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The Bubble Boys: 3M Performance 400

8/21/2007 - NASCAR

The Nextel Cup race at Michigan International Speedway revealed plenty:

• It rains a lot in Michigan.

• Michigan gets a lot of fog, too.

• Kurt Busch is peaking at the right time.

• Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in trouble.

Busch strengthened his grip on the 12th and final Chase spot by winning the 3M Performance 400 following a two-day rain delay and a Tuesday morning fog scare.

Junior's Chase hopes are fading fast. He finished 12th at MIS to move past Ryan Newman in the driver standings, but his margin to make the Chase ballooned from 100 points to 163 following Busch's win and Martin Truex Jr.'s runner-up effort.

With three races left to decide the Chase field -- at Bristol, California and Richmond -- it's not looking good for Earnhardt Nation, folks.

Here's how the drivers on the Chase bubble fared Tuesday:

11. Martin Truex Jr.

Position before race -- 11

Chase points safety margin -- 196

Breakdown -- Truex increased his safety margin by 42 points with a second-place finish after starting 39th. Junior's DEI teammate possibly had the strongest car on the track when the flag fell on the green-white-checkered finish.

12. Kurt Busch

Position before race -- 12

Chase points safety margin -- 163

Breakdown -- Watch out, folks. Pat Tryson has Busch on a roll -- he's won two of the last three Cup races -- and Bristol Motor Speedway is one of his favorite stops. Busch earned valuable bonus points for leading the most laps Tuesday.

13. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Position before race -- 14

Points out of Chase -- 163

Breakdown -- Junior still has a shot at the Chase, but it's a long one. Earnhardt Jr. overshot his pit stall with 33 laps to go, and he figures that blunder cost him at least five positions. That 100-point penalty levied by NASCAR earlier this season looms large.

14. Ryan Newman

Position before race -- 13

Points out of Chase -- 171

Breakdown -- Busch's Penske teammate fell another 75 points behind the final Chase spot with a 16th-place showing. A long pit stop under green with 28 laps remaining cost Newman big-time.

15. Greg Biffle

Position before race -- 15

Chase points safety margin -- 296

Breakdown -- Biffle was battling a loose race car all day. He salvaged a 19th-place finish even after a late-race spin, but his Chase hopes are all but dead.

Joe Breeze is a motorsports editor at ESPN.com. He can be reached at Joe.M.Breeze@espn3.com.