The final two Chase Grid spots will be on the line in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
At the front of that battle are the group of four drivers that can still make it on points alone – 15th-place Ryan Newman, 16th-place Greg Biffle, 17th-place Clint Bowyer, and 18th-place Kyle Larson.
But there’s also another group of 15 drivers within the Top 30 in NASCAR Sprint Cup points that can crash the Chase party in the only way they can.
However, out of all those hopefuls, only one driver can enter the Commonwealth of Virginia in charge of his own destiny, and that’s Newman (+42 over the cutoff).
His scenario is simple: Finish 18th or better on Saturday night, and he’s in the show. It bears noting that Newman has earned three Top-10s in his last four starts at Richmond (he finished eighth there in the spring).
For Biffle, Bowyer, and Larson, however, things are a bit more complex.
Should there be a repeat winner, or if winless No. 14 seed Kenseth or Newman win, Biffle clinches with a finish of 22nd or better.
But if there is a new winner that isn’t Kenseth or Newman, then Biffle has to out-point Newman by 19 points and beat both Bowyer and Larson – the latter two drivers having an opportunity if Biffle has a poor run.
Biffle’s record at Richmond has not been strong, as he’s only earned one Top-10 finish there since 2007. However, he’s been on a solid run as of late with Top-10 finishes in the last five races. Something will have to give.
As noted yesterday, Bowyer’s a two-time winner at Richmond, so he’ll be looking to come off the truck fast. This past spring, though, he finished dead last there after his right wheel well caught on fire before the halfway point.
In that race, Bowyer also dumped Larson, the polesitter, on the opening lap. Larson recovered to finish 16th in a solid drive from the back. If he can avoid trouble, he can be a factor on Saturday night.
Then there are those aforementioned 15 drivers who must have a win on Saturday to make the Chase – a group that includes Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, David Gilliland, David Ragan, and Cole Whitt.