By admin | September 6, 2010
By Richard Allen
The Race to the Chase is essentially over with still a full week to go before the cutoff. Clint Bowyer currently holds the 12th and final playoff spot by a commanding 117 point lead over 13th place Ryan Newman. So, with the Chase for the Championship participants all but decided, what will happen in Richmond?
When the Chase format was first devised many fans, competitors and media members immediately looked to the 26th race in Richmond as one that would provide great drama at a point in the season in which NASCAR could use great drama as football season kicks off.
However, that Chase deciding race has not always provided the type of nail biting excitement originally envisioned. Rather, drivers have had a tendency to find the place where they need to run to secure their playoff spot and just ride there. Instead of creating more intensity, the Chase has actually seemed to create less.
With no real drama within those first twelve spots this year, there is little more for drivers to do than race for the win. And that is true of those locked inside the Chase and those locked out.
A win for those locked into the Chase would provide much desired bonus points since each race win adds ten points to a driverâ€™s total once everything is reset for the playoff. Five drivers currently inside the top-12 have no bonus points to look forward to as they have no wins thus far in 2010. A win in Richmond could change that for one of these drivers. Also, a win for any driver going into the Chase could provide a shot of momentum at just the right time.
For drivers outside the Chase, a win could salvage a non-championship contending season. For drivers such as Newman, Jamie McMurray and David Reutimann, a win could add to previous victories and give either of those drivers and teams something to show sponsors and supporters alike that their seasons have been successful despite having no chance at a series title.
With a first race win of the year, drivers such as Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. could show that their seasons have not been a total loss in 2010.
Only two drivers, Bowyer and Greg Biffle, have to worry about scoring enough points to clinch a spot in the Chase, and they do not have much to worry about. Bowyer needs only a 28th place result while Biffle only needs a 42nd, and thatâ€™s if Newman wins the race and leads the most laps.
So, since there are very few worries in regard to points this weekend, the Richmond race has a chance to be among the most exciting of the season. The only motivation 41 drivers have going into this weekend is to win, and nothing else. That could make for some real drama, just not the type of drama NASCAR had envisioned when it set up this championship system.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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