|Jimmy Johnson falls from the top spot to No. 2 in this week's power rankings. (US Presswire)|
Kasey Kahne didn't officially punch his ticket to the Chase on Sunday, but he's close to packing his bags for NASCAR's playoffs.
After tallying his second win of the season Sunday at New Hampshire, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is on top of the wild card standings with only seven races left in the regular season.
While he's not counting any chickens, Kahne feels pretty good about where things stand.
"It doesn't get us in the Chase yet, but it definitely helps with a win today and a win at Charlotte [Coca-Cola 600 in May]," Kahne said. "I can't wait for some of the other tracks coming up."
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Kahne's year started on a sour note with a rash of crashes, engine issues and other bad luck that kept the No. 5 team out of contention for wins and at one point the championship picture.
But they've roared back in recent weeks and even the luck side of the equation has turned in Kahne's favor with Denny Hamlin's pit road miscommunication Sunday helping to open the door to victory lane.
"I think that's kind of racing, you have good luck at times, bad luck at times," Kahne said. "Some of ours wasn't bad luck. At Phoenix it was straight-up driver error. We had some bad luck, some straight-up mistakes, things to learn from. When you do that or have those mistakes, as long as you're learning from them, you'll be all right.
"But, yeah, the luck changed today. We had great luck today. For those guys to miscommunicate, that helped us a ton. I'll take 'em any way we can."
There may be more in Kahne's future as the summer stretch rolls on before the Chase kicks off in September. In his eyes not much has changed in terms of effort and desire since the year kicked off with disappointment. But what has changed are the results and his victory total.
"I feel like we've been pretty tough all year," said Kahne. "We just haven't finished them off a lot of the times, but we've been there all year long.
"Hopefully, from here on out, we'll get some more top 10s and top fives in a row, and from here on out we need to stay after it."
|Took over the Chase lead by 20 points thanks to a sixth place finish and Jimmie Johnson?s misfortune. This is now the Penske Racing driver?s championship to lose.|
|Saw his seven point lead evaporate thanks to a cut tire and trip into the wall on Sunday. Johnson now must hope a similar such fate happens to Keselowski next week at Homestead to have any shot at a sixth title.|
|Nearly ran the table in Phoenix by leading all practices and taking the pole had he been able to win the race. But a poor decision on lane choice for a late restart cost Busch a shot at Victory Lane.|
|Ending the year on a positive note but wasn?t able to match his Phoenix victory of last November. Still a solid day with a fourth place performance.|
|Was the victim of Jeff Gordon?s revenge that completely eliminated Bowyer from championship contention. He wasn?t an angel in the turn of events but Bowyer definitely got the worst of the situation.|
|Hamlin?s second place finish in Phoenix a welcome rebound from two weeks of disappointment for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He?ll be a factor for a win next Sunday in Homestead.|
|Snapped a 44-race winless drought with Sunday?s win ironically coming on the weekend when reports of his evacuation from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 broke out.|
|A decent day for ?The Biff? in Phoenix, who was able to dodge all the last lap craziness to bring home his Roush Fenway Racing Ford seventh.|
|Minding his own business until getting swept up in the Gordon-Bowyer fight. Logano was on his way to a nice effort to follow up his ninth Nationwide Series win on Saturday.|
|Rough way to earn a fifth place finish as Newman was one of the unfortunate souls to get caught in the last lap crash on the main straightaway.|
|Not a god day at all for Smoke who spun late after making contact racing for position. A 19th place finish for Stewart.|
|Will make the final Sprint Cup start of his career for Roush Fenway Racing next week at Homestead on the heels of a 14th place effort in Phoenix.|
|13||Martin Truex Jr.||10|
|His race was over nearly before it started with a blown engine. After a stellar regular season Truex Jr. has suffered mightily throughout the Chase.|
|An 11th place finish for Edwards as he brings to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in his career.|