Dale Earnhardt Jr. clinched a berth in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, marking the first time in his career he's qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th, a decent result considering he had a speeding penalty and another penalty for pitting when the pits were closed.
"I feel good about it," he said. "We worked real hard all season and I want to thank my guys. They do a good job every week and give me good strategy."
Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson all clinched a spot in the Chase top 10, and Matt Kenseth clinched at least a wild card berth (he can only drop out of the top 10 if he finishes last in the next two races while Kasey Kahne wins both).
"I'm really proud of this whole race team and am so very proud that we clinched today and am glad that we locked down the Chase," Johnson said. "That's something I'm very proud of. We've made it each year, and now it's time to get to work."
Biffle, the Sprint Cup Series points leader, said it felt good to already be locked into the playoffs with two races still remaining – even if it "wasn't the run we were looking for."
Kenseth, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, took a more practical approach to clinching a Chase spot.
"You can't win the championship without being in the Chase, so I'm happy to be there," he said.
Here's a look at how the top 10 in points looks with two races to go:
- Greg Biffle (Clinched)
- Jimmie Johnson (Clinched)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Clinched)
- Matt Kenseth (Clinched at least a wild card) +93
- Martin Truex Jr. +67
- Clint Bowyer +64
- Brad Keselowski +60
- Denny Hamlin +44
- Kevin Harvick +37
- Tony Stewart +16