Wonderful Pistachios 400
Who Will Win?
Kyle Busch: At some tracks, betting on Busch is like printing money, and Richmond is one of those tracks. Certainly he doesn't have anything to prove, and he's already locked up at least a share of the Chase points lead. But after two weak runs, he'd love to go into the Chase reminding people that he's every bit as likely a Chase candidate as Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. – Jay Busbee
Denny Hamlin: How about entering the Chase with a statement? Hamlin will return to his dominating Richmond ways and make his entry into the Chase doubtless. Sure, it's a bit of a cop-out pick, but why mess with success? – Nick Bromberg
Jimmie Johnson: For those who think the five-time defending champ isn't primed for No. 6, take a look at the standings. Yeah, that's him sitting at No. 1. He's not known for his success at Richmond, but looky there, he's won three times – just as many as Kyle Busch. Yeah, Johnson will sneak in for the win, then sneak into the Chase as the favorite to win there, too. – Jay Hart
Chase clinch scenarios:
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. … is in if he finishes 20th or better.
• Tony Stewart … is in if he finishes 18th or better.
• Denny Hamlin … is in if he wins or stays ahead of every other one-time winner.
• Paul Menard … is in if he wins.
• Marcos Ambrose … is in if he wins and climbs into the top 20 in points.
• AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne … are in if they win and move ahead of Hamlin in the standings.
Top story line
• Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. make the Chase? It's kind of a big deal because, you know, of his whole popularity thing. Even if he's not a championship contender, just having him in the mix means there's a chance, and that will be enough to keep Junior Nation captivated for at least a little while. He only needs to finish 20th at Richmond to get in. You can bet there be plenty of scoreboard watching. – Jay Hart
• Bromberg: Will Richmond be a bit of a letdown now that the Chase field is basically set? Sure, there's an outside chance for a surprise or two, but for the most part, Atlanta sealed everyone's fate. Would Saturday's race be better if Clint Bowyer hadn't made contact with Juan Pablo Montoya or if David Ragan wouldn't have blown an engine? We'll never know. – Nick Bromberg
• Denny Hamlin is a pale purple-and-black shadow of the driver who nearly won the Chase last year. Sure, we could speculate on reasons why, but the beauty of the Chase is that just like when you're losing a video game, everyone gets to kick the reset button. If Hamlin's going to have a prayer of equaling last year's accomplishments, it'll start right here at his hometown track. And if he struggles here, it could be a long 10 weeks till the offseason. – Jay Busbee
From The Source
Clint Bowyer: "It sounds like we are going to have to win next week to make the Chase for [the NASCAR Sprint Cup] and we run well in Richmond. We had a top-10 car this weekend and I expect us to have one in Richmond. This team isn't going down without a fight."
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