Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jeff Gordon officially clinches spot in Chase

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon has clinched at least a wild-card berth in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

NASCAR determined Wednesday that even if Gordon is knocked out of the top 10 standings before Richmond, he would still get into the Chase via the wild card.

Gordon has two wins this season, and the only way he could potentially fall out of the top 10 is if Brad Keselowski or Clint Bowyer wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway AND Richmond International Raceway to drop him out. Even if that happened, Gordon's two victories would be enough to get him into the Chase.

The addition of Gordon brings the number of clinched drivers to six. In addition to the Driver No. 24, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Kevin Harvick know they'll be battling for the championship in the final 10 races.

NASCAR announced that Harvick had clinched on Monday, two days after Bristol.

The entire Chase field will be set and seeded after the Sept. 10 race at Richmond. Top seeding goes to the driver with the most victories in the first 26 races, which is currently being held by Kyle Busch with four, each worth three bonus points to start the Chase.

Wild-card qualifiers will receive no bonus points to start the Chase, no matter how many races they have won.

More drivers can clinch a spot on Sunday. Ryan Newman, who has a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, is 73 points ahead of 11th. If Newman finishes 20th at Atlanta, he is in no matter what. That turns to 21st with a lap led and 22nd with the most laps led.

Kurt Busch, who has yet to win a race this season, is 60 points ahead of Brad Keselowski. If he finishes seventh, eighth with one lap led, or 9th with the most laps led, Busch can clinch.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs to be at least 49 points ahead of 11th place after Atlanta. He is currently 39, so he needs to finish 10 spots higher than Keselowski or have that advantage over Bowyer or Hamlin if they pass Keselowski in the standings. Tony Stewart's in the same situation as Driver 88, but he's only 21 points ahead of Keselowski at the moment.

Tune into the Advocare 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday to see if more drivers clinch a spot in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

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