For every winner, there's at least one loser. And that will never be more evident than Saturday night in the garage area at Richmond International Raceway after 400 miles of hard-fought racing.
While two more drivers will be congratulated for earning spots in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup, completing the 12-team field, several others will climb from their cars with the realization that their dreams for a championship will have to be put on hold for another year.
For Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, this may be a case of history repeating itself. Each of those three drivers has been in this situation before in previous Chases -- and knows what it's like to not only earn a spot in the Chase but the heartbreak of coming up just short in his quest.
While the spotlight this weekend will shine brightest on the drivers who make it in, it's also good to look back on those who just missed.
Kahne has seen both sides of the equation. In the inaugural Chase, he was ninth heading into Richmond, courtesy of a second-place finish at Fontana the week before. But when he struggled to finish 24th, Kahne wound up being leapfrogged by both race-winner Jeremy Mayfield -- who came into the night in 14th place -- and Ryan Newman.
Kahne wasn't the only disappointed driver that night. Jamie McMurray's ninth-place finish left him 15 points behind Newman for the final spot -- and left many of his fans pondering the "what ifs" resulting from a 25-point penalty at Bristol earlier in the year.
And Bobby Labonte had been fourth in the standings as late as June, but he hit a stretch of 16 consecutive races without a top-10 finish to fall out of Chase contention.
But two seasons later, Kahne was the one with a big smile after Richmond when he erased Tony Stewart's 45-point advantage with a third-place finish, one week after winning at Fontana.
You'd have to pardon Gordon for feeling a bit of déjà vu this weekend. In 2005, he went through a spring and summer where he compiled five finishes of 30th or worse. But he was still 10th in the standings after Bristol and had firm control of his own fate, or so he thought. He finished 21st at Fontana and 30th at Richmond, allowing McMurray and Newman to battle over the final Chase spot.
McMurray -- who had been as high as seventh in the standings as of July -- was running 12th in the race and running out of time when he collided with Tony Raines following a late-race restart and wound up getting spun into the backstretch infield wall, ending his night -- and his Chase chances.
Busch had his Chase hopes dashed in 2009 despite a fifth-place finish at Richmond. After terrible runs at Chicagoland and Indianapolis, Busch had dropped from eighth to 14th in the standings. However, he won at Bristol and was just 34 points behind Matt Kenseth with two races remaining.
But both drivers didn't count on Brian Vickers to put together back-to-back seventh-place finishes at Fontana and Richmond, allowing Vickers to leapfrog both Busch and Kenseth for the final position in that season's Chase.
Most recently, Clint Bowyer has tasted both the sweet success and bitter disappointment. In 2010, he put together back-to-back fourth-place finishes at Chicagoland and Indy to move into the top 12, and held a comfortable 117-point lead over Newman heading into Richmond.
While Newman gave chase all evening, Bowyer finished sixth to sew up the final Chase berth.
However, things would go the other way for Bowyer in 2011. He was 11th in the points after Michigan, but finishes of 26th at Bristol, 36th at Atlanta and 22nd at Richmond doomed his Chase chances.
Instead, the final spot came down to a battle between Denny Hamlin and A.J. Allmendinger, with Hamlin running two positions better than Allmendinger at the finish.
- Kasey Kahne
- Richmond International Raceway
- Kyle Busch