By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
Matt Kenseth is close to clinching a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- even if he doesn't win one of the next two races.
Joey Logano's victory on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway -- keeping the number of different winners at 12 through 24 races -- guaranteed Chase berths for the top two drivers in the standings without victories after 26 events.
Kenseth, fifth in points, is far ahead of the next three winless drivers in the standings. He's 41 points ahead of Ryan Newman in ninth, 52 points up on Clint Bowyer in 10th and 57 points clear of Greg Biffle in 11th.
Accordingly, there's a high likelihood Kenseth will clinch a Chase spot on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, even if he doesn't win the Oral-B USA 500.
So, on the one hand, Kenseth doesn't need a win. On the other hand, he does -- desperately.
With race victories the key to advancement through the elimination rounds in the Chase, particularly as the playoff gets closer to the four-driver shootout at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kenseth needs a win in the next two races, simply to reassure himself that he can get to Victory Lane.
Kenseth led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with seven victories last year in his debut season with Joe Gibbs Racing. This year -- nada.
So don't be surprised if the laid-back Wisconsinite approaches the last two regular-season races at Atlanta and Richmond with an uncharacteristic sense of urgency, despite his comfortable position in the standings.
--Joey Logano wins at Bristol. Receives gladiator sword in victory lane. Uses it to slice the hell out of some bread.
--With two races left until the Chase, it's crunch time for several drivers, who desperately need to either win, or peel a winner sticker off of someone else's car and slap it on their own and just hope no one notices.
--NASCAR would like to thank its competitors for adhering to the new rule stating that drivers must wait for safety personnel to arrive at their cars before hurling things at others in a blind rage. We're pleased with the results.
--After Denny Hamlin threw his HANS device at Kevin Harvick, TV failed to show Harvick coming back around and throwing a bean bag back at Hamlin.
(Follow @nascarcasm on Twitter. His unique views on NASCAR are his own -- but chances are you have probably figured that out by now.)
6: The number of victories recorded by Team Penske drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year. It's the first time a Ford team has won more than five races in a single year since Carl Edwards' nine-victory season for Roush Fenway Racing in 2008.
21: The number of top-five finishes posted by Joey Logano in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races in 60 starts since his arrival at Team Penske to start the 2013 season. In his previous 147 starts, Logano had 16 top fives.
5: The number of drivers tied with a series-best three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories this season. Three of those drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon -- compete for Hendrick Motorsports. The other two -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- drive for Team Penske.
19.6: Kasey Kahne's average finish in 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 1.54-mile track has been a feast-or-famine venue for a driver who desperately needs a win to secure a Chase spot. Kahne has two wins and two poles at Atlanta, but he also has three DNFs and seven finishes of 32nd or worse.
4: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories for the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, in the last nine races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kurt won the spring race at AMS in both 2009 and 2010, the last year Atlanta hosted two Cup events. Kyle won the spring race in 2008 and the Labor Day weekend event last year.
Joey Logano completed the first Ford sweep since 2006 over the weekend, winning at Bristol to become the fifth driver on the circuit with three wins this season. With two races left before the Chase, Logano is in championship form, with four top fives and a sixth-place finish in his last five starts. Statistically, the 24-year-old leads the circuit in average running position (9.460) and boasts the second-best driver rating in the series (106.4). ... With just two races to go in the regular season, winless NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have two more chances left to lock themselves into Chase. Zero-win drivers Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle man the 12-16 spots and have considerable breathing room with Biffle leading 17th-place Kyle Larson by 26 points. Still, any of them can be bumped by a first-time victor. A potential Atlanta contender -- Kasey Kahne, who currently sits in 18th (33 points behind Biffle), has won at Atlanta twice. ... Kyle Busch looks to win Atlanta's NASCAR Sprint Cup race for the second consecutive season, and capture the three Chase bonus points that would go with the victory. Last year, Busch notched his second career Atlanta victory, seizing the top spot on Lap 288 and holding off Joey Logano through the end of the race. He will compete with a group of past Atlanta winners already locked into the Chase vying for precious bonus points, including: his brother Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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