Denny Hamlin became the season’s first four-time winner in Atlanta and holds the provisional top Chase seeding with 12 bonus points. Hamlin, teammate Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing have won six of the past seven races at Richmond International Raceway. Busch won at the 0.75-mile track in April.
RIR NSCS Practice 04/27/12 MWR No 55 and 15 Photo credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
Congratulations to Michael Waltrip Racing as they will have a presence in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time as Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer were among six drivers clinching berths in the post season Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Truex made the Chase just once, in 2007, while Bowyer’s last of three previous appearances was in 2010. MWR became one of Toyota’s charter teams in 2007.
Below are the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup clinch scenarios for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the final race before the Chase field is set.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson – the only driver with all nine Chase appearances – qualified for NASCAR’s second season the previous weekend in Bristol.
Nine drivers have clinched top-10 spots in the Chase:
Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick. Tony Stewart, currently 10th, has clinched at least a Wild Card spot.
TONY STEWART: Needs a top-10 position with a finish of 14th or better, 15th and at least one lap led or 16th and the most laps led to clinch in the Chase.
KASEY KAHNE: A win would clinch a Chase berth. If Stewart stays in the top 10, Kahne clinches a Chase spot. If Stewart falls out of the top 10, Kahne will clinch a spot if a one-win driver outside the top 10 does not win. If Kyle Busch replaces Stewart in the top 10, and Jeff Gordon wins, Kahne clinches a spot by finishing 13th or better, 14th with at least one lap led or 15th with the most laps led.
If one of those one-win drivers wins at Richmond AND Stewart remains in the top 10 (or Kasey Kahne removes Stewart in the top 10), that one-win driver would have two wins, and clinch a Chase spot.
The following scenarios are if a one-win driver DOES NOT win at Richmond…
KYLE BUSCH: If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Busch will clinch a Chase spot by losing 12 or fewer points to Jeff Gordon AND by losing 40 or fewer points to Marcos Ambrose. A win would guarantee Busch a Chase berth.
JEFF GORDON: If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne replaces Stewart in the top 10, Gordon will clinch by finishing 13 points ahead of Buschat Richmond AND by losing 28 or fewer points to Ambrose AND by losing 37 or fewer points to Ryan Newman. If Busch supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon would clinch a Chase berth with a win AND finishing 18 points ahead of Kahne at Richmond.
MARCOS AMBROSE: If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Ambrose will clinch by finishing 41 points ahead of Busch AND 29 points ahead of Gordon.
RYAN NEWMAN & JOEY LOGANO: Newman and Logano can only clinch a Chase berth with a win. If either Busch or Gordon removes Stewart in the top 10, Newman/Logano will be eliminated.
Two winless drivers outside the top 10 can clinch: Carl Edwards and Paul Menard.
CARL EDWARDS: Edwards needs to win (47-point win) AND Busch has to finish 24th or worse (with no laps led) at Richmond AND Gordon has to finish 12th or worse at Richmond. If Busch or Gordon supplant Tony Stewart in the top 10, Edwards will be eliminated. Back in April, Carl Edwards led 206 laps and finished 10th, his hopes for victory pulled away by a restart penalty.
PAUL MENARD: Menard needs to win (47-point win) AND Kyle Busch has to finish 34th or worse (with no laps led) AND Gordon has to finish 22nd or worst (with no laps led) at Richmond. If Busch or Gordon supplant Tony Stewart in the top 10, Menard will be eliminated.
Four drivers in the history of the Chase have come from outside for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cut-off to make the Chase at Richmond:
o Jeremy Mayfield in 2004 made up a 55-point deficit
o Ryan Newman in 2005 made up a one-point deficit
o Kasey Kahne in 2006 made up a 30-point deficit
o Brian Vickers in 2009 made up a 20-point deficit
The points will reset for the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup next week, Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Each of the 12 qualifiers begins the 10-race competition with 2,000 points. The top-10 qualifiers then are awarded three bonus points for each victory.
The two Wild Card qualifiers receive no bonus points regardless of how many times they have won during the regular season.
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