Weekend Preview: Time is running out for Kahne and Biffle to make Chase

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 5, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, VA – SEPTEMBER 05: Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 5, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

In basketball terms, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle must hit a buzzer beater to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

With just two races remaining in the regular season, Kahne (-37 points) and Biffle (-83 points) are virtually too far below the points cutoff line to get into NASCAR’s playoffs without a victory.

The two veteran drivers will get the first of their final two chances to take a checkered flag in Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (7 p.m. ET on NBC).

Kahne is no stranger to the pressure of his current “win or go home” situation. Winless heading into Atlanta on Labor Day weekend last season, he piloted his car to Victory Lane in a last-ditch effort to secure a spot in the Chase.

Kahne has never won at Darlington, but does lead active drivers there with four poles and ranks fourth in laps led in the past 10 races at the South Carolina track (327).

“It would mean a ton to win the Southern 500,” Kahne said. “It’s always been one of the races that I’ve wanted to win. We’ve come close but haven’t been able to do it, so to do it in this car that time of the year right before the Chase would be a perfect time.”

Biffle has struggled this season with just two top-five and three top-10 finishes in 24 starts, but he has been successful at Darlington throughout his career. The Roush Fenway Racing driver boasts two wins at the track “Too Tough to Tame” and leads all drivers in laps led there over the last 10 races (637).

Greg Biffle stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 14, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Greg Biffle stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 14, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

“Darlington is a fun place. It’s one of the toughest places that we race,” said Biffle of the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval. “Driving into the corner at 190-plus MPH and sliding up about three or four inches from the fence, or at least you hope that’s where it stops sliding and riding the fence all the way around. It’s a demanding, tough, fast race track and I look forward to going back there with the new package and tires. I’m pretty excited about it.”

 

Elliott eyes repeat win at Darlington

Egg-shaped with long straightaways and short quick turns, Darlington Raceway eats up and spits out even the most experienced drivers.

No one told Chase Elliott that last year.

DARLINGTON, SC - APRIL 11:  Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

DARLINGTON, SC – APRIL 11: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

The then 18-year-old driver made a mad dash from sixth with two laps remaining to visit Victory Lane in his first-ever start at the track “Too Tough To Tame.” That day, Elliott defeated NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stalwarts Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

“Darlington is a special place for me and my family and last season was an unbelievable feeling,” said Elliott whose father, Bill Elliott, won five times at Darlington in his Hall of Fame career. “Words cannot describe what it meant to me.”

Elliott gets the chance to defend last season’s Darlington win on national television in Saturday’s VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200 (3:30 p.m. on NBC). In the process, he will also attempt to close the 16-point gap that separates him from leader Chris Buescher in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings as he tries to earn his second straight series championship.

Championship points and wins aren’t the only items on the line for Elliott. If he finishes higher than Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon and Brian Scott, he’ll win an extra $100,000 as part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program. The No. 9 JR Motorsports driver has shown good form down the summer stretch with top-10 finishes in his last seven starts.

“I want to make the most of the opportunity this weekend and try and continue to gain in the championship point column,” Elliott said. “It’s definitely cool going for $100,000 too in the (NASCAR) XFINITY (Series) Dash 4 Cash program.”

NASCAR Race Weekend Guide

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Bojangles’ Southern 500

Track: Darlington Raceway

Date and Time: Sunday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBC, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90

Distance: 501.3 miles (367 laps)

What to Watch For: Jeff Gordon – NASCAR’s active wins leader at Darlington with seven victories – makes his final start at the South Carolina track. … 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick tries to defend his 2014 victory at Darlington. … Chase Elliott makes his fifth and final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of 2015 as he prepares to take over for Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 car next year. … Winless drivers have only two more chances to visit Victory Lane to earn an automatic berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. … Drivers will sport retro paint schemes on their cars as part of Darlington’s “throwback” weekend.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Race: VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200

Track: Darlington Raceway

Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBC, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90

Distance: 200.8 miles (147 laps)

What to Watch For: Ty Dillon, Brian Scott, Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez will compete for the $100,000 bonus in the final round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash. … Chase Elliott tries to defend his 2014 Darlington win. … Chris Buescher (standings leader), Chase Elliott (-16 points) and Ty Dillon (-19 points) continue their race to the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.

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