There's still time to slip into Chase

jutter@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 7, 2012 

With one race remaining before the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup roster is set, 10 drivers already know they will compete for this season’s championship.

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle have earned the right to move on.

Two spots remain and they will likely be the drivers with the most wins that are 11th to 20th in points.

Heading to Richmond, Kasey Kahne (two wins) and Kyle Busch (highest in points among those with one win) have the best shot at claiming the final two positions.

Six others – Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano – can still conceivably make it.

There are numerous scenarios that could play out this weekend. For instance, if one of the one-win drivers wins at Richmond and Stewart remains in the top 10 in points, that driver clinches a Chase berth.

Otherwise, here’s an assessment of the easiest path for each driver with a win to ensure a spot in the Chase:

Kasey Kahne: A win at Richmond would clinch a Chase berth. He would also clinch if Stewart remains in the top 10 in points after the race. 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.

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. If Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Busch would clinch a Chase berth with a win and by finishing five points ahead of Kahne at Richmond.

Jeff Gordon: If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon will clinch by finishing 13 points ahead of Busch at Richmond, 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 by finishing 18 points ahead of Kahne at Richmond.

Marcos Ambrose: This one may be hard to follow. 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. He must also lose eight or fewer points to Newman and 41 or fewer points to Logano.

Ryan Newman: Newman can only clinch a Chase berth with a win. If either Busch or Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Newman is eliminated.

Joey Logano: Logano can only clinch a Chase berth with a win. If either Busch or Gordon supplants Stewart in the top 10, Logano is eliminated.

Here’s how the two winless drivers outside the top 10 can clinch:

Carl Edwards: Edwards needs to 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 supplants Tony Stewart in the top 10, Edwards is eliminated.

Paul Menard: Menard needs to 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 supplants Tony Stewart in the top 10, Menard is eliminated.

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