This is it the last race before the Chase for the Championship and eight drivers are looking for the remaining positions. Tony Stewart who sits in 10th has to maintain his position in the top 10 to take advantage of those nine potential bonus points for wins. He stays in the top 10 with a Richmond finish of 14th with no laps led, 15th with at least one lap led and 16th with the most laps led. He’s a three-time Richmond winner and finished third in April.
Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, trailing Stewart by 18, 23 and 35 points respectively, go to the last race of the regular season with mathematical chances of reaching the top 10. Kahne, a two-time winner, and one-race winner Busch are in line for the two Wild Cards under current points.
Five more drivers – Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Paul Menard – also go to Richmond with varying degrees of hope of qualifying for the Chase.
If Busch, Gordon, Ambrose, Newman or Logano win, and Kahne or Stewart is in the top 10, that new two-win driver would clinch a spot.
Let’s take a look at their average finishes here at Richmond
Kyle Busch 4.7
Ryan Newman 11.8
Jeff Gordon 14.7
Carl Edwards 14.8
Marcos Ambrose 16.1
Joey Logano 17.6
Kasey Kanhe 18.4
Paul Menard 27.5
This is how the Race to the Chase finale shapes up for each:
• Kahne: A Richmond victory clinches a Wild Card. If Stewart stays in the top 10, Kahne automatically clinches. If Stewart falls out of the top 10, Kahne will clinch a spot if a one-win driver outside the top 10 does not win. If Busch supplants Stewart in the top 10, and Gordon wins, Kahne clinches a spot by finishing 13th or better, 14th with at least one lap led or 15th with the most laps led. Kahne has one Richmond victory and a Driver Rating of 86.6 (12th best). He was fifth in April’s Richmond race.
• Busch: If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, and no other one-win driver outside the top 10 wins, Busch will clinch a Chase spot by losing 12 or fewer points to Gordon AND by losing 40 or fewer points to Ambrose. A win would guarantee Busch a Chase berth. Busch is a four-time Richmond winner (including April) and stands second in five key Loop Data categories including Driver Rating (116.1). His average finish is 4.7.
• Gordon: If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, and no other one-win driver outside the top 10 wins, 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 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 at Richmond. Gordon has won twice at Richmond but not since 2000. He has a sixth-best Driver Rating of 96.2.
• Ambrose: If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, and no other one-win driver outside the top 10 wins, Ambrose will clinch by finishing 41 points ahead of Busch AND 29 points ahead of Gordon. A fifth-place finish in the fall of 2010 is Ambrose’s best Richmond effort. His average finish of 16.1 is nearly six positions higher than his average start.
• Newman: Newman can only clinch a Chase berth with a win. If either Busch or Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Newman will be eliminated. Newman’s one Richmond victory came in the fall of 2003. His 464 Quality Passes rank second.
• Logano: Logano can only clinch a Chase berth with a win. If either Busch or Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Logano will be eliminated. His best Richmond finish, fourth, came in the fall of 2010. He finished 24th in April.
• Edwards: Edwards needs to win (47-point win) AND Busch has to finish 24th or worse (with no laps led) AND Gordon has to finish 12th or worse. If Busch or Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Edwards will be eliminated. Edwards led 206 laps in April before a late-race restart penalty relegated him to a 10th-place finish. He finished second in the 2011 fall race.
• Menard: Menard needs to win (47-point win) AND Busch has to finish 34th or worse (with no laps led) AND Gordon has to finish 22nd or worst (with no laps led). If Busch or Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Menard will be eliminated.
All other drivers have been eliminated from Chase contention.
After Atlanta Jeff Gordon was disappointed with his finish of second when he had the chance to bump race leader Denny Hamlin in the final corners for the win…but he didn’t. Things are going to be very interesting for tonights race at Richmond. Win and you’re in!