With one race remaining in the Sprint Cup regular season, 10 of the 12 drivers who will advance to NASCAR's playoff have locked up spots, and Kasey Kahne looks all but certain to take one of the two wild cards, which go to the drivers in positions 11--20 with the most wins. (Kahne is the only one with two.) Heading into Saturday's race at Richmond International Raceway, five drivers with one victory are in a simple situation: win and they're (almost definitely) in.
September 10, 2012
Busch has more career victories at Richmond (four) than at any other track besides Bristol (another short track), and he won at RIR in March 2011. He has another advantage: If no wild-carder gets a second win, the Chase spot goes to the driver with the most points. For now, that's Busch.
Gordon lost his best Chase chance on Sunday in Atlanta, when he couldn't pull off a last-lap pass of leader Denny Hamlin. Now he'll need to come up big at a track where he's won just two of 39 starts, his third-worst winning percentage at a track where he's made at least 15 starts.
Like the drivers below him, Ambrose can only make the Chase by finding his way to Victory Lane. The Aussie, who won in August on the road course at Watkins Glen International, is a specialist on tracks that feature both left and right turns. Unfortunately for him, Richmond is a .75-mile oval.
Of all the Chase long shots, Newman has the best chance to sneak in. Six of his 16 career wins have come on short tracks that have characteristics similar to Richmond's. One thing working against Newman: His last season with more than one win was 2004.
In 136 career starts in the Sprint Cup series, the 22-year-old Logano has only two wins. Could he surprise on Saturday night and make it three? Uh, no. In seven career starts at RIR, he has one top 10, and in his last two tries he has an average finish of 29.5. Maybe next year.
Winless drivers Carl Edwards (14th) and Paul Menard (15th) could sneak in by taking the checkered flag at RIR, but they would also have to pass every one-win driver ahead of them in the standings. However, if 10th-place Tony Stewart (three wins) totally tanks at RIR, he'd take the second wild card, and whichever driver replaced him in the top 10 would make the Chase regardless of who wins on Saturday.