Sprint Cup Chase 2014: NASCAR Standings, Schedule After Bojangles' Southern 500

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2014

DARLINGTON, SC - APRIL 12:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick started out the Bojangles' Southern 500 in first place, and he ended the Bojangles' Southern 500 in first place, becoming the first driver since Dale Jarrett in 1997 to win at Darlington after starting on the pole, per NASCAR Stats:

Late in the race Saturday night, the victory looked to be slipping out of Harvick's fingers. After a caution on the 258th lap, he chose to get four new tires in the pits, while the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. opted for only two, per Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network:

As a result of the calculated gamble, Johnson and Earnhardt exited the pits faster, and Harvick dropped to fifth.

He who laughs last laughs best, though.

Yet another caution came after Kurt Busch wrecked on the 369th lap. By that time, Harvick had worked his way up to second.

He passed Junior on the green-white-checker and held off the No. 88 car en route to Victory Lane. The deciding factors between the two drivers were the two extra tires Harvick took on his pit stop. Earnhardt was powerless to stop the on-rushing Harvick:

He admitted after the race that he had the inferior car, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck:

With the win, Harvick all but sealed up his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. With the new points structure in place, a premium is placed on victories ahead of points. Jeff Gordon has the most points after Saturday's race, but he remains eighth in the standings, since he's yet to record his first win of 2014.

One trip to Victory Lane is seen as the minimum requirement to qualify for the Chase, so two means you can pretty much coast for the rest of the season until the important races start up again.

2014 Sprint Cup Standings
1Kevin Harvick186-1112
2Carl Edwards278-191
3Dale Earnhardt Jr.271-261
4Kyle Busch269-281
5Brad Keselowski246-511
6Joey Logano245-521
7Kurt Busch164-1331
8Jeff Gordon297---0
9Matt Kenseth296-10
10Jimmie Johnson270-270
11Ryan Newman236-610
12Austin Dillon235-620
13Greg Biffle227-700
14Tony Stewart224-730
14Brian Vickers224-730
16Kyle Larson223-740
2014 Sprint Cup Schedule (Races 9-26)
DateRaceTrackTime (ET)TV
Sat, April 26Toyota Owners 400Richmond International Raceway7 p.m.Fox
Sun, May 4Aaron's 499Talladega Superspeedway1 p.m.Fox
Sat, May 10Kansas 400Kansas Speedway7:30 p.m.Fox
Fri, May 16Sprint ShowdownCharlotte Motor Speedway7 p.m.Fox Sports 1
Sat, May 17NASCAR Sprint All-Star RaceCharlotte Motor Speedway9 p.m.Fox Sports 1
Sun, May 25Coca-Cola 600Charlotte Motor Speedway6 p.m.Fox
Sun, June 1FedEx 400Dover International Speedway1 p.m.Fox
Sun, June 8Pocono 400Pocono Raceway1 p.m.TNT
Sun, June 15Quicken Loans 400Michigan International Speedway1 p.m.TNT
Sun, June 22Toyota-Save Mart 350Sonoma3 p.m.TNT
Sat, June 28Quaker State 400Kentucky Speedway7:30 p.m.TNT
Sat, July 5Coke Zero 400Daytona International Speedway7:30 p.m.TNT
Sun, July 13Camping World RV Sales 301New Hampshire Motor Speedway1 p.m.TNT
Sun, July 27Crown Royal 400Indianapolis Motor Speedway1 p.m.ESPN
Sun, Aug. 3GoBowling.com 400Pocono Raceway1 p.m.ESPN
Sun, Aug. 10Cheez-It 355 at The GlenWatkins Glen International1 p.m.ESPN
Sun, Aug. 17Pure Michigan 400Michigan International Speedway1 p.m.ESPN
Sat, Aug. 23Irwin Tools Night RaceBristol Motor Speedway7:30 p.m.ABC
Sun, Aug. 31AdvoCare 500Atlanta Motor Speedway7:30 p.m.ESPN
Sat, Sept. 6Federated Auto Parts 400Richmond International Raceway7:30 p.m.ABC


Up Next: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 07:  General view of cars racing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 56th Annual Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As a Toyota owner myself, I think I deserve a place in the race. I'd back my 1994 Corolla against anything NASCAR has to offer. Good ole Delores has never let me down before.

In the event I'm prohibited from entering the race, it will probably be enjoyable anyway, I guess.

With Easter next Sunday, NASCAR's taking a break for a week. The green flag for the Toyota Owners 400 won't wave until Saturday, April 26.

Harvick enters as the defending champion. Last year's race was where Juan Pablo Montoya looked to have a win in the bag, until a caution came out with four laps remaining, which resulted in a two-lap overtime period. Harvick finished on top, while Montoya contented himself with fourth.

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 27:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Bell Helicopter Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 27, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Phot
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Poor Montoya. That pretty much sums up his Sprint Cup career.

Having picked up that all-important second victory, Harvick will likely settle for simply a top-five or even top-10 finish next week. He's a made man after Darlington.

Clemment Britt

It's a designation Kyle Busch would love to have as well. He's fourth in the standings after Saturday night. With a win at Fontana earlier in the season, he needs one more checkered flag to really solidify his place in the Chase.

Having won four times at Richmond between 2009 and 2012, Busch has a great record at the track and will be one of the favorites to win in two weeks.

Perhaps Gordon could get his first trip to Victory Lane and thus shoot to the top of the standings. You'd hate to see the points leader actually fail to make the final Chase because he lacks the prerequisite checkered flags.

No matter the result, the Toyota Owners 400 promises to be a thrilling race from start to finish.