By admin | September 6, 2008
By Richard Allen
This week’s race in Richmond already had plenty of intrigue surrounding it coming into the weekend. However, in the last 24 hours or so that much more drama has been added.
The most obvious storyline going into the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 was the race to get into the Chase for the Championship. Mathematically, several positions are still up for grabs.
The Top 5 in the standings are already locked into the Chase. They could have spent the weekend surfing the high waves churned up by Tropical Storm Hanna and their place in the playoff would have been secure.
All 6th and 7th place Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick have to do to make the Chase is start the race. In all likelihood Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing will bring cars to the race capable of actually starting.
It is from 8th through 14th place where the real intrigue begins.
12th place Clint Bowyer is obviously in the greatest danger of losing his spot. He is only 17 points in front of David Ragan and 48 markers up on Kasey Kahne. Bowyer won here in May but will have to guard his position carefully as the race plays out.
Although Bowyer is in the most precarious position, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin are not immune to the possibility of dropping out of title contention.
Hamlin offers the best example of how championship dreams can turn to nightmares in an instant. He led 381 laps at this track in May. However, a cut tire late in the race took him out of contention and resulted in a 24th place finish. The 8th through 12th place drivers have nothing secured until the checked flag drops.
Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton are locked into the Chase so they have nothing to do but go all out for the win and the bonus points that would come with it.
Busch has already assured himself of going into the Chase with the lead but the other locked in drivers would like nothing better than to close that gap by another 10 points before next week. If these drivers are still up front at the end it could get very interesting.
All the intrigue already mentioned would have been there no matter when the race was run. Then, Mother Nature decided to add an unknown to the equation.
Hanna’s arrival on the east coast has caused this race to be run at an unfamiliar time. Instead of racing under the lights, which is customary for both Richmond events, the race will be contested in the heat of the day. The set ups under the cars will have to be adjusted before and during the race. Those thick notebooks compiled by the teams over the last several years may not be worth very much on Sunday afternoon.
Luck and good guess work could wind up playing a factor in who makes the Chase and who gets the last available bonus points going into the playoff.
Who will make the Chase for the Championship? How hard will drivers race for the last chance at bonus points? Who will get the set up right and who will be way off? All of these questions will make for what should be a pretty interesting Chevy Rock & Roll 400.
And perhaps one more question has now been added to the mix. Will very many being watching now that the race has to go head to head with the NFL opening weekend?
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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