(SportsNetwork.com) - With just two races to go before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins, several drivers are really feeling the pressure to win a race in order to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Right now, each of the 12 drivers who have won a race this year have clinched a spot in the 16-member Chase, assuming they all attempt to qualify for each of the final two events of the regular season.
The Sprint Cup Series will be running at Atlanta next Sunday night and then heading to Richmond for the Chase-cutoff race on Sept. 6.
Joey Logano won last Saturday night's race at Bristol and joined Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson as those drivers with a series-high three victories in 2014.
Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick have two wins each, while A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have one victory apiece.
Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle have yet to win a race this season, but they presently hold the four provisional spots in the Chase.
Kenseth finished third at Bristol and remained fifth in the point standings. He is the still the highest-ranked driver in points that doesn't have a victory. At least two drivers without a win during the regular season will qualify for the Chase.
"I think everybody is going to go out there racing hard and hope to be up front and get a win," Kenseth said. "I think the racing is going to be real exciting all the way from here to the end of the year, but certainly until we get to the Chase."
Kenseth led the series with seven wins in 2013. He is presently 83 points ahead of 17th-place Kyle Larson on the NASCAR Chase grid. If Kenseth does not win at Atlanta, he could still clinch his spot in the playoffs before Richmond.
Ryan Newman is 14th on the current Chase grid (42 points ahead of Larson), and Clint Bowyer ranks 15th (+31 points).
Greg Biffle remained in the 16th and final provisional spot following his 10th-place run at Bristol. Biffle has recorded top-10 finishes in his last four races. He is 26 points in front of Larson.
"We're trying our hardest to win these races," Biffle said. "We're doing fuel mileage plays and strategies and track position. We as a race team are really taking risks."
Larson, a rookie season this season, was 15th on the grid following Watkins Glen earlier this month but dropped to 19th after finishing 43rd at Michigan. His 12th-place run at Bristol moved him up to 17th.
"If we don't win, we have to do the best we can to try and get up there in points," Larson said. "We are still quite a ways behind Biffle. Still a lot of work to do, but we will keep trying hard."
Kasey Kahne, the only driver at Hendrick Motorsports that has yet to clinch a position in the Chase, sits 18th on the grid, 33 points behind Biffle. Kahne is now reaching the point where the only way for him to make it into the playoffs would be a win. He has won at Atlanta and Richmond in the past.
Rookie Austin Dillon is 19th on the grid (40 points behind Biffle), and Paul Menard 20th (-45).
Those drivers who would have to win at either Atlanta or Richmond in order to qualify for the Chase include: Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, Brian Vickers, Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier and David Gilliland. All of them are currently in the top-30 in points.
At Bristol, McMurray looked as though he would become the 13th different race winner of the season, as he led an event-high 148 laps, but McMurray faded during the final 100 laps and finished eighth.
"I thought [last Saturday] would be a good night to be able to win," McMurray said after the Bristol race. "As we were running around there, I thought we had a legitimate chance to win if we did everything right. It's not like we did anything wrong. It's just that, as the track rubbered-up more and more, it just didn't suit our car as much as it did for the other guys."
Ambrose, a road-course expert, had his best opportunity to win a race at Bristol, but he finished second to Allmendinger, who won in the series for the first time in his career.