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Chase for the Championship: Wild cards to be set Saturday night in Richmond

Tonight's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway will set the field for NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Championship. The drivers in spots 1-10 in points have already clinched their playoff spots, so only the two wild cards remain. The two drivers ranked 11-20 with the most wins get those spots; in case of a tie the driver with the most points gets in. Here's how the contenders stack up:

Kasey Kahne 11th place, 751 points, two wins

The skinny: For Kahne not to make it in his Hendrick Motorsports debut, someone (probably Kyle Busch) would have to pass Tony Stewart for 10th in points without winning, knocking Stewart and his three wins into a wild card, then someone with one win would have to win tonight and pass Kahne in points.

The odds: If Kahne doesn't faint during driver introductions, he'll make it. 97 percent

Kyle Busch 12th, 746 points, one win

The skinny: It's odd for him to only have one victory — he has had at least three in each of the past four seasons. The good news for the Wild Thing is that his lone win came at Richmond in April, and his 12 top-fives and 13 top-10s there are his best numbers for any track.

The odds: Four drivers could ace him out by winning tonight. But Busch is the most likely of the bunch to go to Victory Lane. 70 percent

Jeff Gordon 13th, 734 points, one win

The skinny: The four-time champion has not looked like a serious title contender for much of the year. If it weren't for a rain-shortened win at Pocono, his chances would be even worse. As it is, he needs his first Richmond win since 2000 or misfortune for Kyle Busch.

The odds: If he makes it, Hendrick gets all four cars in. But he'll need the kind of break he hasn't had all year. 20 percent

Carl Edwards 14th, 720 points, zero wins

The skinny: He had nine wins in his breakout season of 2008 but only three since. Even last year when he lost the title on a tiebreaker, he only won once. Now he faces an absolute must-win and needs help (mainly a malfunction for Kyle Busch).

The odds: With just two top-fives this year, the No. 99 Ford just doesn't have what it takes in 2012. 5 percent

Paul Menard 15th, 710 points, zero wins

The skinny: He has made steady progress, and if he stays where he is, he would achieve a career high in points. But making the Chase would require a win plus problems for a few drivers in front of him; Kyle Busch would have to have a really early DNF.

The odds: Put it this way: None of his Richard Childress teammates have won this year either. 2 percent

The field

Drivers: Marcos Ambrose (16th, 706 points), Ryan Newman (17th, 697), Joey Logano (18th, 664)

The skinny: Any would make the playoffs with a win, vaulting past Kyle Busch despite a lower points finish and setting off BCS-level grousing about the Chase format. Newman's the only one with a Richmond win, but that was back in 2003.

The odds: NASCAR can probably relax and avoid debate. At least for a week. 2 percent each


Sprint Cup points

Through 25 of 36 races. The top 10 plus two wild cards (based on wins) through tonight's race qualify for the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Greg Biffle# 879—

D. Earnhardt Jr.# 871 8

Matt Kenseth# 858 21

J. Johnson# 848 31

Martin Truex# 838 41

B. Keselowski# 831 48

Denny Hamlin# 822 57

Clint Bowyer# 811 68

Kevin Harvick# 807 72

Tony Stewart# 769 110

Kasey Kahne* 751 128

Kyle Busch* 746 133

Jeff Gordon 734 145

Carl Edwards 720 159

Paul Menard 710 169

* current wild-card holders

# clinched Chase spot


Federated Auto Parts 400, 7:30 p.m., Richmond International Raceway TV: ESPN

Chase for the Championship: Wild cards to be set Saturday night in Richmond 09/07/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 7, 2012 9:39pm]
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