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The Irish Hills are smiling

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After he saw the lead slip away in the closing laps last year, Kyle Busch redeemed himself at Watkins Glen Sunday by taking home the checkered flag. On a day where a late caution cost Marcos Ambrose the chance at his third victory in a row at the New York road course, Busch held off Brad Keselowski on a couple of late restarts to grab his third win of the year.

The second place finish moved Keselowski back into the top 10 in points, and an early crash sent Jeff Gordon back out of contention. The wild card chase is continuing to heat up, and with only four races left until the Chase starts at Chicago, the contenders are by no means locked down.

In other, completely unsurprising news, Jimmie Johnson became the first driver to clinch a Chase spot for 2013.

This week

We’re back to oval racing on Sunday with the Pure Michigan 400 from the 2 mile Michigan International Speedway. The track is still benefitting from its recent repave and the first race at the track this year in June was full of high speeds and high drama.

Storylines

    • The wild card battle is the number one topic heading into Sunday, with drivers in eighth to 13th place separated by less than 35 points. Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman currently hold the two wild card positions, but a wreck could easily toss them both out of the running in a heartbeat.

 

    • Dale Earnhardt Jr. got his first win several years in 2012 at Michigan, and would have been a contender this year had a mechanical failure not ruined his day. Jr. Nation wants him to get another win, and I’m sure the driver would be happy to oblige.

 

  • Max Papis didn’t perform too admirably as Tony Stewart’s replacement at Watkins Glen, so this week, it’s Austin Dillon’s turn to try and make some magic in the #14.

Who To Watch

    • Jimmie Johnson’s got nothing to lose now that he’s locked himself into the chase, so he can gamble as much as he wants to get another win and another bonus point for the playoffs.

 

  • Greg Biffle won at Michigan and June and hasn’t done much since, so he’d love to repeat the feat and get a little momentum back as the season heads to its final stages.
  • Jeff Gordon has to have a good run to keep his Chase chances alive. He crashed on his own Sunday at Watkins Glen and fell back out of the top 10, a precarious spot to be in considering he has no wins.

Who Will Win

Ah, what the hell. Let’s say Jr. does it again and heads to victory lane.

2013 Sprint Cup Standings (after 22 of 36 races)

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Clint Bowyer -75
3. Carl Edwards -80
4. Kevin Harvick -101
5. Kyle Busch – 115
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -138
7. Matt Kenseth -149
8. Brad Keselowski -174
9. Greg Biffle -181
10. Martin Truex Jr. -183