Jimmie Johnson still holds a substantial lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, but a blown engine cut the margin between himself and second-place Clint Bowyer down to 41 points following Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway.
The five-time Cup champion finished the Pure Michigan 400 in 40th, while Bowyer overcame a spin on Lap 1 to place fifth.
With a third-place run the bigger gainer Sunday was Kurt Busch, who went from being outside the Chase cutoff to jump two spots to ninth. He replaces Martin Truex Jr. in the top 10, who fell to 12th overall after a struggling to finish 16th.
But Truex still has a grasp on the second wild card slot, as he is up seven points on Michigan winner Joey Logano. Kasey Kahne with two victories on the year holds the No. 1 wild card position with three regular races remaining.
After a tire failure caused him to hit the wall, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finds himself on the Chase bubble. He is now ranked seventh just 20 points ahead of 11th-place Kahne and without a win this season, Earnhardt would not be eligible for a wild card.
"I think we'll be all right," Earnhardt said. "We're not an 11th-place team. We're a top-five team. We're consistent. We're more consistent than most. We've just got to shake this luck ... and we've just got to keep our head up and keep working hard and things will be all right."
Sprint Cup Series Standings
|7||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||679||-134|
|12||Martin Truex Jr.||653||-160|