The Chase to the Sprint Cup carousel carried Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne into the top 10 in the point standings and shuffled out Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart at New Hampshire on Sunday.
While the top eight positions remained the same in the point standings, Keselowski capitalized on a solid weekend.
A tire test by his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano — and subsequent team test with both drivers two weeks ago — offered the No. 2 team an ideal baseline for New Hampshire. Keselowski’s ability to win the pole and select the first pit stall offered the defending Sprint Cup champ solid track position for the race.
While Keselowski felt he might have a shot at the win prior to the green-white-checkered finish, he was satisfied with fourth place and his move to ninth in the point standings with seven races remaining before the Chase.
“That was a grueling race for sure,” Keselowski said. “We fought hard all day and came home with a fourth so that was a decent day. I thought we had a shot at it. The 18 and 78 were really good and I hadn’t been around the 55 all day until the end, but man that last run he was definitely fast and deserved the win.
“It was a decent day for the Miller Lite Ford Fusion, we just needed a little bit more to win … a solid day but not the win I want for sure. It is still a solid day, though, and something to be proud of.”
Kahne bounced in and out of the Chase Zone with two accidents in the four prior races. But his 11th-place finish got help from Busch’s bad luck and Stewart running out of gas that, relegateing the two former champions to 31st- and 26th-place finishes, respectively. Stewart is currently 13th in points and seeded as the second wild card behind Martin Truex Jr., currently the only two drivers between 11th and 20th in the point standings with wins.
Jeff Gordon battled hard to score his seventh top-10 finish of the season after he collided with Paul Menard in Turn 2 on Lap 258. He was able to pit for new tires during the caution, which was key to his comeback. Although Gordon’s 10th-place finish elevated the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy to 12th in the point standings, without a win the four-time champ is still outside of the Chase Zone looking in.
“We fought hard for 10th today and that was important to do,” Gordon said. “I don’t know what it did for us in the points, but I think the reason why, as a team, we were frustrated today is because we tested here and we came here with pretty high hopes as an opportunity to win. And it just never felt like we were in position or had a car that could win today.
"So, that’s something we’ve got to do a better job of when we get to Indy.”