This year's race to the Chase has been a relative snoozer, but given that the Chase itself looks to be incredibly wide-open, isn't that more than a fair trade-off?
Points leader Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon have already clinched their spots in the Chase, so if they were so inclined, they could skip Atlanta and Richmond and show up at New Hampshire refreshed and ready to go. And if all goes well for the nine drivers behind them in the standings, they could join Harvick and Gordon relaxing on Lake Norman for the Richmond race, no matter what the rest of the field does.*
Here are the scenarios for those nine drivers, and it's safe to say that Kyle Busch will clinch by Lap 40.
Kyle Busch: Busch needs to finish 40th or better if he doesn't lead a lap, 42nd if he leads one lap, or 43rd if he leads the most laps. Easy.
Carl Edwards: Here's where it gets close. Edwards needs to finish 21st if he doesn't lead a lap, 23rd if he leads one and 25th if he leads the most. Very doable given his Atlanta history.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin needs to finish 20th with no laps led, 22nd with one lap led, or 23rd with the most of the laps led.
Tony Stewart: A 19th-place finish with no laps led clinches it for Smoke, while 21st with one lap led or 23rd with the most laps led gets the job done, too.
Jeff Burton: Burton needs to finish 17th if he doesn't get to the front, 19th if he leads a single lap, or 21st if he leads the most.
Matt Kenseth: Kenseth needs a top 15 if he doesn't lead a lap, 17th if he leads one, or 19th if he leads the most.
Jimmie Johnson: Vader's got to get a top 10 without a lap led if he wants to clinch at Atlanta, 11th with a lap led, or 13th with the most laps led.
Kurt Busch: Busch's scenario is nice and orderly: 9th if he doesn't lead a lap, 10th with a lap led, and 11th with the most laps led.
Greg Biffle: Biffle's is the most farfetched of any of the possible clinchers, but given the way that he's been running on the bigger tracks lately, it's feasible. Biffle needs to finish 4th with no laps led, 5th with a lap led and 7th with the most laps led.
There's no scenario for Clint Bowyer to clinch by himself at Atlanta, but it's also possible that Bowyer could lock into the field. Bowyer leads 13th place Jamie McMurray by 100 points, and if Bowyer can gain 96 points on McMurray and 95 points on Mark Martin, he's in the 2010 Chase without having to worry at Richmond.
*No, no one will be even thinking of skipping the Richmond race.