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.
Hamlin tops chart, spins in final Michigan practice
RELATED: Full practice results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Denny Hamlin set the pace in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway , but damaged his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in a spin midway through the session. Hamlin, who qualified third in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, clocked a lap of 197.878 mph in Saturday's final practice. The session, originally scheduled for 50 minutes, was halted with approximately 27 minutes left because of lightning in the area of the 2-mile track. Hamlin told NBCSN that the car got loose "out of the blue" as he navigated Turn 4. He avoided contact with the wall, but did slight damage when the nose of his car dug into the grass bordering the frontstretch. Hamlin indicated the team did not expect to deploy the reserve car. RELATED: All the cars at Michigan as they'll line up Rookie Chase Elliott was second-fastest at 197.786 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. He was followed by two Hendrick teammates on the leaderboard -- third-fastest Jimmie Johnson (197.694 mph) and fourth-best Kasey Kahne (197.455 mph). Michigan native Brad Keselowski completed the top five in the final prep for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Team Penske teammate Joey Logano , who secured the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, was 10th-fastest at 196.969 mph. Stewart atop Saturday's early practice Tony Stewart topped the speed chart in Saturday's morning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Michigan International Speedway ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart circled the 2-mile track in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with a fast time of 202.122 mph to pace the 55-minute practice session. "Smoke" has one win in the Irish Hills in 33 starts there. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, 201.427 mph) and Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 201.196 mph) came in second and third, respectively. Both drivers are in search of their first win in the sport's top series. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, 201.089 mph) and Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, 200.932 mph) completed the top five. Alex Bowman , who will pilot the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend, placed eighth in practice. All told, 12 drivers crossed the 200 mph mark on their laps Saturday morning. Polesitter Joey Logano placed 16th in the session. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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.
Top 10 consecutive lap averages at Michigan
RESULTS: Practice 1 " Practice 2 " Practice 3 Average speeds for drivers running 10 or more consecutive laps in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Michigan International Speedway : Practice 1 Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 42 Kyle Larson 1 10 194.178 2 14 Tony Stewart 1 10 193.710 Practice 2 Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 18 Kyle Busch 2 11 199.713 2 48 Jimmie Johnson 1 10 199.578 3 88 Alex Bowman (i) 2 11 199.403 4 5 Kasey Kahne 1 10 198.817 5 1 Jamie McMurray 10 19 198.165 6 19 Carl Edwards 10 19 198.115 7 24 Chase Elliott # 2 11 197.939 8 4 Kevin Harvick 10 19 197.802 9 2 Brad Keselowski 14 23 197.462 10 15 Clint Bowyer 1 10 197.177 11 83 Matt DiBenedetto 1 10 192.298 Practice 3 Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 42 Kyle Larson 1 10 196.346 2 24 Chase Elliott 1 10 196.015 3 48 Jimmie Johnson 1 10 195.995 4 5 Kasey Kahne 1 10 195.789 5 47 AJ Allmendinger 1 10 195.703 6 1 Jamie McMurray 1 10 195.514 7 41 Kurt Busch 1 10 195.442 8 31 Ryan Newman 1 10 195.322 9 20 Matt Kenseth 1 10 194.883 *Required to qualify on time, (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, #Rookie
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
Tony Eury Jr. to serve as NWMT crew chief at Bristol
Veteran crew chief Tony Eury Jr. will serve as crew chief for Todd Szegedy in the No. 15 15-40 Connection car in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway , Rob Fuller Motorsports announced Monday afternoon. "After getting to know Todd, I am excited to be his crew chief in Bristol," Eury said in a team release. "I think we have a legitimate shot to win, and we're going to have some fun with it as well. I've paid attention to how the track is from past modified races, and I think working on super late models every week can be applied to working on the modified car as well. We are going in with a game plan, but I might bring a few ideas to the table that we can try and see what happens!" Eury Jr. is cousin of Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . and served as Junior's Sprint Cup crew chief on a part-time basis for four seasons and full-time in 2006 and 2008. The duo won twice during their full-time seasons together. Eury also captained the Sprint Cup pit box for Brad Keselowski and Michael Waltrip briefly, as well as Danica Patrick in the XFINITY Series. Eury's father, Tony Eury Sr., served as crew chief for Earnhardt Jr. as well (1999- 2004) and Dale Earnhardt in the XFINITY Series. Eury Jr. was named general manager for Mooresville, North Carolina-based LFR Chassis, Inc. in 2014. The Bush's Beans 150 will take place Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. at Bristol Motor Speedway . The Camping World Truck Series' UNOH 200 follows the conclusion of the 150-miler, beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
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.)
