The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series “regular season” draws to an end this weekend as “The Road to Richmond” culminates atRichmond International Raceway on Saturday, September 8 with the Federated Auto Parts 400—“One Last Race to Make The Chase.”
Following Sunday’s race in Atlanta, ten drivers are locked in, leaving just two open spots and eight drivers with a chance at racing their way into The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Only Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 remains before the field is set.
Six of the eight eligible drivers could automatically clinch a Chase berth with a trip to Victory Lane. Kasey Kahne is the only driver outside the top 10 with two wins, but he has yet to clinch a Chase spot. Five, one-win drivers still in the hunt for a Chase berth include Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.
The remaining two drivers, Carl Edwards and Paul Menard, can clinch a “Wild Card” berth with a win and some help in finishing order from other drivers.
Even though it’s a must-win mindset for the bubble drivers, it can’t be overlooked how important wins are for drivers that have already clinched Chase berths. A victory by one of these drivers will give them valuable bonus points as they set the field for the final ten races of the year.
Here are the scenarios for a few of the “Wild Card” contenders and how they match up at Richmond:
Kyle Busch If Tony Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kasey Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Busch will clinch a Chase spot by losing 12 or fewer points to Jeff Gordon AND by losing 40 or fewer points to Marcos Ambrose. If Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Busch would clinch a Chase berth with a win AND finishing five points ahead of Kahne. Busch is a four-time Richmond winner and has the second best driver rating of 116.1.
Jeff Gordon If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon will clinch by finishing 13 points ahead of Busch AND by losing 28 or fewer points to Ambrose AND by losing 37 or fewer points to Ryan Newman. If Busch supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon would clinch a Chase berth with a win AND finishing 18 points ahead of Kahne. Gordon is a two-time winner at Richmond and has the sixth-best driver rating this weekend of 96.2.
Carl Edwards Edwards needs to win AND Busch has to finish 24th or worse (with no laps led) at and Jeff Gordon has to finish 12th or worse. If Busch or Gordon supplant Tony Stewart in the top 10, Edwards will be eliminated. Edwards has never won at Richmond and comes in this week with the 11th-best driver rating of 89.1. Last fall, Edwards had his best career finish, 2ndplace, at the ¾ mile short track.
With eight drivers having a chance at NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, expect non-stop beating and banging around Richmond’s ¾-mile, with tempers flaring and drivers taking chances like you’ve never seen before.