Two Chase spots up for grabs in regular season finale

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Nineteen different drivers still have a chance to lock themselves into the Chase.

Two spots, and just one opportunity remain for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to seize their Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup dreams.

Nineteen different drivers still have a chance to lock themselves into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC) at Richmond International Raceway.  The question looms: Who will capture the opportunity and who will let it slip?

At the moment, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle fill out the final two spots on the Chase Grid. Both have comfortable grasps on their positions at 42 and 23 points above the cutoff line, respectively, but still have work to do, especially if there’s a new winner.

For this weekend, it’s pretty simple for us, we need to win,

Kyle Larson

Only a collapse of monumental proportions would keep Newman out of the Chase. He controls his own destiny no matter who wins at Richmond. If there is a repeat winner or a Matt Kenseth victory, all he has to do is finish 41st or better, 42nd with one lap led, or 43rd with the most laps led. If there’s a new winner, Newman needs to hold his spot in points standings where he sits a cushy 19 points ahead of Biffle.

Clinching will be a little trickier for Biffle. If a repeat winner, Newman or Kenseth takes the checkered flag at Richmond, Biffle can guarantee himself a spot in the Chase with finishes of 22nd or better, 23rd with at least one lap led or 24th with the most laps led.  If a new winner ranked below him in points arises, the Roush Fenway driver would be in major trouble – needing to out-point Newman by 19 points and stay ahead of Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson.

With the new win and you’re in Chase format, hope is not lost among drivers currently outside the top 16 on the grid. Bowyer and Larson are prime candidates to play the spoiler.

Richmond could not come at a better time for Bowyer, who plummeted from 15th to 17th on the Chase Grid at Atlanta, following a 38th-place finish caused by a broken shifter, Kasey Kahne’s win and a top-10 performance from Biffle. Arguably his best track, Bowyer boasts two wins, three top fives and nine top 10s at the 3/4-mile, D-shaped course.

“As far as the Chase, I think it’s pretty much spelled out, from a points standpoint, what we have to do to make the Chase,” Bowyer said. “We just have to concentrate on qualifying well, getting a good starting spot and run our race.”

Larson proved he could run fast his lone NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Richmond earlier this season by winning the pole, even though he finished 16th. The 22-year-old, known as “The Phenom,” claims one top-five and two-top 10 Nationwide finishes there. By winning Saturday, he would make history as the second rookie to ever qualify for the Chase (Denny Hamlin, 2006).

“For this weekend, it’s pretty simple for us, we need to win,” Larson said. “Our Target Chevy has continued to be fast, and I know we have the ability to win the race.”

NASCAR Wire Service

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Event Richmond II
Track Richmond International Raceway
Drivers Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson
Article type Commentary