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News from the track: Richmond International Raceway

From The Marbles

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RICHMOND, Va. -- This is it. The regular season ends Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. Stay right here and we'll keep you up to date on all the action from the track. Here are a few notes to get you started:

• First practice begins at noon ET
• Qualifying begins at 5:30 p.m. ET

No favorites, says Biffle

Greg Biffle says that any of the 12 drivers who appear to be in the Chase can win it.

• Where is his weak spot? Short tracks, particularly Martinsville. He believes that you have to finish in the top 15 in every race to have a good shot at winning.

• Biffle is pleased with the current Chase, noting that the idea that guys with multiple wins who don't make the Chase shouldn't necessarily get in. "Would you trade out Jeff Gordon, who hasn't won a race, for Jamie McMurray?" The implication was clear: no way.

"Man, we're playing a game!"

Jeff Burton held court with typical eloquence, speaking on both his team and the Chase. He noted that he's taking this race seriously because of some similarities between Richmond and tracks such as New Hampshire, Phoenix and Martinsville, and that lessons learned here can pay off later in the Chase.

• "Who's going to step it up?" Burton said. "That's the looming question. What team's going to falter? ... Every team's going to deal with adversity; who's going to deal with it best?" Burton acknowledged that the No. 31 team is not the favorite, but he has confidence that he can make a good run at it this year.

• He also kept a bit of perspective. "This is the most fun 10 weeks of the year. This is what you live for. Every time I get into the Chase, I tell myself I waited my whole life for this. We get caught up in the pressure, but man, we're playing a game!"

• Burton also pointed out that the 48 team can't take another championship for granted. "Every champion is vulnerable. The Lakers are vulnerable. The Yankees are vulnerable. Everybody's vulnerable ... except Duke." (Burton is a noted Blue Devil fan.)

Race yourself, not your competitors

• One of the prevailing themes from Friday's press conferences was the way that drivers aren't focusing on each other in the Chase. Whether it's true or not, it was virtually the party line. As Kevin Harvick put it, "I'll be honest with you, I've kind of shut myself off to the whole racing world other than ourselves ... I think it is better to race yourself at this point. There are so many things you can't control, but there are so many things you can."

• That said, Harvick noted that there was no room to goof off. "When you get to four or five [races in the Chase] to go, you kind of know where you stand. You're either still going to be in it or you're going to be racing for wins at that point. I think you've got to be set on kill from the start, from start to finish."

Practice data

• You can tell who's taking this race seriously by looking at the fastest competitors. In the first practice run, Clint Bowyer posted the fastest lap time at 122.688 mph, followed by Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya, Carl Edwards, David Reutimann and Jamie McMurray.

• Two laps into the first practice run, Martin Truex Jr. hit the wall because of a stuck throttle. And what caused said stuck throttle? Opinions vary, but Truex believed it could have been because of a television camera. Whoops.

• In the second practice, folks began stepping up. Edwards set the fastest lap time with 125.29 mph, followed by Paul Menard, Greg Biffle, Montoya and Kasey Kahne.

September 11

• The 9/11 anniversary weighs heavily on everyone's mind here. Almost all of the drivers have been asked about their recollections and experiences. Jeff Gordon noted that living in New York has given him a greater appreciation for what the city went through on that day, while Kyle Busch expressed ongoing support for the troops and their mission. Greg Biffle recalled watching the day's events from his North Carolina shop on a 10-inch TV with rabbit ears. Clearly, the solemnity of the day won't be lost on the fans or the drivers Saturday.

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