RELATED: Updated standings " Chase grid Only two races remain before the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. Here are the scenarios for clinching a Chase berth at Darlington Raceway : Below is the complete list of drivers currently in the Chase Grid. Drivers with wins who have clinched a spot in the Chase as long as they attempt to qualify for the remaining two races: 1. Jimmie Johnson 3. Joey Logano 4. Matt Kenseth 5. Kevin Harvick 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr . 7. Kurt Busch 8. Brad Keselowski 9. Martin Truex Jr . 10. Denny Hamlin 11. Carl Edwards Note: Kyle Busch is currently second in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot in the top 30 of the points standings . Drivers currently in the top 16: 12. Jamie McMurray 13. Ryan Newman 14. Paul Menard 15. Jeff Gordon 16. Clint Bowyer At Darlington, a winless driver can clinch a spot in the Chase. If a repeat driver wins at Darlington, a winless driver would need to have a 45 point lead on the fifth-highest of the winless drivers (or 44 points , depending on tie-breakers). If there is a new winner, a winless driver would need to lead the fourth-highest winless driver by 45 points (or, again, 44, depending on tie-breakers)
He has the best average finishing position overall, and the points lead. Now he hopes to build a little separation between himself and the rest of the field. Heading back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he scored his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series win last year, Chris Buescher likes his chances. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has been atop the series points standings since earning career win No. 2, at Iowa, in a span of near one dozen races. Next up is Saturday's Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). It's the second of three road-course stops in the span of a month for the series. Given his success at Mid-Ohio, and a third-place run this past weekend at Watkins Glen, it's little wonder Buescher, 22, is looking forward to the next few weeks. "I really hope that road courses will be a strong point for us," Buescher said. "I feel really comfortable going back to Mid-Ohio obviously. Road America (where he finished 18th a year ago) was the one where I needed a little bit more work. "I think we should be able to run top 10 very easily there. I like road racing ... I seem to hang in there and we seem to be able to put fast Roush Fenway race cars on the track." Road America, coming up at month's end, falls later on this year's schedule than in recent seasons when the race there was held in June. Buescher doesn't lead the series as far as average finish on road courses is concerned. In the past two seasons, he ranks fourth (12.8) along with Ty Dillon . Chase Elliott (5.3), Elliott Sadler (7.8) and Brian Scott (8.8) have been a bit more consistent. But Buescher, crew chief Scott Graves and his No. 60 crew have been getting better. Not that there haven't been hiccups, but the team has yet to finish outside the top 20 this season. They've been good, but not great, as the Watkins Glen finish attests. "I like where we’re at right now," Buescher said. "We have speed in our road course cars. The (Team) Penske cars showed up better than us (at Watkins Glen) though. They were very fast, class of the field. That being said, they always run fast at that particular track. "Mid-Ohio, I don't feel like there was a car there that really had something better than us last time around. If we can repeat that, maybe we can improve on it a little bit. I’m pretty comfortable where we're at." Elliott, the defending series champion, trails Buescher by 24 points (724-700). Dillon (also 24 back), Regan Smith (minus-57) and Sadler (minus-58) round out the top five.
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?
Tyler Reddick loses ground in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings iafter he makes contact with Gray Gaulding late in the race in Canada.
Relive the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in this classic NASCAR race.
RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase bubble watch " Chase Fest details A year ago, it was Kasey Kahne . Only two races remained before the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and the Hendrick Motorsports driver was 13th in points . Unfortunately, he was outside the top 16 in the Chase standings . Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin , AJ Allmendinger , Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola trailed Kahne in points . But they were among those that had wins. They had invitations to the dance. At the time, Kahne had managed only two top-five finishes. His average finishing position was 16.8. He hadn't been to the victory lane since midway through the previous season. So he and his team went out and won at Atlanta Motor Speedway . It earned Kahne one of the final Chase spots and the No. 5 team a second chance. It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds. Kevin Harvick , as was often the case, was dominant at AMS. Kahne fell a lap down early. The team battled back. He didn't take the lead for the first time until Lap 303 of the scheduled 325-lap race. Suddenly, he seemed to be on his way to the win. Then cautions appeared, forcing two late restarts. Green, white, checkered late. Kahne's lead was lost on pit road. Yet somehow he muscled his way past Matt Kenseth coming to the white flag, holding on for the win and a spot in the Chase. It's a similar position for the 35-year-old this year. Two races remain -- stops at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the field is finalized for this year's 10-race run to determine the Sprint Cup champion. Kahne is once again winless. He is not alone. Teammate Jeff Gordon has finished inside the top five only three times this year. The four-time champion is ahead of Clint Bowyer in the playoff picture, with a wider margin back to folks such as Aric Almirola and Greg Biffle . A year ago Gordon had three wins and a vise-like grip on first place in the points . Bowyer's got a pair of top-fives, but much of the attention around the No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip Racing centers on where Bowyer will call home next season. Paul Menard has a razor-thin lead on Gordon in points , but taking nothing for granted. Can anyone? Matt Kenseth 's blown engine at Bristol last week, leaving the Joe Gibbs driver 42nd in the final rundown, didn't go unnoticed. Things not only can happen, they often do. With 10 drivers already secure -- 11 if you go ahead and give Kyle Busch one of the spots although he's close enough to the fault line that a misstep could make things interesting -- and two races remaining, at least three of this year's Chase spots will be filled based on the points standings after Richmond. It could be five, if no new winner emerges in the next two weeks. Few on the fringes, though, have shown signs of contending for wins. Almirola? One top five and only three laps led this season. Biffle? It's shaping up to be the wrong type of career year for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, with just two top-fives and an average finish of 20th. Austin Dillon ? Kyle Larson ? Both have shown potential. Both are winless. Kahne? Well, who knows? The question isn't can it be done. Kahne's already proven that it's possible. The question is who among those can pull it off?
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings " Chase Grid BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Luck wasn't with Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 Toyota at Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway -- at least not good luck. "(Expletive.) Just about my luck," Bowyer said after the Michael Waltrip Racing driver got the worst of a snarled restart on Lap 126. Carl Edwards spun his wheels, causing slowing on the restart after a debris caution. Part of the reaction to that was Ryan Newman 's No. 31 Chevrolet making slight contact with the No. 15, sending Bowyer's speedy ride up into the outside wall then back across the track and hard backward into the pit road wall. At that point, Bowyer had led a lap and was in the top five most of the day. Told that Newman didn't mean to hit him, Bowyer responded, "I know. The 2 (of Brad Keselowski ) came up loose and out of control; I had to move up. It wasn't (Newman's) fault. … (Expletive) stupid." The rear suspension took a hard hit, sending the car to the garage, where the No. 15 team worked on bent control arms and a tough-to-repair right-side suspension. "Man, I'm sorry guys. I couldn't save it. Good track for us," Bowyer radioed to his team as he kept coming back to pit road to try to fix a troublesome right front that was causing tire rubs. Bowyer began the day 16th out of 16 drivers in the Chase Grid, 50 points ahead of Aric Almirola . That cushion quickly evaporated and shrunk to 23 when the race concluded with Bowyer in 41st place. "We ain't quitting now. We have three races to go," Bowyer said after he was given the option to retire from the race at Lap 183 because the team had no opportunity to gain any more positions with just 17 laps to go.
