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Chase watch: Kurt Busch adds name to title mix

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

Jimmie Johnson didn't get the win, but he did secure the top-three finish he said was necessary to climb back into the Chase hunt. Kurt Busch, flying mostly under the radar, did get the win, but is it time to throw his name into the championship mix?

Here is how the Chase field fared in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway:

T-1. Kevin Harvick – Finished 10th: An average day for Harvick, but average isn't bad when you finish in the top 10 and take the points lead. Dover has never been one of his better tracks, so he'll take it and run to Kansas. (-)

T-1. Carl Edwards – Finished 3rd: When is a third-place finish bad? When you're leading, get caught speeding on pit road and give away a potential win. Edwards can take solace by the fact that he was able to rally, because at one point it looked like his first speeding penalty of the season could cost him big time. (-)

T-3. Kurt Busch – Finished 1st: This is how tight the points battle is right now: Busch was ninth heading into Sunday's race; he's now third, just nine points behind the leaders. To say this win came out of left field would be a stretch, so how about right field? We still need to see more consistency out of the 22 crew to put Busch into that top-tier of contenders. (-9 points)

T-3. Tony Stewart – Finished 25th: It was a brutal day from the get-go for Stewart, who battled a race car that didn't want to, well, race. That's the bad news. The good news is despite an absolutely horrific day he's still very much in the hunt. Next week's race at Kansas will be a big test for Stewart. His two wins came via fuel mileage. Can he contend against Edwards, Harvick and the like straight up? (-9 points)

5. Jimmie Johnson – Finished 2nd: Uhhh, no, Five-time is not out of it, and if you were one of those thinking he was, then it was more about wishful thinking than anything. Truth is, Johnson has been in contention every race of the Chase. He didn't win Sunday but did show the title still goes through him. (-13 points)

T-6. Matt Kenseth – Finished 6th: He won at Dover in May by taking two tires on the final pit stop. They took four this time and finished fifth. Was it the wrong call? Probably not because Kenseth wasn't good on two tires. (-13 points)

6. Brad Keselowski – Finished 20th: Mechanical issues befell Keselowski, who had a top-10 run going until he had to head to pit road for some repairs. He did manage to salvage a mediocre finish to keep him in the hunt. (-14 points)

8. Kyle Busch – Finished 6th: He's not dominating, like we know he's capable of, but he's not imploding either, which is what's happened to Busch in the past. If these first three races are his "mulligans," he'll win going away. But that's a big if. (-15 points)

9. Jeff Gordon – Finished 12th: All that momentum he had coming into the Chase is now a thing of the past. He's not out of it by any means, but he'll need to return to his August form quickly, otherwise he's going to lose sight of the leaders. (-19 points)

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 24th: Can't fault Junior for a broken sway bar in the first few laps of the race, and he deserves credit for driving his way back into the race. Alas, a tire issue cost him and likely put him out of title contention. (-34 points)

11. Ryan Newman – Finished 23rd: The entire Stewart-Haas team was out to lunch at Dover. Newman and Stewart spent the entire day running in the 20s. Newman needed to make up ground. Instead he lost some more and now he joins Denny Hamlin in the line waiting for next season. (-41 points)

12. Denny Hamlin – Finished 18th: The slide continued for Hamlin. For a moment it looked like he might have one of his best Dover finishes ever, but that ended pretty quickly, kind of like his title hopes in this year's Chase. (-68 points)

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