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CUP: Wild Card Race Taking Shape

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Joey Logano’s victory in the Pocono 400 did more than just give NASCAR its 10th different winner in 14 Sprint Cup races this season. It also tightened up an already interesting race for the two wild card spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

After race 26 at Richmond International Raceway concludes in September, NASCAR will set the field of 12 drivers who will compete for the series championship in the Chase.

The top 10 drivers in the Sprint Cup points standings will be locked into the Chase field after Richmond, as will the two drivers in positions 11-20 with the most race victories.

Right now, the wild card race looks like this:

IN. KYLE BUSCH, 12th place, 420 points – After a second consecutive race ended by engine failure, Busch fell out of the top 10 in points, but is the highest-ranking driver with one victory.

IN. RYAN NEWMAN, 14th, 398 — A victory at Martinsville earlier this spring put the Stewart-Haas Racing driver into wild-card contention.

NOT IN. CARL EDWARDS, 11th, 423 — In terms of just points, Edwards is ahead of both Busch and Newman, but he is winless, which means he’s not wild-card eligible right now. On the other hand, he’s only 3 points out of 10th, which means he could race his way into the top 10, even if he doesn’t win any races.

NOT IN. PAUL MENARD, 13TH, 399 — One of the quiet success stories of the season is Menard, who is 13th in points, up from 19th at this time last year and 21st two years ago. But like Edwards, he needs to either win a race or two, or string together a whole bunch of top fives over the next 12 races.

NOT IN. JOEY LOGANO, 15TH, 398 — Why is Newman ahead of Logano if they each won once and have the same number of points? Easy. NASCAR has a set of tiebreakers to determine rankings. In this case, Newman has more top-five finishes — two vs. Logano’s one — so Newman gets the final wild card slot. For now, anyway.

NOT IN. KASEY KAHNE, 16th, 380 — Kahne’s streak of seven consecutive top-10 finishes ended Sunday when he cut a tire and finished 29th. It was Kahne fifth finish of 29th or worse in 14 races this season.

Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.