For the second year in a row, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon comes to Richmond needing a big performance to make the “Chase for the Championship.”
Standing in his way is a driver named Busch, except this time it’s older brother Kurt instead of Kyle.
Last September, Gordon used a late-race rally to finish second to Clint Bowyer and earn his way into the Chase. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch faltered with a 16th-place finish and missed the 10-race playoff.
Kyle Busch is safely in the Chase this time around after his fourth win of the season at Atlanta on Sunday night.
However, Gordon is six points behind Kurt Busch, who currently occupies the No. 10 spot in the Sprint Cup standings.
While it could come down to those two battling for the last Chase spot, that doesn’t mean it’s just a two-man race.
In fact, there are officially 10 drivers vying for the five remaining spots.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is seventh and only needs a finish of 32nd or better to qualify for the Chase.
Either Kurt Busch or Gordon would wrap up a wild-card spot with a win at Richmond. Depending on how Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch finishes, a win by Gordon could leave best friends Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman fighting for the last wild-card spot, or even knock both of them out of the Chase.
On the other hand, bad finishes by Gordon and Busch could leave both of them out of the Chase.
In short, there are a lot of different scenarios which could play out at Richmond.
However, few of them involve defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski making the Chase.
Keselowski now ranks 15th in the standings after finishing 35th at Atlanta with engine failure. Even with a win at Richmond, Keselowski would need a lot of help from the drivers ahead of him. He’s currently 28 points out of 10th place, and 12 points behind Truex and eight points behind Newman for the final wild-card spot.
Jamie McMurray hasn’t been mathematically eliminated, but it would take a near-miracle, the misfortune at least four drivers ahead for him, to make the Chase.
Bristol Dragway hosts the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series featuring racers from across the NHRA’s Southeast Division this Thursday through Saturday.
Drivers in eight different Sportsman classes will try to collect points for NHRA divisional and national championships. There will also be competition for five classes in the NHRA Screamin’ Eagle Championship Motorcycle Series.
Thursday is a test-and-tune session with qualifying set for Friday. Qualifying concludes Saturday morning with eliminations scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
This is an off week for Kingsport Speedway before wrapping up the season with two special events.
The UARA Series has a 150-lap race scheduled for Sept. 14 and the season concludes with the Kingsport Speedway Invtiational on Sept. 21.
Both of these are Saturday afternoon races with the Invitational open to all Late Model Stock drivers who haven’t won a NASCAR-sanctioned race this season.
Former track champion Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough will be among the favorites. Other favorites include teenagers Hayden Woods, who attends Providence Academy, and Tyler Goodwin, a senior at Daniel Boone High School.
Several local riders were winners in the Hot Summer Nights Round No. 11 this past Saturday night.
Jacob Austin of Jonesborough and Will Andrews of Hampton were victorious in two divisions.
Other local winners included: Chandler Carver of Jonesborough (51 cc/Shaft Stock), Kevin Bradley of Johnson City (250D), Clay McNabb of Unicoi (450D), Chris Furches of Jonesborough (ATV Youth) and Justin Ricker of Bakersville, N.C. (ATV Novice).