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Ryan Newman (left) with Greg Biffle
Living on the Bubble
Four drivers sit on the Chase bubble for the final race of the regular season. Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle (in photo) are in the field on points, but a very bad night and a better one by either Clint Bowyer or Kyle Larson could spell disaster for either one of them.
Of course, any of these drivers could solidify his spot in the Chase field with a win. But only Larson has had the kind of season that suggests he could win.
In his one previous Cup start in the spring race at RIR, Larson started the race on the pole after qualifying was rained out and lap times from the first practice session were used to set the field. He was involved in an incident going into Turn 1 of the first lap and fell to the back of field. He finished 16th.
“For this weekend, it’s pretty simple for us, we need to win," said Larson in a pre-race media release.
Under Pressure; Setup Success and the Keys to Winning at Richmond
The winning car at Richmond will be the car with the best balance of rear grip with forward bite off the corners. For the best setup, a crew chief will use radical front- and rear-end setups like excessive amounts of camber to tilt the tires for the ultimate grip both front and back. This will test the limits of the Goodyear tires, so expect to see a number for right front and right rear tire failures.
Being able to dive deeper into the corner before braking means brakes will be put to the ultimate test. They develop tremendous amounts of heat and unless properly vented away from the tire and wheel, the heat can cause tires to separate from the wheel, resulting in failure and contact with the outside wall.
Spotlight Remains on Stewart
After a disappointing result on his return to competition, Tony Stewart will be in especially comfortable surroundings this weekend. Richmond is where Stewart won his first Cup race in 1999. He has three wins in a Cup car at Richmond and does well when the track is hot and slick. Stewart still could make the Chase with a win on Saturday night.
It's likely that Stewart will avoid direct contact with the media again this weekend as the investigation into his racing accident last month in upstate New York continues.
Hendrick Domination Going into The Chase
With Kasey Kahne’s win at Atlanta, all four of Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers are in the Chase. On the season, Hendrick drivers boast 10 wins: a series-leading three apiece from Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt and one by Kahne.
Gordon and Earnhardt also sit 1-2 in driver points; Johnson is sixth and Kahne 11th. A championship win by any one of the four drivers would make it an even dozen titles for Rick Hendrick.
Richmond Is Time to Relax for Teams Already in the Field
With the pressure to get into the Chase gone, the drivers already in the field look forward to just enjoying themselves on Saturday night.
“Our short track program has been great,” said two-time race winner Carl Edwards in a pre-race media release. “It's the last race before the Chase so it'll be an opportunity for us to go out and have some fun and work on fine tuning our team for the final ten races. A year ago we had a great race and a win there.”
Points leader Jeff Gordon is part of the chorus of drivers that are just glad that there’s no pressure going into Saturday night.
“You always look forward to visiting a track when you ran well there the previous race. I’m just glad this weekend isn’t going to be as stressful as years past when we had to race our way into the Chase at Richmond.”
Gordon finished eighth in the spring race at Richmond.