1. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski ran out of fuel while leading on lap 59 at Charlotte, and that miscalculation may have cost him the win. After a late stop for gas, Keseklowski emerged 16th and finished 11th. He now leads Jimmie Johnson in the point standings by seven.
“The Miller Lite Dodge was the hottest car in the Chase until Saturday,” Keselowski said. “And we all know what happens with a cold Miller Lite—you get a ‘coaster.’
2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished third in the Bank Of America 500 after fuel mileage concerns forced him to race conservatively. Still, Johnson cut into Brad Keselowski’s points lead, and now trails by only seven.
“Keselowski led for 139 of 334 laps,” Johnson said. “It was his race to lose, and he did. But I don’t mind trailing in the point standings right now. I’m a five-time champion; Keselowski’s got no titles to his name. That puts me ‘second to none.”
3. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin led 36 laps at Charlotte and finished third behind Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson, while Brad Keselowski finished 11th. Hamlin is now 15 behind points-leader Keselowski, and eight behind Johnson in second.
“The No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota was not made to conserve gas,” Hamlin said, “so we have to savor every drop. It seems that my pregnant girlfriend isn’t the only one carrying ‘precious cargo.’”
4. Clint Bowyer: After a beneficial fuel gamble, Bowyer held off a charging Denny Hamlin to take the Bank Of America 500, his third victory of the year. Bowyer is now fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 28 behind Brad Keselowski, and well within striking distance for the Cup.
“I proved I’m still a force in the Chase,” Bowyer said. “But I realize I’m gonna need some luck as well. So I’ve got to ask myself, “Do you feel lucky, punk?’”
5. Kasey Kahne: Kahne finished eighth at Charlotte, one lap down to the leaders. He is now fifth in the point standings, 35 out of first.
“It was weird not seeing Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the No. 88 car,” Kahne said. “I’m sure Junior was disappointed. But look on the bright side: he found another way to break a winless streak.”
6. Greg Biffle: Biffle started on the pole at Charlotte and led 71 laps before finishing fourth, his best finish of the Chase. He leaped three spots in the point standings to sixth, and is 43 out of first.
“Carl Edwards couldn’t win with the points lead in last year’s Chase,” Biffle said. “Matt Kenseth is leaving Roush Fenway. And I couldn’t win from the pole at Charlotte. It doesn’t seem that anyone at Roush Fenway Racing can finish what they started.”
7. Martin Truex, Jr.: Truex posted his 17th top-10 finish of the year with a 10th at Charlotte. He is seventh in the Sprint Cup point standings, 49 out of first.
“I’ve got five races to make up 49 points,” Truex said. “I’m guessing the five races beats the 49 points to the finish line. And that’s one more win than I have this year.”
8. Kyle Busch: Busch finished fifth at Charlotte, one of only six cars on the lead lap. It was his ninth top-5 result of the year.
“I didn’t qualify for the Chase For The Cup,” Busch said, “so I, like about 8 of 12 Chasers to far behind to matter, am not eligible to win the title. It may be lonely at the top, but not at the bottom.”
9. Tony Stewart: Stewart sustained front-end damage after an early re-start went awry. He recovered to finish 13th, one lap down, and now finds himself in a 50 point hole to points leader Brad Keselowski.
“If it’s not someone going too fast behind me,” Stewart said, “it’s someone going too slow in front of me. Normally, I’m more prepared in crunch time.”
10. Jeff Gordon: Gordon’s day was ruined by a pit road speeding penalty that put him one lap down. He finished two laps down in 18th for his worst finish of the Chase. He trails Brad Keselowski by 50 points in the Sprint Cup point standings.
“That’s a deficit from which I can’t escape,” Gordon said. “I was once married to a ‘gold digger;’ she, in turn, was married to a ‘hole digger.’”