Paul Menard's dramatic fuel mileage win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis did more than give the Richard Childress Racing driver his first career victory – it thrust him into a Chase wild card spot.
Gaining five spots in the standings, Menard is now in 14th – 55 points behind 10th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., but with an all-important victory in the win column. He joins Denny Hamlin as the two current wild card contenders.
Hamlin's day was a constant battle after being forced to the rear of the field on the start for an engine change earlier in the weekend. With a strong car, Hamlin was able to gain a number of spots on the initial green flag run, but used pit strategy to make his way into the top 10, where he stayed for much of the afternoon.
Finishing the day 27th, Hamlin dropped out of the top 10 in the standings, but his lone win at Michigan International Speedway kept him in the Chase hunt as a wild card contender.
Despite a strong run for much of the afternoon after starting on the pole, David Ragan finished a disappointing 23rd and dropped to 16th in the standings – seven points behind Menard.
Carl Edwards was able to remain atop the point standings after struggling for much of the afternoon at Indianapolis, gaining ground on second-place Jimmie Johnson.
Kurt Busch took the biggest hit in the points, dropping three spots to sixth after a 21st-place finish.
With six races left before the field for the 2011 Chase is set, here is a look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings:
- Carl Edwards
- Jimmie Johnson -11
- Kevin Harvick -12
- Kyle Busch -16
- Matt Kenseth -16
- Kurt Busch -18
- Jeff Gordon (+24 inside Chase)
- Ryan Newman (+12 inside Chase)
- Tony Stewart (+3 inside Chase)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+0 inside Chase)
- Denny Hamlin (-19 outside Chase - holds wild card spot)
- Clint Bowyer (-32 outside Chase)
- Greg Biffle (-46 outside Chase)
- Paul Menard (-53 outside Chase - holds wild card spot)
- Kasey Kahne
- David Ragan (-7 behind Menard and possible wild card spot)
- AJ Allmendinger
- Mark Martin
- Joey Logano
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Brad Keselowski (-2 from 20th place and possible wild card spot)
- Marcos Ambrose
- Martin Truex Jr.
- David Reutimann
- Jeff Burton
- Regan Smith (-76 from 20th place and possible wild card spot)
- Brian Vickers
- Jamie McMurray
- Bobby Labonte
- David Gilliland