400 laps,300 miles, one race. That’s all that separates drivers from either making the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship or being one of the “other 31 cars” on the track in the final 10 races.
With every driver inside the top-10 currently locked into the Chase with at least a wildcard birth and Kasey Kahne having his wildcard birth locked as well, that leaves one spot up for grabs Saturday night in Richmond.
Here’s a look at all the possible ways the drivers biding for the final spot can get into the Chase.
Tony Stewart: Despite having three wins to his credit in 2012, the defending Sprint Cup champion is in jeopardy of falling outside the top-10 in points. With that, Stewart would not only lose the benefit of his three wins as bonus points but also take away the final wildcard position.
If Stewart wants to keep his bonus points by staying in the top-10, he must finish at least 14th if he’s unable to lead a lap, 15th if he leads one or 16th if he leads the most laps in Saturday night’s race.
Kasey Kahne: There’s virtually no pressure for Kahne Saturday night. If he wins, he has a chance to move inside the top-10 in points and use his three wins as bonus points. If he doesn’t win, he’s in the Chase as a wildcard.
Here’s where it gets touchy for Kahne.
If Kyle Busch supplants Stewart in the top-10, and Jeff Gordon wins, Kahne clinches a spot by finishing 14th or better, 15th or better with one lap led, or 16th or better while leading the most laps.
If Gordon supplants Stewart in the top-10, and Kyle Busch wins, Kahne will clinch a spot by finishing second and leading the most laps.
Jeff Gordon: If Stewart can remain in the top-10 or Kahne is able to overtake Stewart in the top-10, Gordon can clinch a Chase spot by finishing the night 13 points ahead of Busch and losing 28 or fewer points to Ambrose and losing fewer than 37 points to Ryan Newman.
If Busch is able to supplant Stewart from the top-10, Gordon would need to win Saturday night at Richmond and finish 18 points ahead of Kahne.
Marcos Ambrose: For the Watkins Glen winner to make the Chase, Ambrose needs help from multiple drivers.
If Stewart remains in the top-10 or Kahne takes his spot in the top-10, Ambrose will need to finish 41 points ahead of Busch,29 points ahead of Gordon, losing no more than eight points to Newman, and by losing no less than 41 points to Joey Logano.
Ryan Newman: The only way Newman can assure himself of a Chase birth is with a win. If either Busch or Gordon find a way to overtake Newman’s teammate, Stewart, in the top-10 he will be eliminated.
Joey Logano: Much like Newman, Logano can only clinch a Chase birth with a win. If his teammate, Busch, or Gordon take a place in the top-10, Logano will miss the Chase.
Carl Edwards: To say that Edwards needs some help to make the Chase is an understatement.
Even with a win Saturday night, Edwards needs Busch to finish 24 or worse (no laps led) and Gordon needs to finish 12th or worse.
If either Busch or Gordon can overtake Stewart in the top-10, Edwards will be eliminated from making the Chase.
Paul Menard: If Edwards is a long shot for the Chase, then double that for Menard.
To make his first Chase, Menard must win Saturday night in Richmond. With that, Busch must finish no better than 34th and Gordon can finish no higher than 24th.
Like Edwards, Menard will be eliminated if Busch or Gordon supplant Stewart in the top-10.
Recent Federated Auto Parts 400 Winners
2011: Kevin Harvick
2010: Denny Hamlin
2009: Denny Hamlin
2008: Jimmie Johnson
2007: Jimmie Johnson
2006: Kevin Harvick
2005: Kurt Busch
2004: Jeremy Mayfield
2003: Ryan Newman
2002: Matt Kenseth
2001: Ricky Rudd
2000: Jeff Gordon
Richmond International Raceway Fast Facts
22 races at Richmond International Raceway have been won by the driver starting on the pole.
Most Wins: 13 – Richard Petty
Most Poles: 8 – Bobby Allison, Richard Petty
Most Top Fives: 34 – Richard Petty
Most Top 10s: 41 – Richard Petty
Most Cautions: 15 – 3 times, most recently 9/10/11
Fewest Cautions: 1 – 3 times, most recently 3/1/70
Most Laps Led by a Race Winner: 488 – 9/13/70
Fewest Laps Led by a Race Winner: 4 – 2/23/86
Most Wins by a Manufacturer: 35 – Chevrolet
Closest Margin of Victory: 0.051 Seconds – 9/12/98
Federated Auto Parts 400 Entry List
#0 Mark Green (Blue Ox)
#1 Jamie McMurray (Bass Pro Shops/ Allstate)
#2 Brad Keselowski (Miller Lite)
#5 Kasey Kahne (Quaker State)
#9 Marcos Ambrose (MAC Tools)
#10 David Reutimann (TMONE)
#11 Denny Hamlin (FedEx Express)
#13 Casey Mears (Geico)
#14 Tony Stewart (Office Depot/ Mobil 1)
#15 Clint Bowyer (5 Hour Energy)
#16 Greg Biffle (3M/Owens-Minor)
#17 Matt Kenseth (Best Buy)
#18 Kyle Busch (M&M’s)
#19 Mike Bliss (Plinker Tactical)
#20 Joey Logano (The Home Depot)
#22 Sam Hornish Jr. (Shell Pennzoil)
#23 Scott Riggs (North Texas Pipe)
#24 Jeff Gordon (Drive to End Hunger)
#26 Josh Wise (MDS Transport)
#27 Paul Menard (Menards – Moen)
#29 Kevin Harvick (Budweiser)
#30 David Stremme (Inception Motorsports)
#31 Jeff Burton (Caterpillar)
#32 Ken Schrader (Federated Auto Parts)
#33 Stephen Leicht (LittleJoesAuto.com)
#34 David Ragan (Taco Bell)
#36 Dave Blaney (Tommy Baldwin Racing)
#37 JJ Yeley (TBA)
#38 David Gilliland (Mossy Oak – Pursuit Channel)
#39 Ryan Newman (Quicken Loans)
#42 Juan Pablo Montoya (Target)
#43 Aric Almirola (Smithfield)
#47 Bobby Labonte (Bush’s Beans)
#48 Jimmie Johnson (Lowe’s)
#51 Kurt Busch (Hendrickcars.com)
#55 Mark Martin (Aaron’s Dream Machine)
#56 Martin Truex Jr. (NAPA Auto Parts)
#78 Regan Smith (Furniture Row-Farm American)
#83 Landon Cassill (Burger King)
#87 Joe Nemechek (AM-FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves)
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard)
#91 Reed Sorenson (Plinker Tactical)
#93 Travis Kvapil (Burger King)
#98 Michael McDowell (Phil Parsons Racing)
#99 Carl Edwards (Kelloggs)