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On Saturday night, even Danica Patrick got into the action, angrily wagging her finger at Regan Smith after contact from him caused a race-ending wreck after she’d worked her way to 19th.

“We were just racing hard, this is Bristol, this is why people love this track because you see a lot of that, you see tempers flare,” Patrick said.

It was the perfect kickoff for the final push to set the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.

Hamlin’s win was his third of the season, and it created a four-way tie for most wins in the series. Should nothing give over the next two races between Hamlin, Johnson, Stewart and Brad Keselowski, there’d be a logjam for the top seed in the 10-race Chase.

And the race is still on for the final two wild card spots.

A wreck with Juan Pablo Montoya was devastating for Ryan Newman, who slipped out of contention for one of the two wild card berths. Headed into next Sunday’s race at Atlanta, Kasey Kahne is still holding steady for one of the spots. Kyle Busch moved into position for the second one, and he leads Gordon by 16 points. Newman fell to fourth in the wild card standings, 19 points behind Busch.

And Carl Edwards, who lost the championship to Stewart last year on a tie-breaker, is still trying to find a way into the Chase.

Hamlin was well aware of the repercussions as he chased down Edwards on the track, using a vintage “slide job” pass of Edwards to take the lead. Then he successfully defended Edwards’ attempt to use a crossover to take the lead back, and Hamlin preserved a win that helped him and Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.

Gordon, who finished third, also had an eye on the standings.

“If Carl had won or Kyle had won, it would have gotten us way behind, so we kept ourselves in the battle for it,” Gordon said. “We’ve got two more opportunities and they’re good opportunities. I’m a little disappointed myself because I think we had the car and we had the track position and I got loose on new tires on that one run when we really had the guys I felt we had to beat behind us.”