Currently, 13 drivers have won a race this season, 12 of which have clinched their spot in the Chase. Chris Buescher won at Pocono, but still needs to clinch a top 30 points spot at Richmond to official lock himself into a playoff position. The final three drivers – Chase Elliott (+39), Austin Dillon (+31) and Jamie McMurray (+22) – have hefty points leads over Ryan Newman, who sits on the cutoff line as the last competitor out of the 16-competitor contest. While Newman can still qualify for the Chase on points with a little luck (or a victory), all the drivers behind him must win Sunday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and be in the top 30 in points to secure a playoff berth. The list of drivers behind Newman who must triumph includes notables: Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick.
Newman (2003), Kahne (2005) and Bowyer (2008, 2012) are the only currently winless drivers who have won at Richmond in the past.
“I’ve always liked Richmond. I have been able to win here in the past and I look forward to the challenge,” Kahne said. “I think you can bring a lot back from the day race (in April), but the bigger thing is the cars have changed since then. Even though it will be the same package, the teams have built better cars. We were really competitive in the first race, and I think we’ll bring back a similar setup, but a better car, and work from there in practice.”
Newman, who finished eighth last week at Darlington, but was penalized 15 points after failing post-race inspection, enjoys racing at Richmond where he owns an 11.7 career average finish.
“Richmond is one of the best, if not arguably, the best short track we go to just because you fight a little bit of everything,” Newman said. “You have two different shaped corners, D-shaped tri-oval. There is a lot of braking and acceleration. Forward drive is usually at a premium. It’s just that typical short track but it’s the right size that fits our race car. It’s a lot of fun.”
Bowyer has struggled this season, which could be his first full-time campaign without a top-five finish. Still, anything can happen at a short track, especially one like Richmond where Bowyer has had success.
“Richmond is a fun, yet challenging, little racetrack,” Bowyer said. “As long as you can figure out the balance between the different corners and find speed in your car, you’ve got a shot at taking the checkered (flag) there.”