Chase Grid: Harvick’s path to title more challenging

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Joe Gibbs Racing has the top four spots in the points – and one of its drivers advancing to the second round – while the season’s most dominant driver, Kevin Harvick, is last among the 16 Chase drivers after the opening Chase for the Sprint Cup race.

Harvick is 43 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth after placing 42nd in Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. Harvick entered the Chase with two wins and 10 runner-up finishes. He likely will have to win one of the next two races to keep his title hopes alive. The reigning champion has one career Cup win at New Hampshire (but has placed third there in each of the past two races) and has never won a Cup race at Dover, placing second to Jimmie Johnson earlier this year.

Denny Hamlin is second in the standings by two points, but his victory assures him a spot in the second round. JGR’s Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch both are three points behind Kenseth.

The series races next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – where Busch won in July with Brad Keselowski second and Harvick third. The series then heads to Dover International Speedway the following weekend. The four Chase drivers with the fewest points after that race will be eliminated from title contention.

Last year, the last driver to advance (Kasey Kahne) at Dover had an average finish of 18.7. Sunday, all the Chase drivers but Harvick finished 19th or better.

Here’s a look at the Chase standings (*advances to 2nd round with win):

1 – Matt Kenseth … 2052 points

2 – Denny Hamlin … 2050 points*

3 – Carl Edwards … 2049 points

4 – Kyle Busch … 2049 points

5 – Kurt Busch … 2048 points

6 – Joey Logano … 2048 points

7 – Jimmie Johnson … 2045 points

8 – Ryan Newman … 2040 points

9 – Brad Keselowski … 2039 points

10 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 2038 points

11 – Martin Truex Jr. … 2035 points

12 – Jeff Gordon … 2031 points

13 – Jamie McMurray … 2028 points

14 – Paul Menard … 2027 points

15 – Clint Bowyer … 2025 points

16 – Kevin Harvick … 2009 points