Hamlin Finally Wins a Pole; Will Start First at Richmond

Unless he wins at Richmond, Newman would need to finish at least 22 places ahead of McMurray to make the Chase, instead of a more manageable seven points. I'll have a preview of that race next week with my pick of who will win the championship. After Sunday's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond, it will be on to Chicagoland with the top 16 drivers racing for a title. After scoring a top 5 in the April race, Kahne will need a few more spots this time around to truly make a difference. If Buescher fails to finish in the top 30 in the points standings and there is not a surprise victor on Saturday, he would be replaced by Newman on the Chase Grid and all this math can be thrown out the window. Team strategy meetings include a mix of keeping smart to avoid race-ending wrecks and staying aggressive for a win or top finish to lock up a playoff spot. I've got a lot of memories, wins, close races and fun times.

With just one event - Richmond International Raceway - to decide which drivers transfer into the playoffs - who has the best shot of moving on afterSaturday night?

Even drivers who have already qualified for the Chase admitted they are following the intrigue over the cutoff for 16th with interest. Josh Wise ($4,700) has consistently finished in the bottom third of most races this season, posting zero Top 10s with an Average Fantasy Point total of 14.3 per race. "We wish [Earnhardt] the best, and hopefully he'll be back racing soon". Honestly, until people bring it up and ask me about it, I really just don't think about it.

One driver looking to capitalize should Kevin Harvick falter is Kyle Busch, the best driver statistically at Richmond. If there's a repeat victor AND Buescher falls out of the top 30 in points, McMurray is playoff-bound regardless of his finish. Fast facts: Matt Tifft ran his first test laps this week since undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor in early July. "Being in the Chase is a big deal". Kasey Kahne 8. Austin Dillon 9. It's not the first time he's gone into the Chase with these kinds of concerns, however.

These men and women can not count on points and have no mathematical chance of Chase contention with a second-place result. "The vehicle is better than normal in practice, and this has been a pretty good track for me". But most of the rest of the season has been filled with poor showings for the driver who has yet to lead a lap this season. We ran good at Darlington with a different rules package, and we've run good at a short track.

"I didn't want to retire, and I don't want to retire", he said. Go out here and try to have a good run at Richmond.

Hamlin hasn't won a Cup race at RIR since 2010, but, after five consecutive clunkers, he has back-to-back sixth-place finishes there so he seems to have righted the ship. Sadler has 12 wins in the series and finished second in points in 2011 and '12. After getting off to a rocky start in the regular season, Matt Kenseth and the #20 team will look to start the Chase off better and repeat last year's winning performance at Richmond on Saturday night in the Federated Auto Parts 400. The Chase field will be set following this Saturday's race at Richmond.

Clearly, Elliott shares one hope with the four other drivers he's battling for a Chase berth on points (Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne), namely that there's no new victor at Richmond - unless, of course, they happen to be that new victor.

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