John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
Jamie McMurray, left, had an early spin and eventually finished last to fall out of the coveted top 35.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- It wasn't nearly as thrilling as winning the Indianapolis 500, but Sunday's 29th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway was a victory of sorts for Sam Hornish Jr.
The finish moved the 2006 Indy 500 winner up one position to 35th in points, guaranteeing he'll have a spot in the field when the Sprint Cup series resumes in two weeks at Martinsville, Va.
"We did pretty much what we came here to do, and that was stay out of trouble as much as you can here and finish," Hornish said.
Hornish made the first five races because he swapped owners' points with Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch
, who was assured a spot as a past champion (2004).
"I'm just really happy that we got out of here in the top 35 in points and we rebounded at the last two races just the way we needed," the Cup rookie said.
Others weren't so lucky. Jamie McMurray
finished last to fall to 36th in points. Dave Blaney
, Dario Franchitti
and Kyle Petty
were other notables who finished outside the top 35.
Petty Enterprises will decide in the next week whether to swap the owners' points between Bobby Labonte
and Petty to assure Petty a spot at Martinsville.
Petty is 40th in points. Labonte, who would be guaranteed a spot as a past champion (2000), is 18th after finishing 38th on Sunday.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.