Kevin Harvick can be first driver to clinch a Chase berth Saturday at Kentucky

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With nine races remaining until the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the field of title contenders is coming into focus.

Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick can be the first driver to clinch a berth in the Chase in this Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

To clinch, a driver needs multiple wins, as well as enough points to mathematically guarantee a spot in the top 30 through the regular-season finale Sept. 12 at Richmond International Raceway.

Harvick has two wins and a series-leading 656 points through 17 races. Harvick officially assures himself of a Chase berth by starting at Kentucky (and then provided he starts each of the eight remaining races in the regular season).

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who earned his second win this season Monday to jump from fifth to second in the standings, also can clinch a playoff berth at Kentucky.

But Earnhardt, who trails Harvick by 63 points, will need to earn the maximum 48 points at Kentucky (a win and leading the most laps) to clinch.

Jimmie Johnson, who has a series-high four wins, is ranked third, 67 points behind Harvick. Johnson could clinch his spot in the Chase next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Here’s the current Chase Grid heading into Kentucky:

1 – Jimmie Johnson (4 wins) … 589 points

2 – Kevin Harvick (2 wins) … 656 points

3 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2 wins) … 593 points

4 – Kurt Busch (2 wins) … 508 points

5 – Joey Logano (1 win) … 581 points

6 – Martin Truex Jr. (1 win) … 569 points

7 –Brad Keselowski (1 win) … 520 points

8 – Matt Kenseth (1 win) … 501 points

9 – Denny Hamlin (1 win) … 480 points

10 – Carl Edwards (1 wins) … 408 points

11 – Jamie McMurray (0 wins) … 526 points

12 – Jeff Gordon (0 wins) … 500 points

13 – Kasey Kahne (0 wins) … 496 points

14 – Paul Menard (0 wins) … 480 points

15 – Ryan Newman (0 wins) 472 points

16 – Clint Bowyer (0 wins) … 465 points

DRIVERS OUTSIDE A CHASE SPOT

17 – Aric Almirola (0 wins) … 24 points behind 16th

18 – Kyle Larson (0 wins) … 70 points behind 16th

19 – Greg Biffle (0 wins) … 73 points behind 16th

20 – Danica Patrick (0 wins) … 79 points behind 16th

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