|Kasey Kahne won the first Bristol race in March|
It’s lonely at the top but five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, the only competitor so far to clinch a spot in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™, is likely to get some company after Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET ABC, Performance Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Radio) at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Any driver who exits the 500-lap race with a lead of 97 points over 11th place will punch a ticket to NASCAR’s 2013 postseason.
The most likely candidates – Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick – enter the season’s 24th race 90 or more points ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne. Kahne won at Bristol in March and a season sweep – the first since Kyle Busch in 2009 – would give the Washington driver a third season victory and a virtual lock on the Chase.
Entering Friday’s Food City 250 (7:30 p.m. ET ESPN, Performance Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Radio), the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship is still up for grabs. New leader Sam Hornish Jr. holds a 13-point lead over Elliott Sadler followed by Regan Smith, Austin Dillon and Brian Vickers.
Hornish finished fourth – second-highest of the current championship contenders – when the series visited Bristol Motor Speedway in March.
A year ago, Timothy Peters led all 204 laps of Bristol Motor Speedway’s UNOH 200 (8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio) – the first to do so in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event since 1997. Peters returns to face a field that includes Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., who makes his NASCAR national series debut.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE, SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, 7:30 P.M. ET ON ABC
Johnson’s Rivals Can Clinch Chase Berths This Week
Jimmie Johnson remains the only driver to have claimed a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick can clinch their spots in the postseason on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Wild Card Race Gets Wilder Yet With Logano’s Victory
Five drivers ranked 11th through 20th have Wild Card-qualifying victories following Joey Logano’s win in Michigan. Bristol spring winner Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. hold the provisional Wild Cards with three races remaining in the Race to the Chase.
Hendrick Motorsports, Michael Waltrip Racing Hold Owner Wild Cards
Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet and the No. 56 Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing hold the provisional owner Chase Wild Cards. The No. 56 prevails on a tie-breaker – best finish – with Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 having scored the same number of points (653).
Bristol Sweep Would Give Kahne Post-Season Insurance
With two victories, a Bristol "sweep" would virtually guarantee Kasey Kahne a berth in the Chase. The last driver to win both stops at Bristol Motor Speedway was Kyle Busch in 2009.
Kurt Busch, Gordon Take Chase ‘Bubble’ Roles To Bristol
Kurt Busch’s third-place finish in Michigan moved the 2004 champion into the top 10 (ninth). Without a win he remains on the "bubble" – as does fellow five-time Bristol winner Jeff Gordon, 26 points out of the top 10 in 14th place.
Busch Brothers Pile Up Wins In ‘Thunder Valley’
Kurt and Kyle Busch each has won five times at Bristol Motor Speedway. A Busch has won at least one race in eight different seasons beginning in 2002. Each has a season sweep: Kurt in 2003, Kyle in 2009.
Keselowski’s Chase May Turn On Continued Bristol Success
Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski won the IRWIN Tools Night Race in 2011 and Bristol’s spring event a year ago. Keselowski, without a victory in 2013, finished third at the 0.533-mile track in March. He’s eighth in the standings, eight points ahead of 11th.