Watch NASCAR Oral-B USA 500 from Atlanta at 7:30 pm Eastern Standard Time streaming online live by following the link at the end of this preview article.
With only two more opportunities to secure a spot in the Chase for the Cup, all eyes will be on Tony Stewart, who is entering his first NASCAR race since the tragic accident in which Stewart hit and killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart will be starting the race in the 12th position in his Bass Pro Shops Chevy.
Tony Stewart joins a host of NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers still looking for their first checkered flag of the season. With only two races remaining — today’s NASCAR Oral-B USA 500 and next week’s Federated Auto Parts 400 from Richmond — fans can look for Stewart and other drivers who find themselves on the outside of the Chase standings looking in to go all out to get that all-important trip to Victory Lane.
Kevin Harvick will start tonight’s NASCAR Oral-B USA 500 at the pole position with Brad Keselowski beside him in the number two position. Both drivers on the front row have secured their spot in the Chase for the Cup. They are followed by Kyle Larson in the number three position and Ryan Newman in the number four position. Both Larson and Newman are looking for their first checkered flag of the year, though both are high enough in the point standings that they would be in the Chase for the Cup if the standings remain as they are. Don’t look for either driver to count on the points system, though, as a win would cement their spot in the Chase.
Matt Kenseth, who is in the fifth position for tonight’s NASCAR Oral-B USA 500, is also looking for his first win. Kenseth leads in the points among all drivers still looking for their first win, and is fifth in points overall. Since there will be a minimum of two drivers without a win in this year’s Chase (and possibly four), Kenseth should be able to secure a spot in the Chase by simply finishing in the middle of the pack for the final two races. Martin Truex Jr. is starting in the sixth spot beside Kenseth. Truex Jr. is still looking for his first win and is unlikely to make a serious run for the Chase unless he picks up a victory tonight or next week.
The final ten are rounded out by Aric Almirola (1 win) in seventh, Kyle Busch (1 win) in eighth, Jeff Gordon (3 wins and points leader) in ninth and Kasey Kahne in tenth. Kahne is still looking for his first win and is currently 13th in the points standings and 5th among drivers without a win. While a checkered flag would secure his spot in the Chase, solid finishes in both remaining races could potentially allow him to slide in without a win, depending on how the other drivers that are still in the hunt perform. Other notables include Dale Earnhardt Jr., starting in the 20th position and Danica Patrick — who also needs her first Sprint Cup win if she’s going to make it to the Chase — starting in the 24th position.
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