Mitch Stringer- US PRESSWIRE
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has finished their regular season after an exciting race at the Richmond International Raceway. It was a long night for the drivers, crews and fans as off and on rain throughout the night kept delaying the race. As it turns out, a rain shower helped changed which driver made the chase. With around 100 laps to go, it started to rain. About half the cars pitted while most of the front runners stay out, including Kyle Busch. This had Busch on much older tires on the restart and he dropped like a rock. With Jeff Gordon on fresh tires he was able to make his way quickly to the front and race his way into the chase.
Let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings heading into the chase.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.– Junior was making his media tour at the ESPN studios this afternoon and kept reiterating that this season is the best chance he ever had at winning a championship. Looking at what he has done this season I would have to agree. He has fast race cars every week and is more determined then he has ever been in his entire career. Last week: 1
2. Jeff Gordon– Three top 3 finishes for Gordon was just enough for the four-time champ to race his way into the chase. When the race first started, it looked like Gordon had no shot at finishing on the lead lap yet alone making the chase. However, the 24 team threw every type of adjustment at the car and made it faster and faster with every pit stop and were able to rally to second place and clinch the final chase spot. Last week: 5
3. Brad Keselowski– The driver of the Blue Deuce enters the chase tied for second and has been on a hot streak this entire summer. He had a solid top 10 finish to end his regular season and has plenty of momentum heading into the chase. Last week: 4
4. Jimmie Johnson– This year’s chase field looks as wide open as ever, but don-t be surprised if the five-time champ dominates the chase this year. After coming off a disappointing chase last season, to end his hopes at six straight championships, Johnson will be on a mission to show the entire garage that he is still the best. Last week: 3
5. Greg Biffle– Not a great day for Biffle at Richmond, but he is still a strong contender for the championship. Half of the tracks in the chase will be at 1.5 mile tracks which is where Biffle runs the best. Last week: 2
6. Matt Kenseth– It’s hard to believe that Kenseth only has one win on the season which was the Daytona 500. The success from earlier this season seems to be hindering and it will be interesting to see if the teams performance can pick up for Kenseth’s last 10 races at Roush-Fenway. Last week: 6
7. Clint Bowyer– A hug second win for Bowyer gets him three extra bonus points heading into the chase. After having contact with Juan Pablo Montoya midway through the race, Bowyer got spun around after suffering a flat tire. It looked like when Bowyer got on the frontstretch he intentionally spun his car towards the infield grass. However, we will never know if that is what he really did. It was funny to see Bowyer thank Montoya for cutting his tire in his victory lane interview. Last week: 9
8. Denny Hamlin– If it wasn’t for the rain we might be talking about Hamlin winning three races in a row. He clearly had the dominant car on Saturday night, but mother nature had other plans that night. He does enter the chase as your points leader and with his recent momentum has been the favorite to win the title this season. Last week: 8
9. Martin Truex Jr.– He still doesn’t have a win this season and there is not much expected out of Truex as we head into the chase. However, this season has been a big boost to MWR and they should be happy with what they have accomplished this season no matter what happens in these last 10 races. Last week: 7
10. Tony Stewart– This season, Stewart will be the most interesting driver to watch in the chase. He has been the most inconsistent driver and team out of all the chase drivers and it looks like improbable for Stewart to have another run like he did last season. Despite his third place finish at Richmond on Saturday, Stewart’s performance has been down during the last month and it will need to pick up if he wants to defend his title. Last week: NR
11. Kevin Harvick– Their departure may have been ugly, but the reunion of Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin has been a blessing in disguise for the 29 team. Ever since Martin has rejoined the team, Harvick has been knocking on the door to returning to victory lane. He may be the sleeper in the chase this year. Last week: NR
12. Kyle Busch– It looked like Busch was going to ease his way into the chase with Gordon’s struggles and his strong performance. However, his crew chief Dave Rogers made a bad pit call to keep Busch out on the track even after NASCAR had determined that they would be going back racing after the rain. Busch may get heat for not handling the media well after the race but can you really blame the guy? Last week: 11
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