Photo credit -- Chase Elliott 's Instagram @chaseelliott9 RELATED: Series standings At only 19 years old, Chase Elliott already has a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, is currently contending for a second one and has a pretty sweet job lined up next year taking over the iconic No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for retiring four-time Sprint Cup Series champ Jeff Gordon . Not only has Elliott's racing career taken off, he has too -- literally -- having just earned his private pilot license on July 23. And the view from above is something he's wanted his whole life. It seems Elliott got more than the racing gene from his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott , as he has inherited the flying bug from his dad, an accomplished and avid aviator. "He's been flying a long time so I've always been around it since I was little," Elliott said of his father. "I've watched him fly for years and years and been fortunate enough to have access to his planes and sit up front and watch him fly them so I've always definitely interested in it. "It's one of those things where the more you do it, the more you become interested in it. And the more you get into it, the more intriguing it becomes. I learn something new every time I fly. "It's definitely tough to (master all the necessary lessons). A lot of things come along with it. But flying is a privilege and something you can't take lightly ever." A lot of the same traits -- discipline, smarts and dedication -- Elliott put into his burgeoning racing career he used to earn the pilot license. He actually started taking lessons while still in high school but it was such a busy time between school, racing and flying lessons that Elliott put off finishing his license until a few months ago with the support of his dad. "It's something you work hard for to achieve," Bill Elliott said. "I see so many people who have gone through a lot of the flying part and the learning curve but never went on and got their pilot licenses and they always regretted it. I told Chase, 'You need to go on and get this done.' "I'm glad he did. That's something he'll carry with him regardless of where racing takes him." The Elliotts join an impressive list of NASCAR drivers who have secured private pilot licenses including Carl Edwards , Greg Biffle , Matt Kenseth and retired drivers Mark Martin , Rusty Wallace, Cale Yarborough and Ricky Rudd. Ryan Newman 's wife Krissie flies helicopters. Similarly, Elliott figures having the ability to pilot an airplane can be as much a practicality as it is a luxury. His father helped secure him a Cessna 182 single-engine, four-seater to use and Elliott is eager to start flying to races closer than home. Last week, he flew to Bristol. He has also posted a photo of himself practicing grass landings on Instagram. "Absolutely, it's a major convenience if you need to go somewhere, you can turn a four-hour drive into an hour-and-a-half flight," Elliott said. "Time is valuable for anybody and any chance to make up time like that is great." Elliott wasn't sure if he would fly himself to this weekend's XFINITY Series race at Road America , but he is looking forward to the stand-alone road race regardless. It's the third road course race in the last four weeks for the series and Elliott is one of the series regulars who embraces the opportunity to turn right. He is on a six-race run of top-10 finishes in his No. 9 NAPA Chevy and currently trails championship leader Chris Buescher by 23 points in the standings . He has finishes of seventh (Watkins Glen) and fifth (Mid-Ohio) in the two road races this year and finished fourth at Road America last season. "I thought last year was a good learning experience," Elliott said. "I was really pleased with Watkins Glen. I'm still learning on my end, but thought we had good cars this year and that's a big step in right direction." For Elliott, that direction is up.
RELATED: Gordon on lack of throwback scheme DARLINGTON, S.C. -- The level of concern has increased, Jeff Gordon admits, as the cutoff for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup nears. With only two races remaining to secure one of the 16 bids in this year's field, Gordon and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team find themselves 15th in the Chase standings . A victory in Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM) here at Darlington Raceway would all-but guarantee the 44-year-old Gordon an 11th appearance in the 10-race, championship-determining playoff. Gordon can qualify mathematically as well, depending on where other non-winners on the Chase bubble finish Sunday night. Putting the question of 'are we in or aren't we?' to rest before the series travels to Richmond for next weekend's event "would be huge," Gordon said Friday at Darlington. "We definitely feel pressure and it's a little bit stressful right now being on the bubble. I felt like we were in a pretty comfortable position about a month ago, we just had some misfortunes." A year after he scored a pair of regular-season wins and entered the Chase as the No. 2 seed, Gordon finds himself winless in his last 31 starts with just one top-10 finish in his last five outings. He was 42nd at Indianapolis, 41st at Watkins Glen, 17th at Michigan and 20th two weeks ago in Bristol, Tenn. The lone highlight in the midst of the free fall -- a third-place run at Pocono. He had finished no worse than ninth in the three outings previous to the Indy setback. "I feel like we have performed well enough to securely be in by points ," Gordon, a seven-time winner at Darlington said. " I can't say we have performed well enough to be real confident coming in here, that we are going to be one of the cars to beat. "But ... the amount of hard work that Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the team, everyone at Hendrick Motorsports has been putting in the effort for this weekend especially. ... I'm pretty happy with the car. I think we've got a shot at doing that. "No matter what we realize it's really important for us to execute really well this weekend ... to get those points we need to go to Richmond and be a little more comfortable anyway. "Other than a win this weekend, Richmond is going to be stressful but the good news is we've dealt with it before." As for Darlington, Gordon's enjoyed more success than most on the rugged, old, oddly-shaped 1.366-mile track. During a stretch between September of 1995 and '98, Gordon won three consecutive races here (two of which were Southern 500 victories) and five out of seven overall. Outside of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where he has eight career wins, Darlington has been most kind to the four-time series champion. He closed the books on the former Winston Million bonus program in 1997 with a victory as well. RELATED: Watch Gordon win $1 million at Darlington With only two races remaining, Gordon is taking nothing for granted. He knows what his team has accomplished before, and what it is capable of today. The stress is there. But so is the confidence. "It certainly helps when you've been through it a number of times," he said. "But it doesn't mean that it goes away. "You know what's on the line. You know what you have to do."
