Denny Hamlin was among the good at New Hampshire, leading the most laps and finishing second
The boys of NASCAR took to the "Magic Mile" in Loudon, New Hampshire for Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The race to the Chase heated up at the one-mile oval as one driver virtually solidified a spot in the 10-race playoff, while others made up ground on those coveted wild card spots.
Other drivers struggled, however, as one contender from 2011 continued his abysmal year by extending his winless streak in 2012, while others lost ground in the wild card race, as well.
Who was good and who was bad at New Hampshire? We've got you covered!
Kasey Kahne became the only driver outside the top 10 in points to win multiple races in 2012
One of the two Chase wild card berths just became a whole lot tougher to earn.
That's because, with his win on Sunday, Kasey Kahne put a stranglehold on the top wild card spot as he became the only driver outside the top 10 in points to earn multiple wins in 2012.
Kahne is on a mini-tear right now that includes two top-two finishes and three top 10s in his last three starts, as he's moved from 17th to 12th in the standings over the last three races.
Kahne's win on Sunday also made the statement that not only will the No. 5 team challenge for the Chase, but likely for the title as well.
Hendrick Motorsports' newest addition isn't locked into the Chase yet, but we'd be hard-pressed to see him fall out at this juncture.
Kyle Busch was undone by a pair of pit road miscues
If Kahne got the better end of the deal Sunday at New Hampshire, Kyle Busch got the worse end of it.
The pole sitter looked dominant early at the "Magic Mile," but a pair of pit road miscues, including an early speeding penalty, did him in.
The younger Busch brother faded to a 16th-place finish, losing the top spot in the wild card race. He now holds just a nine-point lead over Ryan Newman for the final Chase position.
Busch has just one top 10 over the last seven races, and has finished outside the top 15 in six of those events. His recent slide has moved him from eighth to 13th in the standings.
If Busch can't get back on track soon, his Chase hopes could be in serious jeopardy.
Clint Bowyer gained ground on the Chase cutoff line at NHMS
Clint Bowyer did what he had to do Sunday at New Hampshire.
The two-time winner at the "Magic Mile" ran in the top 10 throughout most of the afternoon, finishing in third.
After the race, Bowyer seemed a little disappointed that he didn't run better, but admitted it was nice to get a top-three finish without being dominant most of the day.
It wasn't a bad points day, either. Bowyer gained 16 points on the Chase cutoff line after 11th-place driver Carl Edwards finished an uninspired 18th.
Bowyer isn't locked into the Chase yet, but having a full one-race lead over the Chase cutoff can't feel too shabby.
Carl Edwards didn't have much reason to smile at New Hampshire
A year of misery continues.
Carl Edwards was a complete non-factor at New Hampshire, finishing 18th and losing more ground on the 10th-place spot, currently held by Brad Keselowski.
Edwards also got some bad news on Tuesday, as it was announced that crew chief Bob Osborne would be stepping down from his post due to health reasons.
Edwards is in trouble. He trails Keselowski by 46 points(the most one can gain in a race is 47), has zero wins to help him out in the event he needs a wild card berth, and now will go the rest of the year without his right-hand man.
The uphill climb may have just become too much for the 2011 Sprint Cup runner-up.
Brad Keselowski gained more ground on the Chase cutoff point
As if Brad Keselowski needed any more security in the 2012 race to the Chase.
The pilot of the "Blue Deuce" ran a masterful race Sunday at New Hampshire, clawing his way from the 22nd starting spot to finish fifth at a track he's struggled at in the past.
Keselowski also gained some more ground in the Chase, distancing himself from 11th-place Carl Edwards by 14 more points and putting the gap at 46.
Even if B.K. falls outside the top 10, his three wins would likely be enough to earn him a wild card berth, anyway.
Still, Keselowski would like to hold the top spot when the Chase begins, and by leading the series in wins and holding a top 10 spot entering the Chase, he could do just that.
Joey Logano lost a little ground in the wild card race at NHMS
Joey Logano struggled just a little at New Hampshire.
The 2009 winner didn't have a bad afternoon at the "Magic Mile," but his 14th-place finish coupled with Kasey Kahne's win was enough to push him back in the standings a bit.
At this point, any movement in the wrong direction is bad, and Logano lost two positions in the standings after his sub-par run, including one to wild card rival Ryan Newman.
As a consolation prize, Logano did manage to gain a point on wild card rival and teammate Kyle Busch.
Logano still sits well within striking distance, however, trailing Busch by just 12 points for that final wild card spot.
Ryan Newman gained ground in the wild card race at NHMS
The defending event winner may have liked to finish better at New Hampshire.
Still, Ryan Newman placed a respectable 10th at a track where he finished 25th last fall and managed to gain some valuable points in the wild card race.
Newman gained a position in the standings, leapfrogging wild card rival Joey Logano for the 14th position.
In addition, Newman gained five points on Kyle Busch, who holds the final wild card spot.
Newman trails Busch by just nine points and sits well within striking distance with seven races to go until Chase time.
Jeff Burton could not build off a strong Daytona run at NHMS
The Mayor may have checked out of the 2012 race to the Chase completely.
Jeff Burton may not have even warranted a mention in this column, save for the fact that his runner-up finish at Daytona let on that there was a slight chance he could be trying to build some momentum for a Chase run.
But Burton was more of a non-factor than fellow "Bad" driver Carl Edwards, finishing an uninspired 21st, one lap off the pace.
With this latest disappointment, Burton has just one top 10 finish on a non-plate track this year, which came in the form of a sixth-place finish at Bristol.
Whatever Chase hopes Burton may have had to begin with seem long gone after another poor finish at NHMS.
Denny Hamlin led the most laps at New Hampshire and finished second
No driver was better than Denny Hamlin on Sunday at New Hampshire.
Driver No. 11 led a race-high 150 of the 301 laps in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 en route to a second-place finish, his third runner-up result of the season.
Hamlin gained two positions in the standings, moving to fifth. But more significantly than that, he showed he'll be a force to reckon with when the series hits NHMS in the Chase.
Yep, it was just about a perfect day for Denny, except...
Denny Hamlin's bid for the win was crushed by miscommunication late in the race
...the guy should have won the race!
Hamlin had the best car by far at New Hampshire, but it was a late miscommunication between Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb that ultimately cost Hamlin the win.
The two had discussed taking either two tires or fuel only on the final stop of the race, but a call over the radio by Hamlin to "give me tires" led Grubb to believe Hamlin wanted four tires.
At that point, Hamlin was mired so deep in traffic that he could not get back to the lead before time ran out and he mustered a second-place finish.
The call won't cost Hamlin and Grubb a shot at the Chase. But wins are hard to come by in the Sprint Cup Series, and these guys can't give them away. Especially come Chase time.