There's lots at stake in NASCAR's Richmond race

Sep 8, 2009 5:03 PM
Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

Drivers crank it up in drive for the Chase

This Saturday night in Richmond, we got ourselves a good old fashioned Saturday Night Special.

For a few guys, they will be clawing their way to the front doing everything they can to make passes and race themselves into NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship.

It’s the last race until the Chase starts with a few drivers bunched pretty close together.

It’s a shame it takes a one race shoot-out to bring out the very best, or worst, in the bubble drivers. This is the equivalent of football’s wild card; if a driver makes the final top 12 in points following Richmond, he still has to race himself to the top in what is essentially a 10 week bracket culminating with the big game Miami on Nov. 22.

Las Vegas’ very own Busch Brothers, Kyle and Kurt, are right in the mix of things coming into Richmond. Kurt Busch is essentially locked in, sitting seventh in points and would need a crazy set of circumstances to not make it.

However, Kyle is the one that needs some help. He’s currently sitting 14th and 37 points out of the 12th and final spot. The good news for Busch is that he’s racing at Richmond, a track where he has had his most consistent performances among all tracks.

Kyle’s 6.1 average finish at Richmond is tops among all drivers. He won the spring race there in May and in nine career races he has seven top-5 finishes. This is the driver that is going to make this year’s Race to the Chase finale the most exciting ever just because of all the drama he brings with him.

Kyle Busch might be the most disliked, booed and harassed driver on the circuit. For some reason his antics, showmanship and success have rubbed racing fans across America the wrong way. He’s going into a Hornets nest in Richmond where they are famed for being the loudest, rudest and most intoxicated crowd on tour.

Twice a year, these fans in the Capital of the Confederation pump themselves up all Saturday afternoon to get themselves in game condition for the race at night. It’s a party of all parties and Kyle Busch is public enemy number one, taking over that role a few years ago from Jeff Gordon.

The biggest feather in the cap for Kyle is that he has thrived so much in such a hostile environment. He has taken their heated energy towards him and fueled himself to a level of being totally unabashed by the surroundings.

His race this time around means more than it ever has. Not only does he have the pressure of trying to show the fans up again, but he’s got to win or come close in order to ensure he gets in.

It’ll be a tough task, but it’ll definitely be worth the price of admission to watch what happens.

While all the hoopla surrounding Busch and his run to make the chase goes on, a few candidates are going to be also running as hard as possible to get that last win prior to the Chase which will elevate their position when the Chase starts.

Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson should all have terrific runs and race hard to get the bonus point for winning.

Stewart has finished second in three of the last four races, while Virginia native Hamlin has come close to winning, but has settled for three top-3 runs in his seven starts.

Johnson has the distinction of winning this race last year and three of the last five. However, in the two he didn’t win, he finished 30th and then 36th this year in May.

Here are a few Chase Clinch Scenarios For Richmond: Eight spots remain in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and 11 drivers are mathematically in contention for securing one. Below are the clinch scenarios for Richmond, the final race before the Chase field is set:

#99-Carl Edwards is currently 105 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes: 24th or better; 25th and leads at least one lap or 27th and leads most laps.

#9-Kasey Kahne is currently 96 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes: 21st or better; 23rd and leads at least one lap or 24th and leads most laps.

#2-Kurt Busch is currently 95 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes: 20th or better; 22nd and leads at least one lap or 24th and leads most laps. #42-Juan Pablo Montoya is currently 88 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes: 18th or better; 20th and leads at least one lap or 21st and leads the most laps. #39-Ryan Newman is currently 81 points ahead of 13th place. He will clinch if he finishes: 16th or better.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts