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How many Chase spots will still be in play after Atlanta?

Aug 31, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

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As of now, there are four Chase Grid positions still up for grabs going into tonight’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Following the race, that number may be cut in half.

As you know, Matt Kenseth (pictured) and Ryan Newman occupy 13th and 14th on the Grid respectively. And while they both are still winless in 2014, they are in strong position to make the Chase on points without a victory.

Obviously, they’d prefer to take a checkered flag either tonight at Atlanta or in next weekend’s regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway.

But at 83 points above the Chase cutoff, Kenseth seems a sure bet to get in. And with a finish of seventh or better in tonight’s race, he’ll do just that. Meanwhile, Newman is also in decent shape at 42 points above the cutoff.

Behind them is where things get more tense. Clint Bowyer (+31) and Greg Biffle (+26) were both able to increase their cushions last weekend at Bristol over 17th-place Kyle Larson.

Larson and others outside the Grid like two-time Atlanta winner Kasey Kahne (-33), Austin Dillon (-40), and Paul Menard (-45) need to pull out all the stops in order to get a win in either of the next two races – or at least have Bowyer and Biffle run into problems to help their respective points outlooks.

Meanwhile, the two men most secure on the Chase bubble are looking forward to strong runs this evening in the Peach State.

Kenseth qualified fifth on Friday, and went fastest in yesterday’s final practice session. As for Newman, he qualified fourth before running ninth and then 17th in yesterday’s two practices.

However, neither of them have won at Atlanta in their Sprint Cup Series careers (although Newman did win a Camping World Truck Series event at AMS in 2008).

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