The long NASCAR season will shift from regular events to the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs after the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 6, 2014.
In 25 races, 13 different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have been to Victory Lane at least once and secured a Chase contender spot. Only one race remains for a winless driver to grab a coveted spot in the Chase. Odds are not in their favor, as drivers with wins are more likely to repeat.
Four drivers are on the bubble with a chance to get in the Chase on points if no winless driver grabs the checkered flag.
Much is on the line at the RIR 0.75-mile D-shaped oval track with 14-degree banking. Fans and drivers can expect great action on the fast, short track.
Many top NSCS drivers commented on the upcoming event.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a banner year and looks to have fun during the RIR show.
“I enjoy racing at Richmond,” Earnhardt said. “You can be aggressive and the racing is fun. We run at night and get a great crowd for the event. Richmond has put on a good show for years.”
Jimmie Johnson pointed out what’s at stake.
“This will be an interesting race for sure,” Johnson said. “There are a few guys trying to get in the Chase and a few guys trying to stay in it.”
After a victory last week in Atlanta, Kasey Kahne won’t need a win to get in the Chase. He seemed relieved heading into the final regular race.
“It’s been a tough season, and we have had kind of a downer year at times,” Kahne said. “Then we started running really well, so I’m very happy to be in the Chase with my teammates. Glad we are in the Chase. We can race our teammates now.”
Denny Hamlin has a Chase spot, but stressed the needs of contenders at RIR.
“We’ll be pulling out all the stops to try to win the race and get three more points heading into the Chase,” Hamlin said. “The competition is so tough and every point will matter once the Chase begins.”
Carl Edwards seemed relaxed and ready to prepare for the Chase.
“It's the last race before the Chase,” Edwards said. “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 10 races.”
Kurt Busch shared some confidence as a Chase contender.
“We’re going to give it all we’ve got and go for the win,” Busch said. “But it’s not the end of the world if we don’t, and we can almost use this race as a breather to be better prepared for Chicagoland Speedway next week.”
Brad Keselowski defined the upcoming task at the fast track.
“I enjoy racing at Richmond as it has great short-track racing,” Keselowski said. “This is one of those places that the driver has to be up on the wheel and also take care of the car. It is also a place where pit-lane performance is crucial since the laps are so fast.”
Joey Logano won at Richmond earlier this year and would be happy to repeat that achievement.
“I still can’t believe that I won at Richmond,” Logano said. “I know what I want and what I need at Richmond. That’s a pretty cool feeling to have and something to look forward to going into the weekend.”
Matt Kenseth has qualified for the Chase without a win. He defied the odds of the win-and-you’re-in notion.
“I love racing there,” Kenseth said. “I actually think all the drivers do. With Richmond being a three-quarter-mile track, where you have a little bit of speed, yet the track is really worn out and slick from new tires and old tires that it makes for a good race.”
Greg Biffle is on a big bubble with his point total and has to run up front or get a win to avoid being knocked out of contention.
“Richmond almost drives like a speedway or intermediate mile-and-a-half track,” Biffle said. “The way the front stretch sweeps—you get a lot of speed. Racing is so good because you can run two or three wide up the race track [and] get a run off the bottom.”
When the checkered flag falls at Richmond, the 26-race 2014 regular season ends and the new 10-race elimination playoff Chase gauntlet begins. Racing events will reveal if the format generates greater excitement, but expectations are elevated.
For drivers and teams without wins, and for the few drivers on the cusp of elimination, the next 400 laps at RIR are like an entire season wrapped up in 300 miles.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.
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