NASCAR announced Wednesday that Jeff Gordon was guaranteed a spot into the Chase by virtue of being in the top 10 or the wild card.
While it may seem crazy that it took until Wednesday to confirm that Gordon was in the Chase no matter what he did at Atlanta and Richmond, it speaks to the multitude of scenarios that are playing out during the first year of the wild card, which goes to the two drivers between 11th-20th in the points standings with the most wins.
Gordon has two wins — Phoenix and Pocono — and by virtue of his points position now, can do no worse than qualify via the wild card.
Kevin Harvick is also guaranteed into the Chase, and while the Chase situation is bound to get muddier before it gets clearer after Atlanta Sunday night (especially if someone like Greg Biffle or Clint Bowyer wins), we do know this about the other drivers in the top 10 who aren't mathematically guaranteed a Chase spot yet:
Ryan Newman (1 win) is 73 points ahead of 11th. If Newman finishes 20th at Atlanta, he's in no matter what. That turns to 21st with a lap led and 22nd with the most laps led.
Kurt Busch (1 win) is 60 points ahead of Brad Keselowski. If he finishes seventh, eighth with one lap led or 9th with the most laps led, Busch clinches at Atlanta.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs to be at least 49 points ahead of 11th place after Atlanta. He's currently 39, so he needs to finish 10 spots higher than Keselowski or have that advantage over Bowyer or Hamlin if they pass Keselowski in the standings. Tony Stewart's in the same situation as Junior, but he's only 21 points ahead of Keselowski at the moment. The odds of Stewart clinching at Atlanta are fairly slim.
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- Jeff Gordon