Point standings take a hard hit.
Sunday was a rough day on the track for rookie Kyle Larson.
It got worse when he looked at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings after the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
An early pit lane collision with Dale Earnhardt Jr. damaged the left front of his No. 42 Chevrolet and his race ended on lap 98 when he hit the turn 4 wall. His car caught fire as it rolled to a stop but he was not injured.
The last-place finished dropped him from 10th to 14th in the standings and put greater pressure on him to win or stay near the front in the next three races to ensure a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Twelve spots in the Chase are taken in this year’s new format, which expanded to 16 drivers and grants automatic berths to drivers who win a race and finish in the top 30 in the final points standings. A.J. Allmendinger became the latest member of the fortunate dozen with last weekend's win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
Larson will head to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway next Saturday (Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC) 15 points out of the final spot in the Chase. Atlanta and Richmond are the final stops before the postseason gets under way.
Matt Kenseth, the highest ranked driver without a win, fell from third to fifth in the standings after finishing 38th. He was one of the nine cars that sustained damage during a lap 26 pileup that began when Danica Patrick spun in turn 1.
Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota was in the garage area for 30 laps before he returned to the track.
Barring a string of finishes near the rear of the field, Kenseth still appears to be comfortably in the Chase field.
Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle—all of whom are winless this season--are ninth through 11th in the standings and separated by 19 points. Kasey Kahne is nine points out of the last spot.
Kevin Harvick was second at Michigan for the fourth straight race, matching the Sprint Cup Series record set by Dale Jarrett at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway. He was in a sour mood in June after winning the pole and getting stuck in a battle of pit strategy but was in better spirits Sunday.
He’s already locked up a spot on the Chase Grid and said the team is much more concerned with remaining consistent as it counts the days until the series’ postseason.
The finish was welcome news for Stewart-Haas Racing, which has been under a cloud since co-owner Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race last Saturday.
“Everybody has stepped up and did what they had to do inside the shop,” Harvick said. “Everybody just has to pitch in and do their part to help Tony get through his situation.
“I know he’ll stay strong and fight.”
Jeff Burton qualified Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet and finished 37th after electrical problems forced him to bring the car to the garage area for several laps.
SHR teammates Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch finished 18th and 31st, respectively, after each had crashes. Patrick spun on lap 26 and the ensuing pileup collected eight cars. Busch hit the turn 1 wall while running second on a lap 180 restart.
Gordon’s last two championship seasons, 1998 and 2001, included victories at MIS and Indianapolis. … J.J. Yeley subbed for Ryan Truex, who missed the race due to effects of a concussion. … U.S. Olympic champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White were the race’s grand marshals. … Chevy retained the trophy given to the winning manufacturer at MIS, the closest Sprint Cup stop to the world headquarters of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. … It will be quite a change of pace this weekend when the series moves from the ultra-fast 2-mile MIS to half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway. … Saturday was the annual Woodward Dream Cruise in suburban Detroit and Kurt Busch brought along a 1961 Chevy to join in the fun.
NASCAR Wire Service, Scott Held