There’s one more chance. One more chance for drivers to win and make the field for this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Eight drivers have clinched a spot for this year’s Chase, but several others have a great opportunity to make the field. The attention will be on those drivers needing to finish well to make the Chase and where they are during the race. There will still be a race winner however and history shows that the winner will most likely be a driver who has already clinched a Chase berth.
The racing will still be ramped up back in the field, but look for a winner to be a familiar face.
“The second Richmond race each year is especially intense just because you know that there’s a lot on the line,” Kevin Harvick, who has clinched a spot said. “There are a lot of people racing for different things. It’s the end of our regular season. If you’re not in the Chase, it’s your last chance to win a race. There are some guys who will probably be fighting for points spots as you go in there, but Richmond is kind of your perfect short track. It has good speed, a short-track feel to it, and the tires wear out. That’s kind of what we all grew up racing on. It’s got a little bit of everything and that makes it a fun place to race.”
Here are my favorites for Sunday’s 26th race of the year for your betting or fantasy racing leagues. Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2016 races (23 total) among active drivers at Richmond International Raceway. The Driver Rating is a number based on a formula developed by NASCAR which combines “loop data” elements such as average running position, average speed under green, number of fastest laps, and other stats. There is a maximum of 150 points that a driver can earn for each race. The odds are current as of Wednesday.
Kevin Harvick (5-1), is in the Chase and is a three time winner at Richmond the last coming in 2013. He has the second highest driver rating in the field, 110.6 and is looking to make a strong statement after a heartbreaking second place finish at Darlington last week. He was fifth here in the spring and led 63 laps.
Kyle Busch (6-1) is another driver who will be in this year’s Chase. He leads all active drivers with 4 Richmond wins and has the highest driver rating in the field 111.1. Busch has been struggling lately, but Richmond could be the place he turns it all around. He was second in this race last year, and second here in the spring after leading 78 laps.
Matt Kenseth (8-1) who is among those locked into the Chase, is the defending winner of this race. He has the 12-best driver rating in the field, 89.2, but Kenseth actually dominated this race last year leading 352 of the 400 laps for his second career Richmond win. He finished seventh here in the spring, but if he can find the same magic he had here last season, Kenseth could be the car to beat.
Denny Hamlin (8-1) will also be in the Chase. He has two Richmond wins and the third highest driver rating in the field, 108.3. The Virginia native always gives a bit more to try and win here each visit.
Joey Logano (8-1) is already on the Chase Grid. He won here in 2014, was third in this race last season, but eighth here in the spring. He has a less than impressive 14th best driver rating of 85.4, but Logano has run strong nearly all season and it would be no surprise to see him to step up the plate and make some noise prior the Chase.
Brad Keselowski (6-1) will be joining his Penske Racing teammate Logano in this year’s Chase. He won here in the fall of 2014, and has the seventh best driver rating in the field, 93.8.Keselwoski has looked strong in the last few weeks and could step up Saturday night.
OTHERS: Several drivers not locked into the Chase could pull off a win Saturday night. Chase Elliott (20-1) doesn’t have a great driver rating, 77.0, but he only has two starts at Richmond and after a couple of strong runs in the last few weeks, could be a surprise winner Saturday. Jamie McMurray (100-1) is a longshot and has a driver rating only a tick above Elliott, 78. However, with the way the Chip Ganassi Racing teams have been running lately, it wouldn’t shocking to see McMurray score his first career Richmond victory Saturday night.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway will be run on Saturday September 10. Live coverage will be on the NBC Sports Network starting at 7:00 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 7:30 p.m. ET.
(Stats from Racing-Reference.info)
Best average finish among active drivers at Richmond (3 or more starts):
1. Kyle Busch (6.9)
2. Denny Hamlin (10.6)
3. Kevin Harvick (10.6)
4. Ryan Newman (11.7)
5. Clint Bowyer (12.3)
6. Tony Stewart (12.9)
7. Kyle Larson (13.2)
8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (13.2)
9. Jeff Gordon (13.3)
10. Joey Logano (13.4)