Richmond II: Round 26 preview

* 9 Drivers Vying For 8 Remaining Berths In 'Chase' * Positions 8-11 Separated By 45 Points Richmond Race Finalizing Field For 3rd Annual 'Chase' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5) -- The Race to the Chase has reached the end of the line. At ...

* 9 Drivers Vying For 8 Remaining Berths In 'Chase'
* Positions 8-11 Separated By 45 Points

Richmond Race Finalizing Field For 3rd Annual 'Chase'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 5) -- The Race to the Chase has reached the end of the line.

At Saturday night's Chevy Rock 'n Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, nine drivers will be battling for the last eight berths in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Meaning, one driver will be the "odd man out" at evening's end.

Only the top two Chase positions have been clinched -- by Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), the top two drivers in the standings this week.

Then it gets interesting, as no position is secure. Anyone in positions 3-11 could potentially miss out on qualifying for the Chase.

Positions 3-11 are distanced by merely 147 points; 4-11 by only 102. And then, when you get to positions 8-11, you have a precarious 45-point spread.

Reigning series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet) is eighth, 13 points ahead of Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford), 15 ahead of Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Chevrolet) and 45 in front of Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge).

Kahne, who has won a series-high five races this season, hung tough in the pre-Chase scramble by winning this past Sunday at California Speedway. Kahne lurks, only 30 points behind 10th-place Burton.

There are a multitude of Chase-clinching scenarios for drivers. For example, third-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) can clinch by finishing 40th or better, no matter what anyone else does; 10th-place Burton will make the Chase if he finishes fourth, no matter others' finishes.

Finally, consider this fun stat: There are actually 725,760 possible orders for the top 11, post-Richmond.

Chase Primer: What-When-Where Of Championship-Deciding Format

What: 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup

When: Last 10 weeks of season

Playoff-Style Format: Top 10 drivers in points post-Richmond have their point totals "adjusted." They are separated by 5-point increments -- a total of only 45 points. Top driver in points starts the Chase with 5,050 points, down to the 10th-place driver who starts with 5,005.

Tracks: New Hampshire (Sept.17); Dover (Sept. 24); Kansas (Oct. 1); Talladega (Oct. 8); Lowe's (Oct. 14); Martinsville (Oct. 22); Atlanta (Oct. 29); Texas (Nov. 5); Phoenix (Nov. 12); Homestead-Miami (Nov. 19).

Facts:

Since the inception of the Chase in 2004, there are more drivers than ever in the running for the championship, down the stretch of the season. There is more fan interest than ever.

All drivers -- not only those in the Chase -- continue to compete for race victories, race purse money and season-ending point-fund money. In '04, the first Chase resulted in the closest championship battle in history, with Kurt Busch beating Jimmie Johnson by eight points. Last year, Tony Stewart's margin over Greg Biffle was only 45 points.

Keys To Victory at Richmond: To Start, Be A Bottom-Feeder

Richmond International Raceway is often referred to by drivers as the "perfect track."

But by no means are they implying that it's an easy one.

The .75-mile oval offers classic short-track action -- and classic short-track challenges. But at the same time, its surface facilitates passing and plenty of speed, producing an under-the-lights stock-car spectacle that many call a mixture of old and new.

Hence, the "perfect" label.

Following are some generally accepted, "preferred" modes for successfully managing a 400-lap/300-mile evening at Richmond:

Find a way to pass from the bottom. At Richmond, the drivers like to settle into the groove on the high side of the track. A key to success is being able to run on the low side and get the proper traction off of the corner to pass your competition on the straightaway.

Keep your car intact. With short-track racing, there tends to be a lot of rubbing and trading of paint. It's imperative that you keep your car together until the checkered flag.

Handle the pressure. Richmond is the final race before the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. There is pressure on those drivers trying to get in and pressure on those who aren't going to get in, but are still competing to win the race and don't want to jeopardize the chances of those who are still alive for the Chase.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Mark Martin