Sprint Cup Chase 2014: NASCAR Standings and Schedule Following STP 500

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 30, 2014

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 30:  Kurt Busch, driver of the
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson had an amazing eight wins at Martinsville Speedway entering Sunday's STP 500, but the defending champion was out-dueled by Kurt Busch down the stretch for the checkered flag.     

A star-studded field of drivers promised to shake up the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase in Ridgeway, Va. Rising in the latest standings, though, is a familiar fixture in Johnson despite narrowly missing out on his first victory of the season after leading 296 of 500 laps.

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 30:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jeff Zele
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

In Johnson's defense, there has been a fair amount of parity in stock car racing's top circuit thus far in 2014, per NASCAR Stats:

Here is a look at the latest points standings, along with what's on the schedule in the coming weeks:

2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings (After STP 500)
Position DriverTeam Points
1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports227
2 Matt KensethJoe Gibbs Racing 218
3 Carl EdwardsRoush Fenway Racing 217
4 Jeff GordonHendrick Motorsports216
5 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 209
6 Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs Racing 189
7 Brad Keselowski Team Penske188
8 Joey Logano Team Penske 187
9 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 179
10 Ryan NewmanRichard Childress Racing 174
Source: NASCAR.com

Reigning Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. settled for third place to continue his strong start to the season with his fourth top-three finish already, and rose to the top of the standings as a result.

A 13th-place effort wasn't ideal for Carl Edwards, causing him to lose his overall lead in points and slide to third. Edwards had a tough task thanks to the tight standings, a race of elite competitors and a myriad of lead changes.

Fox Sports: NASCAR's Twitter feed noted the significance of Busch's trip to victory lane in the context of the Chase:

Upcoming Sprint Cup Schedule
Race Track Date Time (ET) Distance (Miles) 2013 Winner
Duck Commander 500 Texas Motor Speedway Sun, April 6 3 p.m. 501 Kyle Busch
Bojangles' Southern 500 Darlington Raceway Sat, April 12 6:30 p.m. 501.322 Matt Kenseth
Toyota Owners 400 Richmond International Raceway Sat, April 26 7 p.m. 300 Kevin Harvick
Aaron's 499 Talladega Superspeedway Sun, May 4 1 p.m. 500.08 David Ragan
Kansas 400 Kansas Speedway Sat, May 10 7:30 p.m. 400.5 Matt Kenseth
NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Charlotte Motor Speedway Sat, May 17 9 p.m. 135 Jimmie Johnson
Coca-Cola 600 Charlotte Motor Speedway Sun, May 25 6 p.m. 600 Kevin Harvick
FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks Dover International Speedway Sun, June 11 p.m.400Tony Stewart
Source: NASCAR.com

It seems Johnson is due to secure his first win of 2014 soon enough with the number of times he's put himself in position already, per Hendrick Motorsports:

The short "Paperclip" track created plenty of drama, including a tangle between Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne in pit lane that resulted in Keselowski wrecking and finishing in 38th.

NASCAR on ESPN's official Twitter account noted how frustrated Keselowski was in losing valuable points:

Jeff Gluck of USA Today reported that Keselowski would welcome a confrontation with Busch after falling from fourth to seventh in the Chase standings:

It's impressive that Busch was able to retain his focus and eventually outlast the prolific Johnson over the final several laps. It also snapped a long, winless drought, per NASCAR Stats:

Busch led just 23 laps, yet it was enough to emerge victorious. He alluded to how successful Johnson has been in the past after the race:

Looking ahead to what's next, Kyle Busch won the Duck Commander 500 last year and will seek to improve his points total after placing 14th at Martinsville.

Placing seventh in spite of adverse circumstances was something Kevin Harvick was proud of his crew for, especially since he was dealing with a broken part:

Harvick has had a tough start to the year but could be on his way to redemption. The 2013 winner at Darlington will seek another strong result there on April 12, which could give him a needed spark.

Matt Kenseth won two of the next five races last season, so it's conceivable that he could be in the Chase lead before the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Then again, Earnhardt has been on a tear, and Johnson is bound to continue climbing given his consistent leads.

Such a small margin separates the top drivers, so just about anything can happen in the foreseeable future for NASCAR. With the diversity in winners from week to week and such depth in every race, the schedule offers plenty of excitement for fans and teams alike.


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