Officially, two Chase spots will be up for grabs tonight in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway.
But it would take something big to keep Ryan Newman (+42 points over 16th) from entering the post-season; he needs a finish of 18th or better tonight, and that’s definitely doable for him and his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing bunch.
Which leaves Greg Biffle, the 16th-place driver on the Chase Grid, fighting for his post-season life.
To repeat his scenario in case you may have forgot: Biffle – who starts 17th this evening – can make the Chase by finishing 22nd or better if a repeat 2014 winner, winless Chaser Matt Kenseth, or Newman wins tonight’s race.
But if there is a new winner that isn’t Kenseth or Newman, Biffle must then outpoint Newman by 19 points and beat both Clint Bowyer (17th; -23 points behind Biffle) and Kyle Larson (18th; -24 points behind Biffle).
With 15 other drivers that can only go into the Chase with a win, the Federated Auto Parts 400 is sure to feature aggressive racing through the field. Biffle expects things to be hectic as he works to maintain his position on the Chase Grid for one more race.
“All those guys – the 1 [Jamie McMurray], the 42 [Larson], the 15 [Bowyer] and 27 [Paul Menard] – will all be trying and that is their last lunge for life to get in,” Biffle said yesterday. “Whether it is staying out and taking two tires or whatever, getting up there and blocking or running a guy out of the groove, they will do whatever they can to win to get into the Chase.
“We hope it is uneventful and one of the guys that have won already wins [the race], but I know that it is going to be dicey up front with those [winless] guys trying to get their win.
“The thing about it…It is a tough scenario for us to play. In one aspect, we don’t need to win to get in, but in the other aspect we do need to win to get in if one of those guys wins.”
Richmond has become one of Biffle’s tougher tracks. His ninth place finish in the September 2012 race there is his only Top-10 at RIR since 2006.
At the same time, Biffle has been humming along with five consecutive Top-10 finishes – a streak that has effectively forced Bowyer and Larson, the two guys behind him in the Chase standings, to consider Richmond as a must-win.
The turnaround has come at the right time for Biffle, and that has him believing he will be one of the final two drivers in the Chase after tonight.
“We’ve got a good car, probably the best car I have had in the last two or three years here which is a great confidence builder for us,” Biffle said. “We need to have a good solid night. I think we are capable of that…
“…We know what we have to do and we have a good car so far and we will keep our head up, pay attention and have a good night.”