Weekend preview: Bowyer heads to Richmond in Chase limbo

 

Clint Bowyer (Getty Images)

Clint Bowyer (Getty Images)

With one race to go until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Clint Bowyer finds himself in limbo when it comes to qualifying for NASCAR’s 10-event, 16-driver playoff.

At the moment, he’s in the Chase as the 16th and final driver based on points. That could change in a hurry if there’s a new winner from outside the Chase Grid in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). In that case, Bowyer would have to erase a 10-point deficit to Paul Menard or an 18-point deficit to Jeff Gordon.

The No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing driver didn’t seem too worried about his Chase chances after a 17th-place finish at Darlington, but did note a berth isn’t guaranteed.

“I think we’re still in good shape,” Bowyer said. “You’re never good until you’re in, but we did the best we could.”

Fortunately for Bowyer, there hasn’t been a new winner since Kyle Busch took the checkered flag in the June 28 race at Sonoma. If there is a repeat winner on Saturday, Bowyer just has to maintain his 29-point lead over Aric Almirola and 31-point edge over Kasey Kahne, respectively,  to make his sixth career Chase.

Or Bowyer could simply control his own destiny by winning outright at the .75-mile track where he’s taken two checkered flags (2012, 2008).

“Richmond is one of those tracks that I’ve always had a lot of confidence in,” Bowyer said. “She’s been good to me. We’ve gone there and raced our way in there before and we’ve gone there and been locked in and won the thing on a fuel mileage deal.

“It’s a fun race track, challenging. The second time around when the money’s on the line, if you are on that bubble in the Chase, it’s a pressure cooker for sure and pretty intense.”

Scott prepares for 200th career start at top track

Brian Scott knows what it feels like to come up just short.

In 199 career NASCAR XFINITY Series starts, Scott has finished second four times, and third six times, but he’s never won a race.

Brian Scott (Getty Images)

Brian Scott (Getty Images)

The No. 2 Richard Childress Racing driver will try to make his first visit to Victory Lane when he makes his 200th career start in Friday’s Virginia529 College Saving 250 at Richmond International Raceway – arguably his best track on the circuit.

“It’s just a number to me,” Scott said about making his 200th start “It is cool. I guess that means I have been around the sport for a while. It’s great and hopefully it will transfer into a good finish.”

Scott has had nothing but good finishes at RIR recently. He has placed no lower than seventh in his last four Richmond starts. In 12 career races at Richmond, Scott claims three top fives, four top 10s and two Coors Light Pole Awards.

“I guess as much as a track can owe a driver a victory, Richmond does,” Scott said.

In the 2013 fall race at Richmond, Scott led a career-high 239 of 250 laps, finishing second.

“Each time you go back it’s a reset,” Scott said. “You don’t get to build off of a dominating performance the year before. Every time we go there we have to be as prepared and as ready to go out there and race and beat all of the competitors just like we did that one year. It feels like it’s a place that we normally have our hands around pretty well and we go out and always seem to qualify well. It’s been a good race track.

“I hope it owes me one. I hope in the world of owing people things, it all works out. But you have to be as prepared and work even harder if you want to stay dominant at a race track.”

NASCAR Race Weekend Guide
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Race: Federated Auto Parts 400
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 300 miles (400 laps)
What to Watch For: Winless drivers have one last shot at visiting Victory Lane to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Notable competitors who essentially need a checkered flag to make NASCAR’s 10-race, 16-driver postseason include Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson. … Jamie McMurray will make his first Chase in 13 full-time seasons simply by starting Saturday night’s race. … Seven different drivers have won the last seven Richmond races. … Jeffrey Earnhardt – the grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and son of former driver Kerry Earnhardt – makes his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this weekend.

NASCAR XFINITY Series
Race: Virginia529 College Savings 250
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Date and Time: Friday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 187.5 miles (250 laps)
What to Watch For: Chris Buescher attempts to extend his 29-point standings lead over Ty Dillon. … Virginians Elliott Sadler and Eric McClure go for their first series win in their home state.  … Daniel Suarez tries to build momentum off his third-place Darlington finish and extend his Sunoco Rookie of the Year lead. … Two-time series winner Erik Jones takes the wheel of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

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