NASCAR News - Week of September 10th
It took until the wee hours of Sunday morning to finally find out who would make this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Rain delayed the start of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Virginia's Richmond International Speedway and then halted it once again 48 laps before the halfway point, which would have made the race official. As the rain continued to come down, it appeared for awhile that the drivers might not get a chance to finish what they had started.
Fortunately for Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team, the race resumed and the 41-year-old veteran was able to clinch a spot in the Chase with a second-place finish to Clint Bowyer. Gordon's finish was even more surprising given the fact that he seemed to be having terrible luck during the beginning laps of the Richmond night race.
Of course, for every driver happy to make the Chase, there were others who just missed the big show. This year, it was Kyle Busch who would get edged out for a Chase berth. The Joe Gibbs Racing team driver, who finished 16th at Richmond, needed to finish within 12 positions of Gordon to claim the final Chase spot.
With the Chase lineup set, the excitement now moves to the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway for the Geico 400. This race will be the first of the ten-race Sprint Cup championships. Many experts favor Jeff Gordon, who showed grit and determination in the Richmond race and always does well on this track, to repeat at Chicagoland. In fact, four out of ESPN's five NASCAR experts predicted that the veteran Hendrick driver will take the Geico 400.
Sitting at the top of the pack of Chase drivers is Denny Hamlin, who actually led 202 of the 400 laps at Richmond and has also won four Sprint Cup races this year. Right behind him is five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and last year's championship winner Tony Stewart. Penske driver Brad Keselowski, who has been very hot this year, holds the fourth spot.
Greg Biffle enters the Chase in fifth, and Richmond winner Clint Bowyer sits in the sixth position. Perennial fan favorite Dan Earnhardt, Jr. is in seventh place, followed by Rousch Fenway Racing driver Matt Kenseth.
Kevin Harvick, who has finished third in the Chase championships for the past two years, took the ninth Chase spot, and Martin Truex, Jr driving for Michael Waltrip Racing rounds out the top ten. Two Hendrick Motorsports drivers, Kasey Kahne and, of course, Jeff Gordon, round out the Chase lineup.
Although the off-track action has cooled down significantly compared to last week's numerous announcements about driver changes for the 2013 season, there was a bit of non-on-track news this week. On Friday, September 7, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced that his Nationwide team would no longer be in need of the services of his longtime crew chief and competition director, Tony "Pops" Eury, Sr. The 58-year-old Pops is also Earnhardt Jr.'s uncle.
Another bit of off-track news involves Richard Childress Racing and Kurt Busch. Rumors are flying that the team is interested in adding the controversial hot-headed, but talented driver to their stable, but they will need a sponsor first. It will be interesting to see if Busch can attract a significant sponsor, given the many missteps he's made lately.