SHAKE-UP IN THE SPRINT CUP SERIES STANDINGS FOLLOWS BRISTOL WITH JUST TWO RACES REMAINING UNTIL "THE CHASE" Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway Will Set The Chase Field RICHMOND (8/27/08) -- The Saturday night race at...
SHAKE-UP IN THE SPRINT CUP SERIES STANDINGS FOLLOWS BRISTOL WITH JUST TWO RACES REMAINING UNTIL "THE CHASE"
Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway Will Set The Chase Field
RICHMOND (8/27/08) -- The Saturday night race at Bristol certainly proved a driver's playoff fortunes can change in a single race, as the cutoff line and projected field for The Chase has a new look with the circuit heading to Auto Club Speedway this weekend. There are now just two races, including "One Last Race To Make The Chase" -- the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway -- remaining in the Sprint Cup Series regular season, and still some of the series' biggest names find themselves on the bubble to make The Chase.
Following the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at America's Premier Short Track on September 6 only the top 12 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings will be eligible for NASCAR's playoffs, The Chase. Heading into the night race at Bristol, former champs Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth, fan favorite Kasey Kahne and Chesterfield, Virginia native Denny Hamlin were all in, with Clint Bowyer and David Ragan knocking on the door just 82 points behind Hamlin.
Now, following Bristol, only 101 points separate positions 11-14 and just 56 separate 12th from 14th. Kahne's late season slide continued at Bristol and his Chase hopes suffered a major blow with a 40th place finish, dropping him three spots in the standings to 14th. The No. 9 was collected in a big wreck on Lap 216, and Kahne never returned to the race track. With back-to-back 40th-place finishes in tow, Kahne has dropped six spots in the standings over the past two races, 56 points behind 12th-place Bowyer and 101 points behind 11th-place Hamlin.
Hamlin delivered a clutch performance at Bristol in his bid to make The Chase, earning a strong third-place finish to move up one spot in the standings. If Hamlin can turn in another good finish in California, the odds of making The Chase certainly will be in his favor heading to Richmond International Raceway, where Hamlin dominated the Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400 in May before a tire problem abruptly cost him a victory.
Bowyer was also involved in the incident on Lap 216 at Bristol, but unlike Kahne's machine, the No. 07 Chevrolet escaped major damage and Bowyer rallied to finish seventh. Bowyer has four consecutive top-10 finishes at Bristol and more importantly a spot in The Chase as it stands heading to California. Bowyer will still need luck on his side though, as he sits just 12 points ahead of 13th-place David Ragan. Bowyer won the Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400 at America's Premier Short Track in May, so a good run at Auto Club Speedway before Richmond will certainly keep his Chase hopes alive.
Ragan continues to hang around The Chase playoff picture, turning in another solid 10th-place finish at Bristol. The second-year driver has come on of late and a berth in The Chase field would be an impressive addition to his young Sprint Cup Series career. Following a tough 40th place finish at New Hampshire on June 29, Ragan has ripped off five top-10s in the last seven races to climb into playoff contention.
Gordon appeared to be a lock for The Chase, cruising along in sixth place following back-to-back top-10s at Indianapolis and Pocono. But, after a 29th-place finish at Watkins Glen and a 42nd-place finish at Michigan, Gordon found himself in ninth place on the bubble as well, heading to Bristol. Gordon posted a much-needed top-five at Bristol and now has a 108-point cushion on The Chase cutoff line heading to California.
Kenseth had been outside the top 12 much of the season and was 22nd in the standings following the Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400 on May 3. He turned his fortunes around though, with six consecutive top-10s from Darlington to Sonoma, including a pair of third-place showings at Daytona and Chicago. A strong fifth-place effort at Michigan and another good run Saturday night at Bristol have Kenseth's playoff chances continuing to improve. Kenseth remains in 10th place, but his ninth-place effort at Bristol has increased his cushion on The Chase cutoff to 88 points.
How will the standings look following Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway? Will Hamlin and Bowyer hang on, or will Ragan race his way into the top-12 before the "One Last Race To Make The Chase?"
Tickets for the Saturday, September 6, Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race are available by calling 866-455-RACE (7223) or visiting www.rir.com. All seats are reserved and start at $80.
Tickets are also available for the Friday, September 5, Emerson Radio 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Friday's ticket also includes Fas Mart Pole Qualifying and practice for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. To purchase tickets contact the Richmond International Raceway ticket office at 866-455-RACE (7223) or online at www.rir.com. Friday's reserved tickets are $45 (in advance) and $50 (on race day) and general admission tickets are $35 (in advance) and $40 (on race day). Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult in general admission sections on Friday only.