While Talladega constantly gets mentioned as the "wild card" of every Chase, Kevin Harvick had to feel pretty good about his chances on Sunday. One of the best restrictor plate racers in NASCAR, Harvick had finished in the top 10 in six of his last seven starts at Daytona and Talladega -- the only bad finish coming when his engine failed early in this year's Daytona 500.
Harvick, who was five points behind Carl Edwards, ran up front for the first half of the race with teammate Paul Menard and was on the inside of the trioval on lap 104 when AJ Allmendinger spun off the bumper of teammate Marcos Ambrose. He had nowhere to go.
Kyle Busch was in the same predicament. He entered Sunday's race on the precipice of Chase contention. But he was in the line just above Harvick when Allmendinger spun. He didn't have a chance to react until after his car got hit.
Both cars had to go to the garage for extensive work, and Harvick was even black flagged for repairs after his car was leaking oil. Harvick finished 32nd. Busch was 33rd.
Now, the two drivers who had a run in at Darlington are both on the edge of Chase relevance with four races to go.
Harvick is now fifth in the points standings, 26 points behind Edwards. Busch is further back in sixth, 40 points behind Edwards.
Are they done? Well, we won't go that far just yet, especially for Harvick. He won earlier in the season at Martinsville and has been good at the intermediate tracks -- winning at Charlotte and California. He's been the Kyra Sedgwick of the Cup Series, and 26 points is just less than seven points a race.
For Busch? Well, his Chase light is flickering. The driver most capable of reeling off three consecutive wins needs to do so now. Now would be a good time to break that Chase jinx.
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