CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kevin Harvick has clinched at least a wild-card berth in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick was not listed among drivers who had clinched after Saturday night’s race at Bristol because there are still scenarios where he could fall outside of the top 10 in points. Further review Monday by NASCAR determined his three victories this season have earned him at minimum one of the two wild cards.
Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards clinched berths on Saturday night.
That leaves seven spots open to be claimed over the next two races, at Atlanta and Richmond.
Drivers would prefer to make it into the Chase by being inside the top 10 in the standings, which will award them bonus points based on their “regular season” victories.
The two wild cards will be awarded to the drivers outside the top 10 with the most victories providing they are ranked inside the top 20 in points. The wild-card positions will not receive bonus points when the 12 drivers are re-seeded for the Chase.
After Saturday night’s race, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin were in position to claim the two wild cards. Keselowski is ranked 11th in points with three victories, and Hamlin is ranked 13th in points with one win. He currently would bump 12th-place driver Clint Bowyer, who is winless, out of the Chase.
NASCAR said Monday that Harvick and Jeff Gordon can guarantee spots in the top 10 this Sunday at Atlanta with a finish of 40th; a finish of 41st and at least one lap led; or a finish of 42nd and the most laps led.
Ryan Newman, who is currently 73 points ahead of Keselowski, can guarantee a spot in the top 10 with at least a finish of 20th at Atlanta; or 21st and lead at least one lap; or 22nd and lead the most laps.
Kurt Busch, who is currently 60 points ahead of Keselowski, can guarantee a top-10 spot with at least a finish of seventh at Atlanta; or eighth and lead at least one lap; or ninth and lead the most laps.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 39 points ahead of Keselowski, and Tony Stewart is 21 points ahead of Keselowski. Both can clinch a spot inside the top 10 by widening their margins to 49 points over the 11th-place driver. Both are winless this season and in danger of being bumped from the Chase if they fall outside the top 10.
Keselowski, who wants the three bonus points that are awarded for each victory in Chase seeding, wasn’t banking on passing Stewart for 10th place in the standings.
“Tony is pretty good, he’s pretty good at Atlanta and Richmond,” Keselowski said. “Richmond, we really struggled at in the spring, so I’m really not sure what to expect going back. Twenty-one points is still a lot of points. That means you’ve got to beat the guy by over 10 positions over the course of two races.
“Beating Tony Stewart by an average of 10 positions over two races, that’s going to be pretty tough, to be honest.”