Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sprint Cup might let loose at Richmond with Chase for the Championship nearly set

The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is all but set entering tonight's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.

But that does not mean the regular-season finale will be devoid of excitement.

On the contrary. Some are saying that the Air Guard 400 might be more exciting because the locked-in bunch will be bigger and hungrier and, hence, less prone to be conservative than in some years past.

"When you clinch," driver Jeff Burton said, "you get to go to Richmond and be in the shape to run really hard. We are going to run it really hard. We are going to kick it off this weekend in Richmond and just bring everything we have. There's no more protecting now."

When the green flag drops, all but two of the top-12 drivers in points will be locked into the 10-race, season-ending Chase.

And Greg Biffle is virtually in — all he has to do is finish 42nd in a 43-car field, or lead one lap.

So really, only 12th place is up for grabs. That position also will be tough to pry away from its owner as Clint Bowyer has a 117-point lead over 13th-place Ryan Newman. Jamie McMurray (14th) and Mark Martin (15th) remain mathematically alive, but barely.

All Bowyer needs to do to earn the third Chase berth of his career is finish 28th or better; finish 29th or better and lead a lap; or finish 31st or better and lead the most laps.

"Man, I'll tell you, with a 117-point lead, that's a pretty good pad," Bowyer, who is starting fourth, said Friday.

So he wasn't very worried, and he refused to dwell on potential pratfalls that could derail his season.

"Anything can happen at any time. You can get run over crossing the street," Bowyer said.

It all adds up to the fact that nearly every driver will have zero pressure and should be more willing to take some chances in pursuit of victory. Especially late in the race.

"If you get down to the top four guys," Biffle said of late-race action, "and let's say they're Chase guys, then they're foaming at the mouth."

The impetus to run hard and win — aside from always wanting to win — is the 10 bonus points given for each victory to start the Chase.

Bonus points are gold going into the Chase, and drivers have been known to do some pretty crazy things to acquire that gold.

"Our goal is to try and do what we can to win and get those 10 extra bonus points," said Tony Stewart, a winner last week at Atlanta. "That's our focus. It's all or nothing for us."

Then, of course, there will be that large group of drivers racing like crazy because their Chase dreams faded to black long ago.

"For many (Chase) teams it'll be a situation of absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain in the Richmond race, and it certainly has all aspects that could lead up to a really wild battle there (tonight)," Kurt Busch said.

"For all the other teams, about 25 or more of them, it's a case of trying to get all the glory they can."

Sounds pretty darn exciting.

Edwards starting on pole

Carl Edwards earned the pole for tonight's race with a lap of 127.762 mph, edging Juan Montoya (127.455) The pole is the sixth of Edwards' career and his second this season. David Reutimann of Zephyrhills will line up fifth (127.017 mph).

. fast facts

Sprint Cup points

Through 25 of 36 races. The top 12 drivers through 26 races make the Chase for the Championship (top 10 have clinched).

Driver Pts. Back

Kevin Harvick 3,585—

Jeff Gordon 3,366 219

Kyle Busch 3,325 260

Tony Stewart 3,302 283

Carl Edwards 3,288 297

Jeff Burton 3,261 324

Jimmie Johnson 3,247 338

Kurt Busch 3,228 357

Matt Kenseth 3,225 360

Denny Hamlin 3,147 438

Greg Biffle 3,110 475

Clint Bowyer 3,066 519

Ryan Newman 2,949 636

Jamie McMurray 2,938 647

Mark Martin 2,919 666

Tonight's race

Air Guard 400, 7:30, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway TV: Ch. 28

Sprint Cup might let loose at Richmond with Chase for the Championship nearly set 09/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 9:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New Bucs player murals go up at Raymond James Stadium


    Each summer, it's a sign that training camp is soon to arrive at One Buc Place: the changing of the huge player murals on each corner of Raymond James Stadium.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has a corner mural at Raymond James Stadium for a third year in a row.
  2. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Jordan Spieth, right, comes from one back of Matt Kuchar, left, after 13, going birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par to win by 3.
  3. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  4. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  5. Rays journal: Rays gamble on Sergio Romo's track record, heart

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Some of RHP Sergio Romo's numbers this season with the Dodgers were the worst of his career, yet the Rays feel he can be a good fit for their bullpen.

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26:  Sergio Romo #54 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the 9th inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on June 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)