We know that two of NASCAR's biggest names won't be part of the 12 man Chase for the Sprint Cup Series field, and we'll find out which two Saturday night at Richmond.
Eight drivers are mathematically alive for the two Wild Card spots, but the most realistic opportunities belong to Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne. How realistic? Well, here are the clinching scenarios for each driver. (Note: Tony Stewart in 10th is guaranteed a place in the Chase, either via the top 10 or a Wild Card berth. His performance on Saturday could impact the Wild Card race significantly.
Kasey Kahne (11th, -18 points behind 10th, 2 wins): As the only driver outside the top 10 with two wins, Kahne's got the easiest path to the Chase. No matter what, if another of the seven drivers eligible for the Wild Card doesn't win, he's in the Chase. If he gains 19 points on Stewart, he's in the top 10 and in the Chase. If Busch gets into the top 10 (knocking Stewart into a Wild Card spot) and Gordon wins -- the ultimate worst case scenario for Kahne -- he needs to finish 13th with no laps led to stay ahead of Gordon.
Kyle Busch (12th, -23 points, 1 win): Win and Busch is in. If he doesn't, he's got a 12 point cushion on Gordon and a 40 point cushion on Ambrose. If neither of those two (and the other five drivers) win and Busch maintains those leads, he's in. And he's also in if he gets past both Kahne and Stewart into the top 10. As Jay pointed out on Sunday night, Busch's Richmond stats are damn good.
Jeff Gordon (13th, -35 points, 1 win): Win and Gordon is in. But here's where things start to get tricky if none of the one-win drivers win.. Assuming Busch doesn't get in the top 10, Gordon needs to make up those 12 points on Busch while keeping his 28 point margin on Ambrose and his 37 point lead on Newman. If Busch does get into the top 10, part of that worst case scenario for Kahne above, Gordon has to win and overcome his 17 point deficit to Kahne.
Carl Edwards (14th, -49 points, o wins): Carl's chances of sneaking into the top 10 went up in smoke with his engine on Sunday night, and it's a dastardly situation for Edwards. If he wins, Busch can finish no better than 24th with no laps led while Gordon finishes no better than 12th with no laps led. Yikes.
Paul Menard (15th, -59 points, 0 wins): This may sting for all the Menard-dogs out there, but the only reason he's in this column is because he's technically still mathematically alive for a Chase spot. And while we can never say never, that math is kind of like Calculus II. If Menard wins, Busch has to finish 34th or worse with no laps led while Gordon finishes 22nd or worse with no laps led. If Menard pulls this off, it'll replace the Channel 2 incident as his most memorable Richmond moment.
Marcos Ambrose (16th, -63 points, 1 win): If Ambrose doesn't win and automatically clinch, the probabilities aren't in his favor, as he's got to beat Busch by 41 points and 29 ahead of Gordon. So that's a second place finish for Ambrose, a last place finish for Busch and a 31st place finish for Gordon. If Menard's was Calc II, this is Quantum Physics.
Ryan Newman (17th, -72 points, 1 win) and Joey Logano (18th, -105 points, 1 win): This math is simple; Newman and Logano are in with a win. Otherwise, they're out.
So, who you got? Will we see a scenario like Jeremy Mayfield in 2004? Or will the standings look like they do right now?