There are worse ways to lose a race, but Kyle Busch won't want to find them out after he ran out of fuel on the final lap of the Windows 10 400, handing a victory to Matt Kenseth in the process.
Not even the best driver in the world can do anything with a car that's running low on fuel. Busch attempted to squeeze every last drop he could out of his car's tank, but it was to no avail, per NASCAR:
The disappointment didn't seem to affect the 30-year-old after the race, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck:
The final result could be particularly important for Busch. He must finish inside the top 30 in the points standings in order to qualify for the Chase. His four wins alone won't be enough to get him into the top 16.
As ESPN.com's Bob Pockrass noted, Busch still would've had work to do even in victory Sunday:
With that said, falling from first to 21st cost Busch points—points he can't afford to be dropping. Luckily for him, he made up a ton of ground in spite of his late collapse, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Making up 13 points between now and the Challenger Round should be doable for Busch, especially given the way he has driven of late. Kasey Kahne, who currently sits in 16th, can't be feeling too comfortable with his position right now.
Here's a look at the Chase field following Sunday:
|Sprint Cup Standings—Post-Windows 10 400|
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||717||2|
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||694||1|
The door is slowly closing for those hoping to creep into the top 16. With the Windows 10 400 completed, just five more races remain until the Challenger Round begins. You can view what's left of the 2015 schedule below:
|2015 Sprint Cup Schedule—Post-Windows 10 400|
|Cheez-It 355||Watkins Glen International||Sunday, Aug. 9||2 p.m.|
|Pure Michigan 400||Michigan International Speedway||Sunday, Aug. 16||2:30 p.m.|
|IRWIN Tools Night Race||Bristol Motor Speedway||Saturday, Aug. 22||7:30 p.m.|
|Bojangles' Southern 500||Darlington Raceway||Sunday, Sept. 6||7 p.m.|
|Federated Auto Parts 400||Richmond International Raceway||Saturday, Sept. 12||7:30 p.m.|
|NASCAR Sprint Cup September Chicagoland Race||Chicagoland Speedway||Sunday, Sept. 20||3 p.m.|
|Sylvania 300||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||Sunday, Sept. 27||2 p.m.|
|AAA 400||Dover International Speedway||Sunday, Oct. 4||2:30 p.m.|
|Bank of America 500||Charlotte Motor Speedway||Saturday, Oct. 10||7 p.m.|
|Hollywood Casino 400||Kansas Speedway||Sunday, Oct. 18||2:15 p.m.|
|Alabama 500||Talladega Superspeedway||Sunday, Oct. 25||2:30 p.m.|
|Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||Martinsville Speedway||Sunday, Nov. 1||1:15 p.m.|
|AAA Texas 500||Texas Motor Speedway||Sunday, Nov. 8||2 p.m.|
|Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500||Phoenix International Raceway||Sunday, Nov. 15||2:30 p.m.|
|Ford EcoBoost 400||Homestead-Miami Speedway||Sunday, Nov. 22||3 p.m.|
Kenseth's win didn't have a major impact on the Chase standings. He already had one checkered flag to his name in 2015—the Food City 500 in April—so he had already guaranteed a top-16 place before Sunday's race.
But a second win will mean Kenseth has a couple of extra bonus points when the Challenger Round begins, which will undoubtedly come in handy.
Looking a little further down the standings, Clint Bowyer did a lot to help himself in the Windows 10 400. He collected 36 points on the day after finishing eighth.
Bowyer now owns a 15-point advantage on Kahne in 15th, and he also gained ground on Ryan Newman, who picked up 21 points with a 23rd-place finish. Only 10 points separate Bowyer from 14th.
The battle for 14th and 15th might not seem that interesting now, but let's assume Busch winds up in the top 30 in points and climbs into the Chase.
You don't want to be the driver in 16th right now because that spot essentially belongs to the No. 18 car. Once Busch enters the Chase, the guy in 16th will get bumped out completely, which is why 15th could be considered the Chase cutoff at the moment.
And if you're Bowyer, you can't rest on your laurels in 15th.
All it takes for your Chase outlook to radically change overnight is anyone from Kahne on down—Busch excluded—picking up a victory between now and the Challenger Round. All of a sudden, Bowyer would be in 16th—the last man out to make way for Busch.
Newman has a fairly solid buffer in 14th, while Jeff Gordon and Paul Menard look to be pretty safe in 12th and 13th, respectively.
No matter how the standings shake out over the coming weeks, drama will be in abundance as drivers scratch and claw for a Chase place.