Cain: No need to panic about struggling Hendrick
Who's panicking? Not the Hendrick Motorsports team, as some have suggested. Working overtime, brainstorming, gritting their teeth and rolling up their sleeves? Perhaps. But this organization -- which hasn't celebrated a victory since March -- knows a little something about challenging for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series championships, and it would be naïve and foolhardy to believe the team's summer doldrums are a definitive sign of playoff potential. At least that's what history has shown us. And what Jimmie Johnson tells us. And what team owner Rick Hendrick has assured. "A lot of hard work went on during the break that we had," Johnson said last weekend at Bristol, Tennessee. "Just judging by the excitement from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and all the way through to Mr. Hendrick, we're definitely turning over some stones and are hopeful to bring a little better product to the race track week in and week out. "We've been struggling at times, trying to produce speed and lap times of late and making mistakes in the process. We're still rallying with some decent finishes from time to time, but then again, still having some bad luck. I think Watkins Glen kind of speaks to that as well; and also self-inflicted mistakes. "I think come Chase time, in the middle of the Chase, the way things are looking back at the shop, and the excitement I see in all the departments, we're expecting a good late-season surge for Hendrick Motorsports ." Labor Day -- which traditionally marks the end of summer -- can't come soon enough for this team. Johnson is the only member of this Fab Four lineup to hoist a trophy this season, and the six-time champ did it twice right off the bat -- winning the second race of the year at Atlanta, then three weeks later in California. Chase Elliott opened his rookie campaign with 11 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races, including pole positions for the Daytona 500 and at Talladega Superspeedway . And he capped off that season-starting run with a career-best runner-up at Michigan International Speedway -- where the series returns this weekend. Kasey Kahne is also seeking his first trophy of the year, but already has six top 10s -- more than halfway to his entire total (10) from last year. And he has won at both Michigan (2006 from the pole position) and at Richmond, Virginia (2005), where the Chase field will be formally set on Sept. 10. As the Chase Grid stands now, Kahne is tied with Kyle Larson , three positions shy of qualifying. They trail 16th-place Ryan Newman by 39 points. With Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return still unknown as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, the feared Hendrick foursome realizes it is a threesome come title time. But it remains a championship threat. "Our guys have been working really hard these past few weeks," said Elliott, who is Chase-eligible by being ranked 12th in the standings. "Everybody is fired up at Hendrick Motorsports . Mr. Hendrick himself is fired up -- he has been around the shop a lot. We are all just trying to give it the best effort we can to try and make the most of these next 14 weeks. "We are all working hard, we are all in. Hopefully, Michigan will be a step in the right direction." In the past -- such as during Johnson's jaw-dropping six title runs in eight years – this team has made it look almost too easy. So Toyota has stepped it up, winning its first Cup championship last year with Kyle Busch and collecting 11 trophies already this year. Ford's been every bit a player, as well, with Team Penske drivers -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- earning enough trophies (five) between the two of them to keep the others honest this season. And Hendrick's Chevy "alliance" partner, the Stewart-Haas Racing team, has certainly come to the party with at least three Chase entrants including 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , who won his second race Sunday at Bristol and leads the championship standings; team owner Tony Stewart , who won at Sonoma , California; and Kurt Busch , who is ranked third in points. And while Johnson's two wins and Elliott's poles seem like it's business as usual, there is a new sense of urgency to right the Hendrick ship heading into the Chase. Johnson has the two wins, but he has only three top 10s in the last 14 races, a stretch that also includes four finishes of 30th or worse. Similarly, Elliott hasn't had a top-10 since his runner-up at Michigan. And Kahne has only one top 10 in that time. "We have been struggling this year, have not been as good as we want or should be," Hendrick said over the weekend while admitting he's even gotten up at 4:30 am to go to the wind tunnel with his team. "We know we have the ingredients and we're not satisfied, and we're going to do whatever it takes. That's been our motto all these years. We're at, what, 242 wins in Cup series? And we're not done. "Nobody's satisfied. We've wrecked more cars. … Haven't led races like we usually do. Not making any excuses, we've got to get to work. That's the deal. We're all committed and we're all excited. Nobody stays on top forever but we're not happy where we are and we want to get back." "I'm accountable," Hendrick continued. "They're accountable. "When you're not doing well, you can walk away and point fingers or you can jump in it and say, 'Let's get with it. We know how to do it. Let's get better working together.' "I'm proud of our company and we're going to be better. I like the challenge."
Race Rewind: Bristol in 15
Relive all of the highlights and key moments of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway as Kevin Harvick earned his second win of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season
Elliott: 'Just made another mistake'
Chase Elliott recaps his restarts and 2nd place finish in the Pure Michigan 400.