2014 NASCAR standings: Earnhardt retains lead over former champions Keselowski, Gordon

Christian Petersen

While Dale Earnhardt Jr. has gotten off to a fast start, the same can be said of Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon, who both narrowly trail Earnhardt in the championship standings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. followed his victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 with a strong second-place finish Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

He continues to sit atop the Sprint Cup Series standings holding a six-point lead over Brad Keselowski, who for the second week in a row placed in the top three. Earnhardt and Keselowski finished behind Kevin Harvick, who was clearly the class of the field leading 71 percent of all laps in notching his first win driving for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Having finished fourth in the Daytona 500 and fifth at Phoenix, this year marks the first time since 1997 that Jeff Gordon has begun a year with consecutive top-five finishes. Accordingly, the four-time NASCAR champion finds himself third overall, just one point ahead of Harvick and two ahead of fifth-place Jimmie Johnson.

"Great fight by this team," Gordon said. "What a week it has been for this No. 24 team, from that top-five in Daytona, the Pepsi Max Test Drive II (video prank) and then here we are with another top-five here at Phoenix. Great way to start the season."

Quite a few prominent names have found themselves off to slower starts this season. Among those in the back half of the series standings are Clint Bowyer (23rd in points), Kurt Busch (30th), Martin Truex Jr. (35th) and Danica Patrick (39th).

It is no longer paramount, however, that drivers be consumed with their position in points due to NASCAR revising the criteria for securing a Chase for the Sprint Cup berth. While points still matter to some degree -- especially for qualifying purposes -- the emphasis is on winning. And that's why after just two races, Earnhardt and Harvick have virtually secured themselves one of 16 Chase spots.

"It's hard to take away a lot from two races," Earnhardt said. "Such a long season, so many things can happen. So many teams can learn and progress and the competition gets tougher and tougher throughout the year as everybody starts seeing what is happening in the garage. Secrets don't last long."

Sprint Cup standings

Rank Driver Points Behind Wins
1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 90 --- 1
2 Brad Keselowski
84 -6 0
3 Jeff Gordon
80
-10
0
4 Kevin Harvick
79
-11
1
5 Jimmie Johnson 78 -12 0
6 Joey Logano 75 -15 0
7 Matt Kenseth 70 -20 0
8 Denny Hamlin 68 -22 0
9 Carl Edwards 65 -25 0
10 Greg Biffle 64 -26 0
11 Casey Mears 64 -26 0
12 Jamie McMurray 64 -26 0
13 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 63 -27 0
14 Kyle Busch 61 -29 0
15 Ryan Newman 60 -30 0
16 Austin Dillon 56 -34 0
17 Marcos Ambrose 49 -41 0
18 Kasey Kahne 47 -43 0
19 Reed Sorenson 41 -49 0
20 Tony Stewart 37 -53 0
21 AJ Allmendinger 37 -53 0
22 Aric Almirola 35 -55 0
23 Clint Bowyer 34 -56 0
24 Paul Menard 34 -56 0
25 Brian Vickers 33 -57 0
26 Cole Whitt 33 -57 0
27 Justin Allgaier 32 -58 0
28 Kyle Larson 30 -60 0
29 Bobby Labonte 29 -61 0
30 Kurt Busch 29 -61 0
31 David Ragan 26 -64 0
32 Terry Labonte 24 -66 0
33 Alex Bowman 24 -66 0
34 David Gilliland 24 -66 0
35 Martin Truex Jr. 23 -67 0
36 Josh Wise 20 -70 0
37 Parker Kligerman 17 -73 0
38 Michael Annett 17 -73 0
39 Danica Patrick 13 -77 0
40 Michael McDowell 11 -79 0

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