Saturday night at Bristol marked the first opportunity for several drivers to clinch spots in the Chase, and four have done so. Let's run them down, shall we?
Greg Biffle: The current points leader, he's in the midst of a career year. He's got two wins and 10 top 5s, and everything would seem to be pointing to this as a championship-threat season were it not for ...
Jimmie Johnson: Five-Time is looking to become Six-Time, and he's showing that he's got both the horsepower and the focus to do just that. Three wins and a series-leading 12 top 5s are just the start of his accolades this year. He's not completely dominant, but he'll do till dominance comes along. That's not a surprise, unlike the performance of ...
[Related: The wild-card race for the Chase ... is wild]
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The monkey is off his back, and so too are the shackles that have kept him running poorly for most of the last decade. He's recorded a victory and 10 top 5s, and remains a threat to run well virtually every single race.
The above drivers clinched spots in the Chase itself, meaning they'll be able to take advantage of the bonus points from their wins. There's one more driver who's also guaranteed at least a wild card spot:
Matt Kenseth: Early season domination has given way to a long, slow slide. Still, he's got a win and nine top 5 finishes. He'll need to regain some of his spring mojo if he wants to challenge for a Cup, but the way he runs best, just within sight of the leaders of every race, bodes well for November.
Most other drivers are in good shape to clinch at Atlanta; only Tony Stewart remains in serious jeopardy of falling out of the top 10, and his three wins all but guarantee him at least a wild card spot.
It's one step along the way for these four drivers, but it's an important one. The Chase is a reality. Time now to start thinking about a Cup.
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