy from Phoenix to his quickly-growing collection, but if anyone on the circuit can unseat Kevin Harvick as the "Desert King" it's a motivated Logano. The Team Penske driver swept the Contender Round races of the Chase , has six wins on the season and has a consecutive run of four straight top-10 finishes at Phoenix -- all of which were Harvick wins. So how does he feel going into next week, knowing his entire season -- which started in February with his first Daytona 500 win -- is riding on it? "Same as this week, right? This was a must-win situation as well," Logano said. "If we finished second today we would be in the same boat going into Phoenix. I feel great about our chances at Phoenix. It has been a great race track for us in the past. I felt like this track was a great one for us as well. It is unfortunate that we finished how we did."