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From The Marbles

Flat tire decreases Kyle Larson's Chase chances significantly

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

With Jeff Gordon's win in Sunday's race at Michigan, every 2014 race winner is now absolutely guaranteed to make the Chase. With 12 different winners and three races remaining until the Chase, it's impossible to fill the 16-driver field with all winners.

That means a winless driver or four will make the Chase. Kyle Larson is one of those winless drivers vying for a Chase berth and his battle to get in just got a whole lot tougher.

Larson collided with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on pit road early in the race and had some left-front fender damage. His team repaired the fender but he later had a flat tire that sent him into the wall and caught the engine of his car on fire. His day was over. (Larson was the first test of the "extenuating circumstances" that allow NASCAR drivers to get out of their cars immediately after a crash in the wake of Kevin Ward's death. No one would argue that Larson's situation wasn't an extenuating circumstance.)

He ended up 43rd and last, meaning he scored a single point in Sunday's race, dropping him to 14th in the points standings.

But more importantly, Larson is now seventh among winless drivers. As of now, four winless drivers will get in the Chase. The number could decrease if there's a first-time winner in the next three weeks, and if there is, it could likely be one of the drivers mentioned below. Here are the drivers vying for the winless Chase spots at the moment.

Matt Kenseth (58 points ahead of Kasey Kahne): Kenseth is virtually guaranteed into the Chase, though he'd be more comfortable with his standing if he wasn't involved in an early crash on Sunday.

Ryan Newman (28 points ahead of Kahne): Newman finished 11th, though he ran higher than that for a significant portion of the race.

Clint Bowyer (21 points ahead of Kahne): Bowyer's lead would be bigger if it wasn't for his last-turn spin at Watkins Glen last week. He quietly finished sixth.

Greg Biffle (9 points ahead of Kahne): Biffle has the last spot as of now. He finished 10th.

Kasey Kahne: He's the first driver out. Winning matters, but points may matter just as much right now. Kahne was 16th.

Austin Dillon (22 points behind Biffle): Dillon was in the top five for a brief moment on Sunday. He finished 22nd.

Kyle Larson (24 points behind Biffle): After last week, Larson was ahead of Bowyer, Biffle, Kahne and Dillon. Ouch.

Marcos Ambrose (44 points behind Biffle): See how important winning last week was to his Chase chances?

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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