Saturday night under the lights in Richmond. Other than the Daytona 500, easily the most exciting weekend of the year since the Chase was invented. I mean, where else are you watching the battle for 20th, maybe more closely than you are the battle for the lead. And where else can a 17th place finish be the best feeling for a driver?
NASCAR boasts, thanks to the new points system, 14 drivers who still have a chance to wrap up the final 4 spots in the chase this weekend. Though most are longer shots than my Kansas City Royals were to win the world series this season. (for the record KC is already eliminated from the MLB post season race).
“This weekend is going to be unbelievable," said Martin Truex, Jr. "NASCAR is looking like a real genius right now since they came up with the wild cards. There are 14 of us that have a shot at getting in. This is a cool deal."
These are the guys that still have a mathematical chance according to Richmond's website:
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A finish of 20th or better will lock him into The Chase. Even if Keselowski does knock Earnhardt out of the top 10, he could still earn a Chase berth if there is only one winner from spots 11th to 20th, a mathematical possibility.
- Tony Stewart: A finish of 18th or better will lock him into The Chase. Like Earnhardt, even if Keselowski does knock Stewart out of the top 10, Stewart could still earn a Chase berth if there is only one winner from spots 11th to 20th.
- Denny Hamlin: A win and he’s in. Hamlin doesn’t have to win, though. If he stays ahead of all one-win drivers, and there are no other two-win drivers inside the top 20, he’s in The Chase. Also, if Keselowski does vault into the top 10, Hamlin could still make The Chase if there is a two-win driver from 11th to 20th as long as he’s higher in points than any other one-win driver.
- AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger is where the Wild Card drama starts to ratchet up. A win is the ONLY thing that matters for him, and a number of other drivers. He’ll need a win and movement up the points to nab the tie-breaker. He finished seventh at Richmond in April.
- Clint Bowyer: Of the winless drivers, Bowyer might be the best bet. Bowyer won here in 2008, and has an average finish of 9.5. He needs a win, and poor finishes by other drivers.
- Greg Biffle: One of six winless drivers who won in 2010, Biffle’s best Richmond finish was third in 2005. He needs a win, and poor finishes by other drivers.
- Martin Truex Jr.: Two of his last four finishes this season have been in the top five. His best Richmond finish is fifth in 2008. He needs a win, and poor finishes by other drivers.
- Kasey Kahne: Kahne, who needs a win and poor finishes by other drivers, won at Richmond in 2005, his first career victory.
- Joey Logano: Needs a win and poor finishes by other drivers; best Richmond finish: fourth in this race last season.
- Mark Martin: Needs a win and poor finishes by other drivers; won at Richmond in 1990.
- Paul Menard: Win, and he’s in. Pretty simple. His finishes at Richmond haven’t been so easy. His best: 16th in 2007.
- Marcos Ambrose: If he wins, and gets into the top 20, he’s in. Consider him a solid dark horse candidate. Two of his last three Richmond finishes were in the top 10.
- Juan Pablo Montoya: Needs a win and poor finishes by other drivers. Best finish was sixth in May of last year.
- David Ragan: If he wins, and gets into the top 20, he’s in. Ragan finished fourth in April and third in 2007.
Realisticly the field is pretty set. The only thing that could shake up the chase field from the way it stand now is if Junior or Stewart fall out of the top 10 in the points. That would open up a spot for one of the other drivers with a win IF they are in the top 20 in points. So the 88 and 14 are cars to watch this weekend.
As for the track, it's pretty much your standard short track, perfect for beatin' and bangin' on a Saturday night.
"Richmond is such a great track to have as the cutoff for the Chase," said Brad Keselowski, who is already locked into the chase. "What I mean by that is the short track atmosphere, the ability to run two-wide there. You always have a little pit strategy sprinkled in with what to do, when to pit for your final time or even two tires throughout the race. So, it keeps you on your toes. And any track that does that is a track that can bring in somebody that has that string of luck that evening to get them into the Chase."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun