Here's a quick glance at this year's Chase field:
DRIVER: Kyle BuschADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,080 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 5th (2007)
DRIVER: Carl EdwardsADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,050 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2005)
DRIVER: Jimmie Johnson ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,040 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (2006, 2007)
DRIVER: Dale Earnhardt Jr. ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2003)
DRIVER: Clint Bowyer ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2007)
DRIVER: Denny Hamlin ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2006)
DRIVER: Jeff Burton ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2000)
DRIVER: Tony Stewart ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,000 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (2002, 2005)
DRIVER: Greg Biffle ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,000 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 2nd (2005)
DRIVER: Jeff Gordon ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,000 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001)
DRIVER: Kevin Harvick ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,000 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 4th (2006)
DRIVER: Matt Kenseth ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,000 BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (2003)
Jimmie Johnson celebrates his second consecutive Sprint Cup victory, this time in Richmond. The-two time Cup champion is the early favorite to win the 2009 title -- at least according to Jeff Gordon.
Everything's a wash-out in Virginia, thanks to Tropical Storm Hanna.
(Tom Bowles on the delayed races.)
And it's official: both of the Cup races won't be run until Sunday at Richmond in what'll turn out to be a doubleheader. The Chasers will go at 1:00 p.m. EST, and then NASCAR's version of "AAA," the Nationwide Series, will run at 7.
Supposedly, a combination of weather and not enough policemen doomed track activities for Saturday; the officers will be busy fulfilling more important obligations, as the State of Virginia is under a State of Emergency due to the tropical storm.
For more on the rainout, click here.
It's raining in Richmond. And it's getting harder. Still no word from the track or NASCAR about updated contingency plans. As we spelled out in an earlier entry, the Richmond event will NOT be moved to another weekend. A NASCAR insider says the organization is prepared to run this race as late as Wednesday.
(Bruce Martin checks in from Chicago)
Everything looks fine from where I'm at. Oh, wait a minute. I'm in Chicago, site of the IndyCar Series finale where they will actually determine a season champion; not determine the 12 drivers who will "contend" for the title.
This may sound unusual, but the IndyCar Series has a chase for the championship, too. It actually begins with the season-opening race and continues for the rest of the year. And, it's "Chase" actually includes the Indianapolis 500 -- still the world's most famous race.
It's only fitting that the best two drivers of the "entire season" -- Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves -- will decide the championship in what has been an outstanding season for the IndyCar Series in its year of unification.
It's raining at Richmond and qualifying for the Nationwide Series is under delay. It's now a matter of when things get canceled ... not if. Setting the Cup lineup by owner points will be a huge boost for all drivers trying to make the Chase. No eligible driver will start worse than 14th, eliminating the risks of a poor starting spot and having to move through traffic. Matt Kenseth, in particular, must be thrilled ... he's notoriously a bad qualifier, and after a poor practice he would have likely started at or near the back of the field.
(Brant James on Joey Logano's reaction)
Next-greatest-thing ever (Ever!) Joey Logano on the possibility of qualifying being washed out tonight, which would scuttle his attempt to make his Sprint Cup debut: "That would suck a lot."
Logano, 18, will replace Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing next season.
(Tom Bowles on Joey Logano's possible misfortune)
It looks as if rain is only about two hours away here in Richmond. This is bad news for rookie Joey Logano, who is hoping to make his Sprint Cup debut in a No. 02 Home Depot Toyota Saturday night. But since the team has no owner points, if qualifying gets rained out he'll miss the field. The latest rumor has NASCAR canceling all track activity for today and tomorrow as soon as it starts to rain. We'll keep you posted as soon as we have an answer.
(Brant James on the garage buzz)
Hurricane Hanna mania has begun to increase with the humidity and the cloud cover beyond the track. NASCAR officials continue to insist that the fast-moving system will bluster through the Richmond area quickly tonight and tomorrow, deluge the area with rain, blow around some debris and leave track crews with sufficient time to run the race close to its announced start time tomorrow night. But the garage is an incubator for rumors, and by mid-afternoon crews had begun discussing a supposed upcoming announcement the facility would be closed tomorrow to allow emergency personnel to address the real-life business of public safety. One Dale Earnhardt Inc., crewman approached Richie Gilmore asking if he would make the four-hour drive back to Charlotte. NASCAR is apparently huddling.
SI.com's Lars Anderson makes a strong case for David Ragan making the Chase Field in his Friday preview of the Richmond race, pointing out that over the last two months, Ragan has been as good anyone in the series other than Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. Who does Anderson like to win at Richmond? Try Kyle Busch, although the majority of SI.com's seven racing experts give the nod toDenny Hamlin.
(Lars Anderson on Jeff Gordon's practice session.)
For a story that's going to appear in SI next week, I talked to Jeff Gordon recently about the Car of Tomorrow. Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte have struggled with the CoT for most of the season, and Gordon told Anderson that it's virtually impossible to gain speed during a race because there are so few places on the CoT where adjustments can be made during pit stops. Gordon went on to say that it's vitally important to be fast in the first practice, because that's when a driver can gauge how good his equipment will be for the weekend. So right now, Gordon couldn't be happier, because he just topped the speed chart after the first practice at Richmond. His high lap speed of 121.534 was the best on the track.
Gordon is one of the best short track racers on the circuit, and after the muscle he flexed in practice, he's got to be considered the favorite to win this last race of the regular season. Currently 10th in the points, Gordon has finished in the top 10 at Richmond in his last three starts at the track. I think he's a safe bet to make the Chase. After all, when it matters most, Gordon has a history of delivering.
(Tom Bowles on the first practice session)
Hey, everyone! We just finished the first practice with the clouds rolling in. Usually it's hard to analyze a day practice here because the race is being run at night. Turning the lights on and the temperature down changes the handling of these cars. However, a lot of Chase contenders are expecting a delay, which means the race would be run in the daytime -- with similar conditions to today's practice.
That means the second-fastest speed from David Ragan is very important; with Clint Bowyer 23rd on the charts, it was a very promising two hours for the 22-year-old Chase underdog. Another Chase "bubble" driver to keep an eye on: Matt Kenseth, who slumped to 40th during this two-hour session.
"Weather" or not we'll get qualifying in is 50/50, as the rain is supposed to start here just before cars roll off at 4 p.m. ET. Richmond is scheduled to be an impound race, which means teams are usually not allowed to change their setup after qualifying -- but the weather might force NASCAR to bend those rules a bit.
As for what a postponement might do to the Chase, what I said before remains true: the Richmond event will NOT be moved to another weekend. A NASCAR insider told me we're prepared to run this race as late as Wednesday, so we're about to buckle down and wait out a heck of a storm. Let's hope the forecast changes its course ... but it's not looking good!
(Tom Bowles after arriving in Richmond)
Finally at Richmond after dodging the killer I-95 traffic out of D.C. (Phew! How rare is it you blow through D.C. and don't get stuck?) As of 4 p.m., the school of thought at the track is they'll be able to get all of Friday's activities in without Hurricane Hanna interrupting. That means practice and qualifying for the Cup cars will go on as scheduled, and then the Nationwide race will also be run in full. After that, the track is preparing to go into "shutdown" mode for the brunt of the storm to hit overnight into Saturday.
A friend in the know I spoke to said it's "wishful thinking" for the race to be run on Saturday night, and that the earliest he could see things going was a Sunday night showdown. Once again, I'm hearing NASCAR will try to get the race in this weekend if at all possible, instead of postponing the event -- it doesn't have any open weekends left until Thanksgiving.
The National Hurricane Center's latest three-day track forecast cone has Hanna in the Virginia area on Saturday. SI.com's Tom Bowles pulled into Richmond International Raceway a few minutes ago and will have an update shortly.
Rain delay or no rain delay at Richmond this weekend,SI.com's Tom Bowles predicts that Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne will be shut out of the 12-man Chase Field. He notes that the only other time Gordon missed out -- in 2005 -- crew chief Robbie Loomis got the ax.
SI.com's Tom Bowles hit the road for Richmond earlier today and had these observations as he navigated the interstate south of Baltimore. "It's feels weird driving into the eye of what could be Hurricane Hanna, but everybody in the NASCAR community is interested in finding out how this storm will affect the final race of the regular season. It's difficult for NASCAR to postpone this race because it doesn't have an open weekend between now and the start of the playoff schedule next Sunday at New Hampshire. All their efforts are geared toward getting the race in this weekend or even early next week, but will Hannah cooperate?
An insider tells me that NASCAR is preparing to run the race no earlier than Monday morning based on the latest forecast. However, RIR organizers have sent out consistent updates that all events remain on as scheduled and I'm told that campers are being allowed into the facility to set up shop. How many stay there throughout the course of the weekend remains to be seen.
NASCAR's 12-man Chase field is expected to be finalized this weekend, but weather could delay the proceedings. With the National Hurricane Center predicting Hurricane Hanna will most likely come ashore between Friday and Saturday, somewhere between the east coast of Florida and the North Carolina coast, Saturday night's race at Richmond could be delayed by rain. RIR organizers continue to insist that all events will run as planned. Check back for race updates and on-the-scene garage reports from SI.com's team in Richmond.