April 22, 2018

Five drivers most likely to steal a playoff spot at Richmond

11 September 2017, 12:11 | Ken Black

Instead of making the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, he returns to Richmond for the regular-season finale on the wrong side of the cut line facing a situation where anything less than winning the Federated Auto Parts 400 (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) results in him failing to qualify.

As Matt Kenseth didn't get a second radiator, Earnhardt will not get another shot at a NASCAR Cup Series championship.

"The silent auction will include original pieces of race memorabilia from Team Penske, Richmond Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush-Fenway Racing, Furniture Row Racing and other NASCAR teams with proceeds donated to the American Red Cross", said Richmond Raceway in a press release.

Still, a 13th-place finish wasn't what Earnhardt needed to make the playoffs. While his answer was short, it spoke volumes. This is a challenging position, but the team is ready to fight and do whatever we have to do.

The playoffs were created to generate interest during the football season.

NASCAR has declared the Southern 500 race winning vehicle driven by Denny Hamlin as encumbered due to an illegal rear suspension setup.As a result, Hamlin gets to keep the victory but will not be allowed. In the process, it created some unexpected winners that locked up automatic spots in the Chase like Austin Dillon at Charlotte, Kasey Kahne at Indianapolis, Ryan Newman at Phoenix, and Ricky Stenhouse Talladega and Daytona.

As is always the case, the Richmond race will be pressure packed for a select few drivers and teams.

And none of those names are bigger than Earnhardt, the sport's most popular driver for the past 13 years. But Richmond is one of those places where we can carry some speed. "Do I think we are there right now?"

It also comes with his future uncertain. Am I satisfied? No. "I am proud of the team and the way we have handled these situations". "We haven't had to fight to get in the playoffs in a long time".

Bowyer's hopes to sneak in on points went up in smoke - literally - Sunday when his engine blew up after just 18 laps.

Most years, Logano would stand a reasonable chance to come through in a must-win scenario. When I look at those things I feel confident this is a race track that if we do everything right - and it won't be easy by any means - we can win. Track: Richmond Raceway (oval, 0.75 miles). We just didn't capitalize.

What also works against numerous non-winners is Toyota's late-season surge.

Denny Hamlin will start on the outside of the front row after a top speed of 122.277 miles per hour, with Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson in the second row. After starting the season with a flourish, posting eight finishes of sixth or better in the opening nine races - including the Richmond win - he's had only three top 10s in the 16 races that followed. Jones has had an incredibly quiet and consistent season for a rookie.

Hamlin expects Elliott, Kenseth and McMurray to run close together on Saturday night.

"Well, you are never comfortable", Elliott said.

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