With One Race Left, Which Drivers Will Make It into the Chase?

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With One Race Left, Which Drivers Will Make It into the Chase?
(Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Looking toward the flag stand on a clear and beautiful sunlit day, I can see the flag man's hand as he effortlessly waves to the drivers as they pass by him at speeds which are almost blinding to the naked eye.

The ground begins to shake as the drivers continue to fly by him one after another and the fans are yelling at the top of their lungs over the roaring sound of the engines to their favorite driver as they stampede by the grandstands.

The fast-paced action is non-stop; the feel of your adrenaline pumping through your veins is almost unbearable, the excitement is what this sport is all about.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I see a young fan that is looking at the same flag man, gazing and probably wondering why he is waving to the drivers, not even realizing that there is a reason for it.

The flag man continues waving to the drivers, until each one of them have all passed him by.

The smell of rubber is getting stronger lap after lap, along with the sweet smelling aroma of the Sunoco fuel as the cars continue to burn the precious liquid that is left in their tanks.

Just then I feel a tug on the bottom of my pants, and when I look down it’s the younger fan that is standing next to me, trying to ask me a question.

I slowly look down to see his eyes focused, waiting to ask me that most important question on this young man's mind.

He yells over the noise of the speeding race cars, "Hey mister, why is that man in the stand waving to drivers as they go by?”

"That is the wave that there is one lap left before the race goes green again," I tell him.

"It’s about that time for these modern day road warriors to begin to make their move and try to win this race."

Before I am even finished explaining myself, his eyes are once again glued back to the action, which is going on right in front of our very eyes.

The Sprint Cup Series gets ready to invade Richmond International Speedway this weekend.

One race is left to decide which of the 12 Sprint Cup drivers will get their chance to become the 2009 Sprint Cup champion.

Time has once again raced right by us as this season is about ready to come to a close. The drivers are all making their final preparations to make a last chance run at a speedway that runs all of its events under the lights.

Richmond has been known to dish out some very rude finishes while knocking the hopes out of those drivers who thought for sure they would have their chance to contend for the ever-elusive Sprint Cup championship.

The first victim that Richmond unleashed its fury on during the Chase era was Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray.

McMurray had just moved up to the bubble spot after an eighth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California the previous week.

McMurray had his eyes set on making his first Chase appearance only to have his hopes fade away into the Richmond sunset as the track devoured him and put him in check to the tune of a 40th-place finish, knocking him off the bubble and replacing him with Ryan Newman.

With only four drivers already locked into the Chase, this weekend’s newest bubble boy is Matt Kenseth, who is barely holding onto a 20-point cushion from the 13th spot.

All Kenseth needs to do is finish second and lead at least one lap to clinch the final Chase spot.

While breaking down the other seven drivers' possibilities of clinching their own spots, keep in mind that a maximum of 161 is the most points that can be made up in a given race.

Carl Edwards is currently 105 points ahead of 13th place in the sixth spot in the standings. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes 24th or 25th and leads at least one lap or 27th and leads the most laps.

Kasey Kahne is currently 96 points ahead of 13th place in the seventh spot in the standings. 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 the most laps.

Kurt Busch is currently 95 points ahead of 13th place in the seventh spot in the standings. 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 the most laps.

Juan Montoya is currently 88 points ahead of 13th place in the eighth spot in the standings. 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.

Ryan Newman is currently 81 points ahead of 13th place in the ninth spot in the standings. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes 16th or better, 17th and leads at least one lap, or 19th and leads the most laps.

Mark Martin is currently 69 points ahead of 13th place in the 10th spot in points. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes 12th or better, 14th and leads at least one lap, or 15th and leads the most laps.

Greg Biffle is currently 68 points ahead of 13th place in the 11th spot in points. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes 11th or better, 13th and leads at least one lap, or 15th and leads the most laps.

Brian Vickers, who currently sits 13th and is outside the Chase, has only a 17-point cushion over Kyle Busch.

Vickers would need to gain 21 points on Kenseth and stay ahead of Busch to clinch a Chase spot. Busch, who is 14th in the standings and only 37 points behind Kenseth, would need to gain 17 points on Vickers and 37 points on Kenseth to clinch a spot into the Chase.

Finally, David Reutimann, who is only 132 points behind Kenseth, has an outside shot at clinching. Reutimann would have to gain 133 points on Kenseth. From his last five outings at this track, he only has one top 10 finish to show for them.

So now is not the time for the faint of heart to take their eyes off of the fast-paced action and let their guard down.

One blink and it could all be over before you know it, because after all, this is NASCAR racing at its finest.

The colorful parade of cars is getting ready to battle its way around this three-quarter mile D-shaped oval to see who will make it into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

The young fan’s eyes grow bigger and bigger as he takes in the sights and sounds of a sport that he will watch for the rest of his life.

So pull those straps down tight and get ready to feel the thunder. NASCAR racing is coming at ya!

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