Your Chase clinch scenarios for Saturday’s regular season finale

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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.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.