The race to the Chase has heated up after Daytona

The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup tightened up a little bit following Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Brad Keselowski won the race to score his third victory of the season, tying him with Daytona race runner-up Kyle Busch for most in the series this year.

They are locked into the Chase as are two-time 2016 race winners Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.

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Seven other drivers have won one race each and are all but certain to make the Chase as well: Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart.

Although he crashed and finished 26th in the Daytona race, Stewart moved up to 30th in points and is now Chase eligible.

That means 11 of the 16 Chase positions are filled with nine races left in the Sprint Cup regular season.

Five winless drivers right now are Chase eligible. They are led by Chase Elliott, who has 482 points. Behind Elliott are Austin Dillon (434), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (433), Ryan Newman (425) and Ryan Blaney (409).

Of course, if there are any more new winners in the next nine races, they would knock out one or more winless drivers hoping to make it in on points. 

Just outside the Chase right now are Jamie McMurray (405), Trevor Bayne (399) and Kasey Kahne (396).

The next few weeks are going to get awfully interesting as the Chase nears and with the possible exception of Elliott, none of the winless drivers looks like a lock to make NASCAR’s playoffs.