Winning means everything this season. It is all that matters when a Chase spot is on the line and the amount of time to make it in the title picture begins dwindling. With only two races remaining, the contenders that haven't made it in were hungry, especially those that have been expected to win by now and haven't.
So much focus was on the return of Tony Stewart, but lost in all that were the others that still had an opportunity to make it to the title picture. In the end, it took two restarts, and four fresh Goodyears to get the job done in Atlanta.
After all the struggles at the beginning of the year, and all the unfortunate miscues, it all came together for Kasey Kahne when it mattered most. No one was denying him victory, nor a Chase birth. Atlanta has been good to him in years past, and when it mattered the most, he got the job done and punched his guaranteed ticket to the 2014 Chase.
What is more surprising is that none of the writers chose Kahne to win, and what is more shocking is that only one writer managed to finish in the top-10 after all the late chaos on the restarts. Still, standings are close. Here's how they look following the Oral-B USA 500:
Rob Tiongson (866) Jeff Gordon finished 17th - 5
Ryan O'Hara (853) Joey Logano finished 14th - 5
Dustin Parks (844) Matt Kenseth finished 2nd - 2
Patti Rodisch (829) Jeff Gordon finished 17th - 3
Kara Martin (829) Kevin Harvick finished 19th - 3
Rob Blount (797) Kyle Larson finishd 8th - 3
Billy Fellin (781) Jeff Gordon finished 17th - 1
Aaron Rosser (775) Joey Logano finished 14th - 2
Sal Sigala Jr. (773) Brad Keselowski finished 39th - 5
James Broomhead (720) Kyle Busch finished 16th - 2
Michael Hirshbein (714) Kyle Busch finished 16th - 1
Misan Akuya (697) Jamie McMurray finished 12th - 1
Next Race: We're down to one last race to determine who will compete for the championship, and one final opportunity for the writers to improve their points or win totals before they all get reset for the Chase. What better place to determine how everything will set up than a place known as "Racing Perfection." We've seen title opportunities begin at this race by making it in, and we've seen title opportunities fade away. We've even seen as in a year ago when the title opportunities were based on manipulation, and changed so much in the aftermatch.
This is Richmond, a track where everything can and will happen when trying to make the Chase is on the mind of every driver that isn't already locked in.
Writers, this is the final chance to get points or and/or wins, because everything changes in one week. Have your picks locked in and submitted for the Federated Auto Parts 400 by Thursday, September 4, at 10 p.m. ET.