It’s finally here the race weekend that will determine the rest of the year for many teams and drivers. The result at Richmond could not only determine if a driver has a shot at the Championship but could also have a knock on business effect in terms of sponsorship and general team funding. So there is a lot riding on the performances of everyone. From a fans point of view is one of the more nervous weekends for us especially if your favourite driver is in with a shot. But it is also one of the more confusing as drivers need to get certain results and for specific things to happen in order to get into the Chase and for those not paying attention it can be sometime after the chequered flag before the Chase lineup is known.
After my awful shot at predicting last week (who knew Joey Logano would run so well!) I wont be making that mistake this week but instead am going to try to shed some light on what certain drivers require in order to make the Chase. Just a quick reminder for those new to NASCAR the winner gets 43 points, second place 42 points, third place 41 points all the way down to 43rd getting one point. Just to make things a little more complicated there are also bonus points available. A driver who wins a race gets an extra 3 points any driver who leads a lap will get an extra point, as well as the driver who leads the most laps, so a race winner will get 47 points.
Some drivers are in a fortunate position and can determine their own destiny but for others they are going to have to rely on a lot of luck. The following drivers are those who can control their own destiny and know that if they finish in a specific position then it doesn’t matter what any else does, they have made the Chase.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., currently 7th in points he will clinch a top 10 spot with a finish of 32nd or better, 33rd with at least one lap led or 34th with the most laps led.
Joey Logano, currently 8th in points he will clinch a top 10 spot with a finish of 11th or better, 12th and at least one lap led or 13th and the most laps led.
Greg Biffle, currently 9th in points he will clinch a top 10 spot with a finish of 9th or better, 10th and at least one lap led or 11th and the most laps led.
Kurt Busch, currently 10 in points he will clinch a top 10 spot by winning the race, finishing 2nd with at least one lap led or finishing 3rd with the most laps led.
For the rest they aren’t so lucky, if the above drivers finish where they need to than they can only get in via a wildcard, which currently only has one place available. I am not going to go through each driver’s possible scenarios as for some they are many and varied but just the bare minimum they need.
Jeff Gordon, currently 11th in points and 6 points outside the top 10 he can clinch a wildcard spot with a win (which could well take him into the top 10 as well). But in order to finish in 10th he needs to finish 7 places ahead of Kurt Busch but that could go up depending if Kurt gets any bonus points and hope that the drivers behind him in the standings finish behind him on the track.
Kasey Kahne, currently sitting in 12th in the standings and 10 points from 10th place. He will be desperate to make the Chase, which he can do by finishing 11 places ahead of Kurt and 5 places ahead of Jeff Gordon and again keeping the rest of the drivers behind him in the standings behind him on the track. But failing that he is guaranteed a wildcard spot with his two wins.
Martin Truex Jr, sitting in 13th he is 15 points away from 10th place. For him to finish 10th or higher he needs to be beat Kurt by a minimum of 15 places, Kasey Kahne by 6 places and Jeff Gordon by 9 places. Although he would get a wildcard spot with a win on Saturday night, but would also claim a wildcard spot if he finishes ahead of Ryan Newman and none of the drivers behind him get the win.
Ryan Newman, currently 14th in points if he took the win at the weekend he would at least get a wildcard spot. If he doesn’t win than he needs none of the drivers behind him in the standings (or Jeff Gordon ahead of him) to go to victory lane, none of the drivers with a win (Logano and Biffle) to drop out of the top 10 and to score 6 points more than Truex Jr, then he will also take a wildcard spot. He can also get into 10th if he scores 20 points more than Kurt, 14 points more than Gordon, 11 points more than Kahne and 5 points more than Truex Jr.
Brad Keselowski, currently a massive 28 points from 10th place, it is still mathematically possible for him to claim 10th spot. But the easiest way would be to win at Richmond, score 13 points more than Truex Jr, 8 more than Newman. To slightly complicate matters if Kahne knocks out a winless driver from the top 10 (ie Kurt) then Brad would only need to out score either Truex Jr or Newman. To get 10th he would need a lot of luck and to outscore Kurt by 29 points, Gordon by 23 points, Kahne by 19, Truex Jr by 14 and Newman by 9 points. So basically that’s mission impossible!
Two quick mentions to Jamie McMurray who can also claim a wildcard with a win and outscoring Truex Jr by 25 points and Newman by 19. He can also theoretically get 10th but given how impossible Keselowski’s task is, and McMurray is a further 11 points behind him I am not even going to mention what he has to do to claim it. Finally Paul Menard can claim a wildcard spot with a win and outscoring Truex Jr by 47 points (so basically for Truex Jr to finish last and for Menard to win and take all the bonus points) and Newman by 42 points.
Finally, and for the first time in a long while there is a chance that two cars can make it into the owners Chase and not be competing in the drivers Chase via a wildcard. Tony Stewart’s 14 car is currently 15th in the owners standings and with his win Mark Martin will need to out score Truex Jr by 9 points and Newman by 4 points. Brian Vickers can also put the 55 in a wildcard spot by outscoring team-mate Truex by 34 points, Newman by 29 points and Martin by 26 points.
So there it is, some of the scenarios to watch for this weekend. It’s probably still as clear as mud but hopefully if you have this article near you during the race it might give you something to watch for while the announcers focus on drivers who have already qualified!