Wild-card drama heats up after Kahne's win
Winning really matters.
Isn't that great to hear? There were days in NASCAR's not-too-distant past when that just wasn't true.
It's a fact now. Winning Sunday at New Hampshire probably puts Kasey Kahne in the Chase with his second victory of the season.
Winning at Kentucky two weeks ago probably guaranteed Brad Keselowski a playoff spot with his three victories.
You have to win to get in, and it's so much more impressive than a winless driver sliding into the 12th and final Chase spot by scoring a couple of more points than the guys in 13th. That's the way it once was.
The wild-card rule that NASCAR added to the Chase format last season is a clear success. It forces many drivers to concentrate on winning rather than racing for points.
"Kasey won and good for him," said Keselowski, who finished fifth Sunday. "He's got two wins now, so he's probably got a good shot at the Chase. That's what you've got to do."
Kasey Kahne gets a big break and wins at New Hampshire. Plus, we hear from numerous drivers on the suspension of AJ Allmendinger.
The final two spots in the Chase are determined by victories. Now the top 10 get into the Chase, and the next two spots are filled by the next two drivers in the top 20 based on wins. Points come into play to break ties between drivers who have the same number of wins.
Kahne moved into 12th in the points standings with his victory Sunday, which would have placed him inside the cutoff in the old system. However, his spot is more secure in this format than it was in the one based strictly on points. Drivers below him in the standings need to win.
A driver with one victory, like Ryan Newman, needs to win again and hope he gains enough points to pass Kahne in the standings. A winless driver below Kahne in the standings -- Jeff Gordon, for example -- needs two victories in seven races to possibly knock Kahne out.
Not likely, but Gordon still could earn one wild-card spot if he wins once and moves up in the standings. Top-10 finishes, as Gordon had Sunday with a sixth-place effort, just aren't good enough.
"It was just a disappointing day when you look at what our goals are right now," Gordon said afterward. "We've got to be up there battling for wins if we are going to make this Chase, and then get those wins."
Carl Edwards, who would be inside the cutoff in the old system, is 11th and on the outside looking in because he hasn't won a race. He finished 18th Sunday.
"We'll go back to the shop and get a real war plan," Edwards said. "I say war plan because I think it's gonna be tough, but we've got to plan for the next seven races. We can do it, though, and now we've just got to get it done."
The plan is simple. Edwards has to win. In his case, one victory might be enough, or it might not. Three drivers below him in the standings -- Kyle Busch, Newman and Joey Logano -- have a victory. If one of them wins again before the playoff starts, winless drivers like Edwards and Gordon probably are doomed.
Busch is 13th in the standings, but holds down the final wild-card spot for now with the most points among the one-win drivers outside the top 10.
Give me the guy who won a race over the guy who didn't, every time. But the system is fair because drivers still can make the Chase by racing consistently well without winning.
I would make a tweak or two to emphasize winning even more, like a few more points for the winner each week. But overall, the wild-card format is one of NASCAR's best decisions in years.
The entire mindset of most teams has switched from points racing to winning. Even with two victories now for Kahne, crew chief Kenny Francis said the plan hasn't changed.
"I think strategically you've still got to keep racing to win," Francis said after the victory. "Wins are important. That's why we're here. I don't really have any strategy other than, 'Let's go try to win the next one.'"
Nationwide Series: Harvick, Amber Cope start a feud
Brad Keselowski passed Harvick late in the race and went on to win because Harvick felt Cope (many laps down) got in his way.
"It's somebody who shouldn't be on the race track and has no clue what they're doing in a race car," Harvick said. "She wants to be Danica Patrick, but she can't hold her helmet."
Cope was not pleased and lit into Harvick on a Twitter page she shares with her twin sister, Angela.
"Just bc u say it does not make it right!!!" Amber tweeted. "Mr @kevinharvick...where should I go? I will take the apologies Monday! ASS!"
Cope also posted a video of the incident, which she feels proves she had nowhere to go.
Cope, 28, is the niece of former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope. Angela also races in NASCAR.
I'll give Amber credit for the fact she still was on the track trying to compete at the end, which is more than I can say for 10 drivers Saturday who went to the house without completing 10 laps.
Camping World Truck Series: Peters rolls in Iowa
With his victory Saturday in Iowa, Timothy Peters now has won a race in each of his four seasons as a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series.
He also has improved his spot in the standings each season. This year, that improvement may take him to the championship. Peters, 31, now holds down the top spot by 12 points over Justin Lofton.
Peters has a series-best six top-5s in nine races. Rookie Ty Dillon, who is third in the standings, only 14 points back, is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in every event this year.
