You can’t win if you’re not in
Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET ABC, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio) is the final opportunity to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™.
Six competitors – Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth – have claimed top-10 berths.
Seventh-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. faces the least pressure among non-qualifiers, needing only a finish of 32nd or better in the 400-lap race to enter the postseason. Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch complete the provisional top 10 – 16, 14 and six points ahead of 11th-place Jeff Gordon.
Logano and Biffle each have a single victory giving them some Chase insurance as potential Wild Cards.
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Busch and Gordon, however, both are without victories. Two-time winner Kasey Kahne (12th) and Martin Truex Jr. (13th) hold the provisional Wild Cards.
Gordon is familiar with this year’s circumstances.
In 2012, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion entered Richmond battling Kyle Busch for the final Wild Card berth. He prevailed by three points by finishing second.
“Winning is our goal. It’s what we want to do every weekend,” said Gordon, who would overhaul Kurt Busch for 10th-place by visiting Richmond’s Victory Lane for the first time since 2000. He has two wins overall at the 0.75-mile short track and finished 11th when the series visited the Virginia track earlier this year. His 1,415 laps led rank first among active drivers.
Gordon was among drivers who tested at Richmond recently.
“We were much better the second day of the test, but we still have a weekend full of hard work ahead of us,” said Gordon.
Gordon is among five drivers who have clinched Chase berths on the final night of the regular season. Ryan Newman’s sixth-place finish in 2005 is the best among the “last in” drivers. Brian Vickers (2009), Kasey Kahne (2006) and Jeremy Mayfield (2004) also were final-race qualifiers.