Chase to Miami Glory is (Unofficially) On

Kevin Harvick clinched the first spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Sunday

Sprint Cup Points Leader Kevin Harvick used a win on Sunday to be the first driver to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Courtesy Jason Smith, Getty Images Sport)

After dodging disaster in a second plane crash, owner Jack Roush was welcomed back to the track by his Roush Fenway Racing placing three cars in the Top 5 and a fourth in the 11th spot at Michigan for Race 23 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21).

Kevin Harvick took the No. 29 Shell car to Victory Lane at Michigan to become the first driver to lock into the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. With his third win this season, he maintains his lead in the point standings, the Top 12 of who will qualify for the Chase “playoffs” that culminate with a Champion being crowned in Miami Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at just $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.

Consider how quickly things can change in pursuit of Miami glory in just one race. Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite car, suffered a blown engine at Michigan and was relegated to a 40th place finish. With it, he fell six places to 10th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings—with only three races remaining to determine the Top 12 teams that will battle it for the Sprint Cup Championship to will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21.

"It's tough because we wanted to do well here in Michigan and get our Dodge in Victory Lane," said Busch.

Carl Edwards led the way for Roush Fenway with a strong third-place finish; Greg Biffle dominated the majority of the event—leading a race-high 66 laps—en route to his fourth-place run; and Matt Kenseth posted his 100th career Top 5 finish with a fifth-place run. David Ragan, who also led in the race, rounded out the Roush Fenway effort by snagging the 11th spot.

"It is great," Edwards said. "We really wanted to get a win for [Roush] today, but that is a strong performance for us and for Ford. It meant a lot to perform that well for him today."

Indeed, it was a strong points day for the Fords, with Edwards moving up two spots to sixth (tied with Jeff Burton) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship point standings. Kenseth moved up one spot to ninth, and Biffle held steady at 11th  With only three races remaining before the Chase cutoff point, the three Roush Fenway cars all are holding at least a 193-point advantage over 13th position (Mark Martin).

The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 (Sept. 11 at Richmond) qualify to contend for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at just $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.

About clinching a spot in this year’s Chase field, Harvick said: "I think it's good to get it out of the way. Like I say, there were opportunities to do that; you just can't force it. I think that's more coincidence than anything. We've been in contention to win a bunch of 'em this year."

The victory added valuable bonus points to Harvick's tally for when the 12-car field is seeded for the 10-race shootout for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 21. Tickets for the Nov. 21st series-crowning Championship finale are available by clicking here.

South Florida-resident Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 42 Target car, finished seventh (see sidebar) and remains 19th in the standings that will culminate on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21).

The battle remains for the coveted 12th spot in the standings, and Harvick’s Richard Childress Racing-teammate Clint Bowyer took the position with a 13th place finish in Race 23 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). Bowyer left Michigan with a 35-point lead over 13th-place perennial fan-favorite Martin. Just 129 points separate 12th place (Boyer) from 17th (Dale Earnhardt Jr.).

Said Martin of his Chase chances: "I don't know what they are. We'll keep digging. I don't know. Every race is a new race."

All of NASCAR’s elite will be looking to gain points Saturday night at Bristol (7 p.m., ABC TV)—Race 24 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.

On the Move: South Florida's Montoya

Montoya was happy with his tenth top-ten of the year

“Felt like I was doing drifting today at 200 mph—pretty cool.”

--Juan Pablo Montoya, on scoring a Top 10 at Michigan

Having driven to the victory at Sonoma in Race 22 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21), South Florida-resident Juan Pablo Montoya entered Michigan seeking back-to-back victories. 

After qualifying in the fifth position, he ran near the front of the field on race day for the majority of the afternoon. In the closing laps, pit strategy came into play and the Target Chevrolet crossed the finish line seventh, giving the No. 42 team its 10th Top 10 finish of the season. With a driver rating of 94.0, Montoya ranks seventh on the list and is the only pilot in the Top 10 in that category who is not in the Top 12 in Sprint Cup points. For tickets and more information to see Montoya race for a Ford 400 victory on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway, visit THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE. Tickets start at $55.

DNFs have plagued Montoya all season, and handling concerns caused the Target car to fall back in the field midway through the race. All told, crew chief Brian Pattie brought the No. 42 down pit road seven times for adjustments, tires and fuel. A fuel-only stop on Lap 156 solidified Montoya’s chances for a Top 10.

“We needed another good run, and the guys worked hard all day to get me a good handling race car,” said Montoya. “We were having some issues with the right rear tire sliding all afternoon, but towards the end the Target Chevrolet was fast. We would have had a Top 5 finish if it weren’t for a battle with the No. 16, No. 17 and No. 99 cars there at the end.”

Montoya has started all 23 of this year’s Sprint Cup races but has fallen victim to an inordinate amount of engine woes and on-track tangling—finishing in the Top 10 of all but three 2010 races in which he has completed all scheduled laps. Included in that run for South Florida’s hometown’er are five Top 5s.

The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 (Sept. 11 at Richmond) qualify to contend for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at just $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.

Next up for Montoya and the Sprint Cup drivers is Bristol on Saturday, Aug. 21 (7 p.m. ET, ABC TV)—Race 24 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). Just three races remain before the Richmond (Sept. 11) cut-off for NASCAR’s best to gain points and qualify for Chase contention.

For tickets and more information to see Montoya race for a Ford 400 victory on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway, visit THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE. Lock in NOW to catch Championship racing at Championship value, as tickets start at $55.

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@JPMontoya

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