And the rich get richer. Joey Logano picked up his third win of the Sprint Cup season, finishing first at the Bristol Motor Speedway during Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race.
"Probably the coolest win of all time, winning at Bristol," said Logano, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck. "I've never won more than one race in a season before; now I've won three. ... This is one of the three biggest races of the year—the Bristol night race—so to see my name on the trophy is really cool."
Getting to Victory Lane for a third time in 2014 is a nice boost for Logano before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. Although his place in the top 16 was already secured, adding a win this close to the last 10 races of the year helps build some nice momentum and strengthens his position in the points standings.
Other drivers aren't quite so lucky and still have it all to do in the next two races.
Here's a look at the top 16.
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||3||818|
Only two more events remain until the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.
|Aug. 31||Oral-B USA 500||Atlanta Motor Speedway|
|Sep. 6||Federated Auto Parts 400||Richmond International Raceway|
|Chase for the Sprint Cup|
|Sep. 14||MyAFibStory.com 400||Chicagoland Speedway|
|Sep. 21||Sylvania 300||New Hampshire Motor Speedway|
|Sep. 28||AAA 400||Dover International Speedway|
|Oct. 5||Hollywood Casino 400||Kansas Speedway|
|Oct. 11||Bank of America 500||Charlotte Motor Speedway|
|Oct. 19||GEICO 500||Talladega Superspeedway|
|Oct. 26||Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||Martinsville Speedway|
|Nov. 2||AAA Texas 500||Texas Motor Speedway|
|Nov. 9||Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500||Phoenix International Raceway|
|Nov. 16||Ford EcoBoost 400||Homestead-Miami Speedway|
NASCAR on ESPN gave the lay of the land for those drivers still looking for their first checkered flag:
Kenseth (+83); Newman (+42); Bowyer (+31) and Biffle (+26) are in the Chase as of now via points. Larson (-26); Kahne (-33) need win or luck— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) August 24, 2014
Jeff Gordon remains first after finishing 16th, which was likely a disappointment for the No. 24 car since Gordon started the race in second place. ESPN's Marty Smith said the four-time points champion used the word "humbling" to describe the race:
Just talked to Jeff Gordon. Told me tonight was good for the 24, from the standpoint that it’s a reminder how humbling Cup racing can be.— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 24, 2014
Gordon had a much better race than the guy directly below him, Dale Earnhardt Jr. An early wreck knocked Junior out of the race, and he had to settle for 39th.
Earnhardt was upset but introspective on Twitter after the race:
We had a damn good car tonight. Real fast. Bristol was rough on us this year. Brand new car next week @amsupdates. We are ready.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 24, 2014
I really hate we wrecked. Racing @BMSupdates is frustrating but at the same time it's the funnest racing I get to do. Nothing compares.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 24, 2014
At least he knows that no matter what happens in the next two races, nothing will keep him out of the final Chase. That's a luxury not everybody can enjoy.
The drivers most in danger at the moment are Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle. Only five points separate the two, with Kyle Larson lurking 26 points back of Biffle and Kasey Kahne behind by 33. Kahne and Austin Dillon lost ground in the Chase after finishing 35th and 28th, respectively.
Having Logano win is a boost for both Bowyer and Biffle, considering at most two more drivers can possibly pick up their first wins in 2014 before the Chase begins.
Gluck believes that only a slim chance exists for Larson to sneak into the top 16:
Kyle Larson is 12th in points but now needs lots of help to make the Chase. He's 26 points behind Biffle for the 16th Chase spot.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 24, 2014
Biffle did himself a big favor by earning his ninth top-10 finish of 2014. He collected 34 big points on Saturday night, ensuring that distance remained between himself and Larson.
Although Bowyer finished in 17th, he still got 27 points to hold onto 15th. He has a little more wiggle room than Biffle, so as long as he doesn't collapse over the next two weeks, the No. 15 car should be in the final Chase.
To his credit, Larson looked good at Bristol as well, ending up in 12th and getting 32 points. His race was even more impressive when you consider he started out in 40th and was involved in an accident early in the race.
Larson went on Twitter to thank his pit crew for salvaging what could've been a terrible race:
That was about the hardest we've fought all year long. Proud of my @Target team. I put us in a huge hole and we were able to still get 12th— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) August 24, 2014
The new Chase format may have some critics, but few can argue that it doesn't add a ton of drama to the end of the season. Although the field looks to be largely set, the next two races could see somebody new sneak into the top 16.