Richmond II: In the loop

Earnhardt Still Has Shot at Chase Berth DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5, 2007) -- As they say in poker, all you need is a chip and chair -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has both. Earnhardt sits in 13th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings, ...

Earnhardt Still Has Shot at Chase Berth

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5, 2007) -- As they say in poker, all you need is a chip and chair -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has both.

Earnhardt sits in 13th place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings, 128 points behind Kevin Harvick and 141 behind Kurt Busch. With 161 points the maximum a driver can gain on another driver in one race, Earnhardt is still eligible to make the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

A number of scenarios can play out for Earnhardt to make the Chase. Below are a few instances which would clinch him a spot:

* The worst he can finish is fifth. BUT, he'll also need to lead the most laps and Harvick needs to finish last.

* Fourth-place finish, but he has to lead the most laps and have Harvick finish 41st.

* Third-place finish, no laps led and Harvick finishes last.

*Second-place finish, no laps led and Harvick finishes 41st.

* Win and lead the most laps, and Harvick finishes 33rd.

Note: Above scenarios assume Harvick does not lead a lap.

Simply put, if Harvick finishes 32nd or better, Harvick is in.

For the record, the most points Earnhardt has ever picked up on Harvick in a Richmond race was 115 in May 2004. Earnhardt won that race, led the most laps and Harvick finished 25th. In 239 career races with Harvick, he's picked up more than 128 points over Harvick just once -- 129 points on March 10, 2002 at Atlanta.

The problem for Earnhardt probably won't be his finish -- it's the part he can't control. Earnhardt, with three wins at Richmond, should run well. It's doubtful that Harvick will run poorly. Over the past five races, Harvick has been a machine at Richmond.

During that span, Harvick has never had a Driver Rating under 111.9, an Average Running Position over 8.8 or a Fastest Laps Run total of less than 26.

As for the Earnhardt-catching-Busch scenarios, considering Harvick's dominance at Richmond, they might be more likely.

In every scenario, Earnhardt needs to finish second. Here are a few:

* Second-place finish and leads the most laps, Busch has to finish 42nd.

* Win, Busch finishes at least 39th.

* Wins and leads the most laps, Busch finishes 37th.

Note: Above scenarios assume Busch does not lead a lap.

The most points Earnhardt has ever made up on Busch at Richmond is 102 in May 2004. Only once has Earnhardt ever gained more than 141 points on Busch in his career -- Sept. 23, 2001. He gained 145 at that Dover race.

Once again, the problem isn't Earnhardt's Richmond performance. It's Busch's. Busch, though not nearly as formidable as Harvick, is solid at Richmond.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch