CHASE SPOTS STILL ON THE LINE HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT'S CHEVY ROCK & ROLL 400 AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY RICHMOND, Va. (9/2/08) -- With "One Last Race To Make The Chase" -- The Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway...
CHASE SPOTS STILL ON THE LINE HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT'S CHEVY ROCK & ROLL 400 AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
RICHMOND, Va. (9/2/08) -- With "One Last Race To Make The Chase" -- The Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway -- now just days away, multiple spots for The Chase field are still on the line with NASCAR's top series coming to America's Premier Short Track this weekend. Two-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson locked himself into The Chase field with a dominating performance and win at Auto Club Speedway, and while Johnson served notice his chances at a three-peat are still good, a number of other high profile drivers will set their sights on just making The Chase Saturday night.
Heading into the Chevy Rock & Roll 400, only five of the 12 Chase spots have been clinched with points leader Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton all coming to Richmond safely locked into The Chase. Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick will each clinch a Chase berth by starting the race Saturday night, leaving the final five spaces up for grabs between seven drivers. And, that means fans can certainly expect to see the wild, wide-open side-by-side racing action the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 and Richmond International Raceway are known to produce Saturday night "under the lights."
The seven drivers vying for the final five spots in The Chase are separated by only 138 points, but the real drama surrounds the final spot. Tony Stewart is eighth in the points, ahead of Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer in the final spot, just 17 points ahead of 13th-place David Ragan. Additionally, Kasey Kahne is 14th and trails Bowyer by only 58. Bowyer's standing is a precarious one, as a driver has moved in from outside the cut-off bubble in three of the four "One Last Race To Make The Chase" events since its inception (Jeremy Mayfield in 2004; Ryan Newman in 2005 and Kasey Kahne in 2006).
Hamlin is the hottest driver of the group, delivering back-to-back clutch performances with third-place finishes at both Bristol and Auto Club Speedway in his bid to make The Chase. Hamlin wasn't the only bubble driver to step up in California either, as Kenseth (fifth), Gordon (15th), Bowyer (10th), Ragan (13th) and Kahne (eighth) all finished inside the top-15 to keep their Chase hopes alive.
On Saturday night, Stewart can lock up a Chase berth with a finish inside the top-36, and both Kenseth and Gordon will lock up spots in The Chase with modest finishes regardless of how the rest of the field shakes out. Kenseth's easiest route into the Chase is to finish 26th or better, and Gordon needs to finish inside the top-24. Other scenarios, based on laps led, also exist for those three to make The Chase. Hamlin will secure a Chase spot by finishing 21st or better, but can also get in by finishing 22nd and leading one lap or finishing 25th and leading the most laps. Bowyer needs a win, a second-place finish with one lap led or a third-place showing and the most laps led to clinch without any outside help. A victory and leading the most laps Saturday night would allow Ragan to sneak his way into the top-12 and secure a Chase berth, without any help, and Kahne needs both a great finish and some help from the drivers in front of him in the points standings.
Taking a look at the group's collective resume at Richmond International Raceway, each of the seven drivers in The Chase hunt has enjoyed some measure of success at America's Premier Short Track, meaning each should feel even a little more pressure to out-perform their rivals Saturday night. Stewart has three career victories at Richmond and seven top-fives. Kenseth has one victory here and nine top-10s, while Gordon has a pair of Richmond wins and 12 top-fives. Hamlin hasn't won a Sprint Cup Series race at his hometown track, but after a strong effort in May's Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400 and back-to-back third-place finishes in tow, Hamlin's first win in the top series at Richmond would seal a Chase berth. Bowyer won the May race here, following Hamlin's tire problem and the late contact between Kyle Busch and Earnhardt Jr., and also has three top-10s in just four Sprint Cup Series starts at America's Premier Short Track.
On the outside looking in, Ragan has made just three starts at Richmond with one top-five and a 17th-place finish in May. Kahne earned his first Sprint Cup Series victory in 2004 at Richmond and has a pair of top-fives and five top-10s. Still, both Ragan and Kahne will need a good run here Saturday night and some help in front of them in the standings.
Tickets for the Saturday, September 6, Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race are still 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.