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racing Resources says
Sprint Cup Series
• Kasey Kahne won the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. It was his 14th win in his 307th start. His previous win was at Charlotte in May (six starts between). It was his first win at New Hampshire in his 17th start.
• Kahne became the fifth repeat winner of 2012. It was his second victory with Hendrick Motorports.
• Kahne led once for 66 laps.
• Kahne now is 12th in points with two wins and is the top wild-card contender.
• Hendrick Motorsports posted its 204th Cup series win and fourth victory of 2012, most of all teams. HMS has nine wins at New Hampshire.
• Chevrolet picked up its series-leading ninth win of 2012 and 18th victory at New Hampshire, most of all makes.
• Denny Hamlin (second) got his fourth top-2 finish at New Hampshire in 13 races.
• Clint Bowyer (third) posted his 10th top-10 finish of 2012, including five of the past seven races. It was his fifth top-10 finish at New Hampshire, including four in the past six races.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth) got his eighth top-5 finish of 2012. He had only seven in all of 2010 and 2011 combined.
• Brad Keselowski (fifth) got his ninth top-10 finish of 2012, including the past three races. It was his third top-10 finish in six races at New Hampshire.
• Jeff Gordon (sixth) posted his seventh top-10 finish of the season, including four in the past five races.
• Jimmie Johnson (seventh) has finished 12th or better in every race this season except the three restrictor-plate races.
• It marked the third time in 2012 all four Hendrick Motorsports cars finished in the top 10.
• Matt Kenseth (13th) matched his worst finish in the past 14 races. He maintains his points lead by 16 over Earnhardt.
• Kyle Busch (16th) had his sixth finish outside of the top 10 in the past seven races. He led 72 laps.
• Brad Keselowski won the J.W. Webb 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. It was his 19th Nationwide Series win in his 182nd start and his second victory of 2012. It was his first win at New Hampshire in his fifth start, the 16th different track he has won on in this series.
• Keselowski recorded his third series win from the pole. It was his second win with crew chief Jeremy Bullins.
• Keselowski led four times for 131 laps, including the final 22
• Penske Racing posted its 25th Nationwide Series win and second victory of 2012. It was Penske's first win at New Hampshire.
• Dodge posted its second win of 2012 and first victory at New Hampshire.
• Kevin Harvick (second) had his best finish of 2012 in eight starts. It was his fifth second-place finish at New Hampshire, including his past two starts.
• Austin Dillon (third) posted his 10th top-5 finish of 2012, most of all drivers, and won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus after getting his best New Hampshire finish in his second start.
• Sam Hornish Jr. (fourth) notched his fifth straight top-10 finish in his first New Hampshire start.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (fifth) had his ninth top-5 finish of 2012 and second in three starts at New Hampshire.
• Elliott Sadler (seventh) posted his 13th top-10 finish of the season, tying Dillon for the most. He leads the standings over Dillon by three points.
• Jamie McMurray (ninth) made his first Nationwide Series start of the season and first with Turner Motorsports.
• Ryan Truex (10th) had his third top-10 finish of 2012 in six starts.
• The four drivers eligible for the Dash 4 Cash at Chicago are Dillon, Hornish, Stenhouse and Sadler.
Camping World Truck Series
• Timothy Peters won the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway on Saturday. It was his fourth career Truck series win in his 127th start. He hadn't won since July 2011 at Lucas Oil Raceway, 20 starts between. Three of his four career wins have come on short tracks.
• Peters became the eighth different winner of 2012. It was his first Iowa win in his fourth start there and his first win from the pole.
• Peters led four times for 87 laps, including the final 10.
• Peters increased his points lead to 12 over Justin Lofton.
• Red Horse Racing posted its eighth career win and first victory at Iowa. RHR has three wins in 2012, all by different drivers.
• Toyota posted its second win at Iowa and fourth win of 2012.
• Ron Hornaday Jr. (second) had his best Iowa finish in his fourth start there. It was only his second top-5 finish of the season.
• Matt Crafton (third) has top-10 finishes in all four Iowa races. It was his fifth top-10 finish of 2012, including the past four races.
• Johnny Sauter (fourth) is the only driver to finish in the top five in all four races at Iowa. It was his fourth top-10 finish of the season, including the past three races.
• Justin Lofton (fifth) has top-10 finishes in eight of the nine races this season. It was his first Iowa top-10 in his third start there.
• Jason Leffler (sixth) posted his fourth straight top-10 finish of the season.
• Ty Dillon (seventh) has top-10 finishes in the past 11 races.
• James Buescher finished 30th after leading a race-high 91 laps.
-- Racing Resources