Win­less driv­ers get one more chance to make Chase

Cecil Whig - - & - Staff RE­PORT

NASCAR Wire Ser­vice

“Win and you’re in” is the name of the game in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, mean­ing if a driver vis­its Vic­tory Lane in a race, he earns a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup play­offs.

Cur­rently, 13 driv­ers have won a race this sea­son, 12 of which have clinched their spot in the Chase. Chris Buescher won at Po­cono, but still needs to clinch a top 30 points spot at Rich­mond to of­fi­cial lock him­self into a play­off po­si­tion. The fi­nal three driv­ers – Chase El­liott (+39), Austin Dillon (+31) and Jamie Mc­Mur­ray (+22) – have hefty points leads over Ryan New­man, who sits on the cut­off line as the last com­peti­tor out of the 16-com­peti­tor con- test. While New­man can still qual­ify for the Chase on points with a lit­tle luck (or a vic­tory), all the driv­ers be­hind him must win Sun­day’s Fed­er­ated Auto Parts 400 at Rich­mond In­ter­na­tional Race­way (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and be in the top 30 in points to se­cure a play­off berth. The list of driv­ers be­hind New­man who must tri­umph in­cludes no­ta­bles: Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney, AJ All­mendinger, Clint Bowyer and Dan­ica Pa­trick.

New­man (2003), Kahne (2005) and Bowyer (2008, 2012) are the only cur­rently win­less driv­ers who have won at Rich­mond in the past.

“I’ve al­ways liked Rich­mond. I have been able to win here in the past and I look for­ward to the chal- lenge,” Kahne said. “I think you can bring a lot back from the day race (in April), but the big­ger thing is the cars have changed since then. Even though it will be the same pack­age, the teams have built bet­ter cars. We were re­ally com­pet­i­tive in the first race, and I think we’ll bring back a sim­i­lar setup, but a bet­ter car, and work from there in prac­tice.”

New­man, who fin­ished eighth last week at Dar­ling­ton, but was pe­nal­ized 15 points af­ter fail­ing pos­trace in­spec­tion, en­joys rac­ing at Rich­mond where he owns an 11.7 ca­reer av­er­age fin­ish.

“Rich­mond is one of the best, if not ar­guably, the best short track we go to just be­cause you fight a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing,” New­man said. “You have two dif­fer­ent shaped cor­ners, D-shaped tri-oval. There is a lot of brak­ing and ac­cel­er­a­tion. For­ward drive is usu­ally at a pre­mium. It’s just that typ­i­cal short track but it’s the right size that fits our race car. It’s a lot of fun.”

Bowyer has strug­gled this sea­son, which could be his first full-time cam­paign with­out a top-five fin­ish. Still, any­thing can hap­pen at a short track, es­pe­cially one like Rich­mond where Bowyer has had suc­cess.

“Rich­mond is a fun, yet chal­leng­ing, lit­tle race­track,” Bowyer said. “As long as you can fig­ure out the bal­ance be­tween the dif­fer­ent cor­ners and find speed in your car, you’ve got a shot at tak­ing the check­ered (flag) there.”

Dillon: ‘We’d still like to win a race’

Any­one who’s lis­tened to Ty Dillon speak knows there’s only one goal he has on his mind when get­ting on a race track. Winning. Al­though he’s al­ready cap­tured a berth in the NASCAR XFIN­ITY Series Chase on the strength of his seven top-five and 13 top-10 fin­ishes, Dillon wants to cel­e­brate in Vic­tory Lane be­fore it starts at Ken­tucky Speed­way two races from now. His first chance will be in Fri­day’s Vir­ginia529 Col­lege Sav­ings 250 at Rich­mond In­ter­na­tional Race­way (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“First off, we’re su­per ex­cited to be in the po­si­tion that we are in and it’s great to be able to com­pete for the cham­pi­onship,” Dillon said. “We feel re­ally good about the tracks we visit in each round of the Chase, con­sid­er­ing we’re head­ing back there for the sec­ond time for most of these tracks. That be­ing said, we’d still like to win a race and carry some mo­men­tum into the first round at Ken­tucky Speed­way.”

The No. 3 Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing driver fin­ished sec­ond in the April race at Rich­mond and has scored a top-10 fin­ish in each of his last four starts there.

“We’re go­ing to be very ag­gres­sive this week­end at Rich­mond, and hope­fully du­pli­cate our ef­forts from the spring, where we ran sec­ond most of the day,” Dillon said. “Rich­mond is pretty dif­fi­cult from a tech­ni­cal stand­point, but we’re ready for the chal­lenge and hope­fully fin­ish one po­si­tion bet­ter than last time.”

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