Garage Chatter: The 'Chase' at Richmond

Spots 7-10 still a toss up: No one knows who will be in places 7-10 for the Chase for the Championship with just 196 points separating spots 7 through 13th. The contenders: Jeremy Mayfield (7th): -497 from 1rst Mayfield raced his way into the...

Spots 7-10 still a toss up: No one knows who will be in places 7-10 for the Chase for the Championship with just 196 points separating spots 7 through 13th.

The contenders:

Jeremy Mayfield (7th): -497 from 1rst
Mayfield raced his way into the 'chase' last year with a win at Richmond. He has to finish 39th or better this weekend to lock a spot this season.

"I like Richmond, it's probably one of my favorite places, and obviously we won there, which always makes it your favorite," Mayfield commented. "There is something about the little, not really short track, but it seems like a short track, under the lights. I drive every lap as hard as I can go. I don't know how much harder I can run."

Carl Edwards (8th) -556 from 1rst
Edwards finished sixth here last year and has been a formidable force winning two Cup events in 2005. Although, Edwards has been fairly consistent this year it would still stunning if he made it into the playoffs in his first full time year in the Cup league.

"Richmond is a great track, and it will be a fun race to watch this week," said Edwards. "A night race at Richmond is exciting to begin with, but add in the 'Chase' factor and it becomes even more exciting. Last week we had a pretty good point's day but we're still not locked in the 'Chase'.

"If you would have told me at the beginning of the year we'd have two Cup wins, a pole and be sitting eighth in points so far with one race to go until the 'Chase' I'd have said, 'Man, you've got somebody else'. I just didn't expect our year to go this well. Our primary goal this week is to make the 'Chase'. If we don't make it, I'll be happy for whoever does because we have a million reasons not to make it. But we really want to make it and I think we can."

Matt Kenseth (9th) -631 out of first
Who would have guessed that Kenseth would make the 'chase' this year when at the beginning of the summer he was some 300 points out of the game but Team 17 has rallied and in a big way. Don't count him out from grabbing a race win to secure his spot - in 2002 at this race he came from two laps down to win this event.

"I am excited about going to Richmond this weekend,' Kenseth stated. "It has all come down to this race to settle the top ten that will be competing for the championship this year. We've had a good run over the last several months and have put ourselves in contention for this thing. We have to have no mistakes this weekend -- not by the driver and not on pit road. It's going to be exciting, I know that."

Jamie McMurray (10th) -641 from first
McMurray announced earlier this year that in 2007 he will move on to inherit the No. 6 Ford of Mark Martin - so far that has not affected his performance. Right now, McMurray sits on the cusp of making the 'chase' - Ryan Newman is lurking in 11th just one point away from tenth. He missed the 'chase' by just a tick last season and finished 11th.

"There is not too much that can be said about this weekend's race at Richmond," commented McMurray. "It's down to one race to see which teams will secure one of the final three positions that are still up for grabs, and we're one of those teams.

"Our goal is to go out there and get the best finish we can, but no matter what, we've got to finish in front of those guys (Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler) that are right behind us in the points if we plan on getting into 'The Chase'. Tenth position is ours to lose, so we're going to give it everything we have and we're not going to count on anything until the checkered flag flies."

Ryan Newman (11th) -1 out of tenth place
He won the race here in 2003 and needs a good finish to make a repeat bid in this year's championship. An up-and-down season has made this team an unsure bet. Newman needs to do what he does best; qualify well but then stay out of trouble.

"We absolutely did not want to leave California outside of the top 10, but that's the hand we've been dealt," Newman stated. "Now we'll just do our best to win this Saturday night. Hopefully we can pull a Jeremy Mayfield on all of them, winning the race and securing us a spot in the Chase. Last year was a nail-biter and it looks like this year will be, too."

Jeff Gordon (12th) -30 out of tenth place
Say it ain't so? The possibility of a 'chase' without NASCAR's two platinum drivers? Earnhardt has already been mathematically eliminated - and with the season the No. 24 Chevy team has had - it's hard to surmise whether or not they can pull up by their boot straps and make the final 10.

"Our work is definitely cut out for us," said Gordon. "We need to have a great car, great pit stops, great pit strategy and great communication throughout the weekend. Basically, everything needs to go right for us to have a chance.

"Even if everything goes right for this DuPont team, we'll still need some help to make the 'Chase.' We have a brand new car for this race, and I thought the test went really well. We'll work during Friday's practice session to see if we can make it even better."

Note: It was also announced today that Robbie Loomis will not be returning as crew chief of the No. 24 car next season. Current car chief, Steve Latarte is expected to assume the role.

Elliott Sadler (13th) -52 out of tenth
Sadler needs the lady luck racing fairy to come down and kiss him square on the mouth. Once third in points earlier this summer, the No. 38 Ford team has freefell down the charts. Promising runs that could have led to top- three results at Indianapolis and Bristol went up in smoke and a number of disastrous runs now have Sadler on the outside looking in. Sadler needs to buckle in, clear his mind and not give a hoot where everyone else is running. A good qualifying effort to keep him out of trouble mid-pack wouldn't hurt either.

"I'm looking at this weekend as though we've got nothing to lose," Sadler said. "I'm relaxed. I was relaxed at California. I feel like going to Richmond there's only one thing we can do and that's go to try and win the race. We can't really worry about the points.

"We can't really worry about whom we're racing and who we're not racing. We just need to go up there and run the best way we can, whether it's taking chances like two tires or four tires or whatever. I feel like the pressure is not on us. I think the guys that are only one or 11 points behind or 10 points ahead of 10th place have more pressure than we have. I think that we have to go up with the mindset that we've just got to race as hard as we can and not really worry about the points."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Ryan Newman , Jamie McMurray , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Robbie Loomis , Mark Martin