This Saturday, the regular season comes to an end. After 26 grueling races, and thousands of laps and miles, the Chase field will be set.
Under the lights at Richmond International Raceway, as it has always been since the Chase started, the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 will settle it all.
In this edition of "Dustin Off," I will take a look at the remaining positions in the Chase. I'll also look at who could come away with a win, and the drivers who could end up outside the championship field.
Let's start off by looking at the drivers who are locked into the Chase. You first have Tony Stewart, who has been the points leader for a majority of this season. His position is secure, but he has been on a slight downturn the last few weeks. Since his win at Watkins Glen, Stewart has finished no higher than 11th.
However, Richmond is his favorite race track, and a win will not only give him the momentum into the Chase, it will give him the lead at its start. The No. 14 car will be one to watch.
Next in line are the Hendrick cars of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Both have had great seasons, and are poised to make a run at another title.
Currently, Johnson has three wins on the year, with his last coming at Indy. This time last year, Johnson won Richmond as he started his run to a third-straight title.
Gordon, meanwhile, has a better chance at getting his fifth title than he did one year ago. Despite having only one win, he still has 11 top-five and 17 top-ten finishes this year.
I do not think his chances of winning Saturday night are as good. He may get a top-five, but I do not think he will be in victory late.
Then you have Denny Hamlin, the home track favorite. He was the driver to beat earlier this year at the first race, only to have a miscue on pit road set him back. Hamlin is my favorite for this race. He has come so close to winning at this track, it owes him one. The FedEx Camry will for sure be the car to beat once the green flag falls.
From 5th through 11th, it could not be any closer. Only 33 points separate 5h-place Carl Edwards and 11th-place Greg Biffle. This will be a dogfight on a short track just to make it in.
The driver I think has the most to lose in this scenario is actually 10th-place Mark Martin. Despite having four wins, he finds himself in a very uncomfortable position of not making the Chase.
If he makes it in, he will start out the Chase with the points lead. That could be good, as his teammate Johnson got the lead heading into the final 10 races in 2007 and won his second championship.
The driver who I think has the most to gain currently sits behind Martin. Roush driver Greg Biffle has had a stellar season, with 8 top-five and 12 top-ten finishes, looking consistent every week.
However, he still has not broken into that win column. He came close at Michigan, only to have his fuel cell run dry. Biffle can make a big jump if he does win the race. It will not only secure his Chase spot, the win will seat him in the middle of the field heading into New Hampshire. Biffle is my sleeper pick for the race, so watch out for the 3M Fusion.
Finally, you have the bubble. Matt Kenseth is in the uneasy position of having the last Chase spot. After starting the season with wins at Daytona and California, the No. 17 team has struggled.
Kenseth has only two top-five and seven top-ten finishes since those victories. Right behind him are two hungry drivers wanting to get into the Chase in Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch.
Vickers finally got his breakthrough victory at Michigan three weeks ago, and has a season-high six pole positions. This is a driver reborn and thriving this season with the Red Bull team.
Last, you have the rowdy one himself, Kyle Busch. This is a driver who one year ago thoroughly dominated the regular season with eight wins, but had two DNFs at the first two Chase races.
This year, he finds himself in an awkward position of having four wins but sitting outside the Chase. Busch won at Richmond earlier this year, a track he enjoys and could easily win on again.
Should Busch win, not only would he make it in the Chase but he would enter as the leader. You know that the No. 18 car is going to be beating and banging his way to the front, taking no prisoners in his quest to make the Chase.
This is the finale of the NASCAR regular season. Every driver that is within striking distance of the Chase will be pulling out all the stops to make it in. Those already in the Chase will be going for a victory.
No question, this is going to be an exciting and eventful night under the lights at the Richmond International Raceway.
Coverage of the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 begins at 7 p.m. on ABC.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!