After Race 24 of the 2015 season at Bristol Motor Speedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Attempts 1 Tony Stewart 4 908 -- -- 1 0 24 2 Walter Czarnecki 22 865 -43 -43 2 0 24 3 Rick Hendrick 88 819 -89 -46 3 0 24 4 Gene Haas 41 796 -112 -23 4 0 24 5 Roger Penske 2 793 -115 -3 6 1 24 6 Jeff Gordon 48 792 -116 -1 7 1 24 7 Barney Visser 78 771 -137 -21 5 -2 24 8 Joe Gibbs 20 753 -155 -18 8 0 24 9 J D Gibbs 11 712 -196 -41 9 0 24 10 Felix Sabates 1 696 -212 -16 10 0 24 11 Richard Childress 31 683 -225 -13 12 1 24 12 Richard Childress 27 674 -234 -9 11 -1 24 13 Rick Hendrick 24 672 -236 -2 13 0 24 14 J D Gibbs 19 666 -242 -6 14 0 24 15 Joe Gibbs 18 661 -247 -5 15 0 24 16 Rob Kauffman 15 655 -253 -6 16 0 24 17 Richard Petty 43 620 -288 -35 17 0 24 18 Linda Hendrick 5 618 -290 -2 18 0 24 19 Chip Ganassi 42 579 -329 -39 19 0 24 20 Jack Roush 16 572 -336 -7 20 0 24 21 Richard Childress 3 564 -344 -8 21 0 24 22 Tony Stewart 10 525 -383 -39 22 0 24 23 Bob Germain 13 516 -392 -9 24 1 24 24 Tad Geschickter 47 515 -393 -1 23 -1 24 25 Richard Petty 9 476 -432 -39 26 1 24 26 Margaret Haas 14 466 -442 -10 27 1 24 27 Michael Waltrip 55 457 -451 -9 25 -2 24 28 John Henry 6 443 -465 -14 28 1 24 29 John Henry 17 434 -474 -9 29 0 24 30 Harry Scott Jr. 51 409 -499 -25 30 0 24 31 Bob Jenkins 35 387 -521 -24 31 0 24 32 Brad Jenkins 38 362 -546 -25 32 0 24 33 Jerry Freeze 34 338 -570 -24 33 0 24 34 Michael Hillman 40 324 -584 -14 34 0 24 35 Tommy Baldwin 7 304 -604 -20 35 0 24 36 Ron Devine 83 288 -620 -16 36 0 24 37 Joe Falk 33 269 -639 -19 37 0 24 38 Harry Scott Jr. 46 256 -652 -13 38 0 24 39 Ron Devine 23 222 -686 -34 39 0 24 40 Mike Curb 98 202 -706 -20 40 0 24 41 Archie St Hilaire 32 200 -708 -2 41 0 24 42 Glen Wood 21 189 -719 -11 42 0 12 43 Bob Leavine 95 161 -747 -28 43 0 14 44 Anthony Marlowe 26 130 -778 -31 44 0 24 45 Rick Hendrick 25 86 -822 -44 45 0 4 46 Jay Robinson 62 83 -825 -3 46 0 24 47 John Cohen 44 12 -896 -71 47 0 4 48 Jay Robinson 66 8 -900 -4 48 0 4 49 Curtis Key Sr. 30 6 -902 -2 49 0 9 50 Robby Benton 129 0 -908 -6 51 1 4 51 Gordon Smith 139 0 -908 0 50 -1 2