[media-credit name=”Adam Lovelace” align=”alignright” width=”230″][/media-credit]Kentucky might have had its traffic troubles a year ago, but Brad Keselowski managed to make his way to the front Saturday night to pretty much ensure himself a shot at the title. While he moved into tenth place in the standings, it is the fact that Kentucky marked his third win of the season that has the lad sitting pretty. Three should earn at least a wildcard berth, so mission accomplished.
Two wins once gave a man confidence in his future, but an engine sensor plagued Tony Stewart early, sent him to the garage and eventually he wound up 32nd, 31 laps off the pace. Tony is 9th in the standings, and still in good shape, but not untouchable. A lot of guys need to start touching him soon, or their own dreams for the crown will come to an end about two months early.
Right now, it seems the top ten are a near lock, barring some bad things happening, leaving victories as the only path to redemption. Chase placers Matt Kenseth (7th on Saturday), Dale Earnhardt Jr (4th), Jimmie Johnson (6th), Kevin Harvick (11th), Denny Hamlin (3rd), Clint Bowyer (16th), and Martin Truex Jr (8th) all either had good days or at least not a terrible one. Greg Biffle was 21st, but he remains within 25 points of Kenseth at the top. Carl Edwards, winless and 11th, 34 points out of the top ten, is about at a place where a Top Ten in a race means nothing if that place is not first.
So, the fact Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Busch had Top Tens Saturday means almost nothing when it comes to being a November contender. They did not win. Kyle has a win and a tenuous hold of a wildcard invite. Kahne, Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano each have a victory and are all tied in points for the other one. It does not get any closer than that.
As they return to Daytona, all those in the top ten will be retaining their Chase berths when they leave. They can’t be caught, as both Stewart and Keselowski have their wins as a cushion even if things went totally down the toilet. That leaves only the wildcard spots. Edwards wins, and he gets one for the moment. If he doesn’t, he needs either Stewart or Keselowski to be in the garage before even Joe Nemechek to peg enough points to climb up. A win for Paul Menard, Gordon, or Marcos Ambrose might be enough to move them up, depending on what happens to Rowdy, Kasey, Ryan, and Joey.
Daytona will not be about 43 drivers, or even those thus far having the best seasons. It is all about winning, with all eyes on four gents with a single win, four who need one, and the two spots all eight are gunning for. Then again, if Jamie McMurray or Juan Pablo Montoya win, things would get even more complicated, but first they all must make like Charlie Sheen and win, baby. Win at Daytona. Enjoy the week.