Richmond: Round 11 preview

The "perfect" track? Richmond site of short-track action, late-season importance DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 10, 2005) -- As the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wheels into Richmond International Raceway -- one of the sport's most beloved venues -- it's...

The "perfect" track? Richmond site of short-track action, late-season importance

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 10, 2005) -- As the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wheels into Richmond International Raceway -- one of the sport's most beloved venues -- it's time to consider both location and situation.

The last time the series visited Richmond, history was made: Last September's event marked race No. 26 on the 36-race schedule, the cutoff point for the inaugural "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

And as NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers visit Richmond this week, 12 of the 15 who were in contention to make the "Chase" last September are in the mix in 2005. A reminder: Following the Sept. 10 event at Richmond, a fast, three-quarters mile track that's hosted the series since 1953, the top 10 drivers and any within 400 points of the leader will compete for the title during the season's final 10 races.

Not only have those 12 drivers retained their championship-eligible status, but three new faces have joined the group. Headed into Saturday night's Chevy American Revolution 400, Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford), Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Scotts/Round-up Ford) have muscled their way into "Chase" contention. None of the three were a factor in the race to make the 2004 "Chase"; all are major stories early in 2005.

Biffle, who has won four of his last 11 events dating back to last year's season-finale at Homestead, has emerged as a top-tier competitor, relishing the challenge of a shorter spoiler/new tire combination. He heads into Richmond fresh off last week's come-from-behind victory at Darlington and is tied with four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevolet) with three wins this season.

Biffle's Roush Racing teammate, Carl Edwards, is a new NASCAR NEXTEL Cup face, but Edwards already has captured his first series win in his first full season, plus he's captivated many peers and fans with his upbeat personality.

Wallace, who will retire after this season, was out of the "Chase" picture in 2004. But he's currently 14th after spending the first eight weeks in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10. Plus, he leads all active drivers with six wins, 21 top-five finishes, 29 top-10 finishes and 3,023 laps led in 42 starts at Richmond. And if last week's test session is any barometer, watch out.

"It was an unbelievable test, just super all the way around," said Wallace of his revamped car, which he drove to victory last spring at Martinsville Speedway. "We got the thing really hauling the mail and handling like a dream."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Carl Edwards