Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”234″][/media-credit]1. Kyle Busch: Busch finished sixth in the Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond, overcoming two instances of falling a lap down to score his 16th top 10 of the year. Busch will start the Chase atop the standings, tied with nemesis Kevin Harvick, each with four wins.
“It’s great to be back on top of the standings,” Busch said. “The question is, can I stay there? Now would be a great time for Pedigree to adorn the No. 18 Toyota, while I order it to ‘stay.’
“I don’t expect Harvick and I to share the top spot for long. As everyone knows, we can’t be in the same place for long. I’m sure he’s reveling at another chance to ‘knock me out.’”
2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick won the race off pit road on the final caution and held off a charging Carl Edwards to win at Richmond. It was Harvick’s fourth win of the year, and first since may, and placed him in a tie with Kyle Busch for the top seed in the reset point standings.
“Thanks to my pit crew,” Harvick said, “we were able to win this race. This isn’t the first time I’ve had my crew to thank for keeping Edwards off of me.
“It’s quite a relief to know that Richard Childress will be running my Nationwide team. That’s a burden I can do without, and it just goes to show that it’s easier to ‘unload’ on Richard Childress than Kyle Busch.”
3. Jimmie Johnson: The Jimmie Johnson-Kurt Busch feud intensified at Richmond, just in time for the Chase. Johnson was clipped by Kurt Busch and spun on lap 185, and Johnson retaliated on lap 246 after diving into the corner sideways and sending Busch for a smoky spin. Johnson finished 31st, and will start the Chase eighth in the standings, nine points out of first.
“I don’t know if Busch wrecked me intentionally,” Johnson said. “One could argue that’s why I wrecked Busch—-because I just had to stop and ask.
“If Busch wants to continue this feud, that’s his prerogative. I don’t mind. I think I’ve been pretty patient with Kurt. After all, I haven’t slapped him, which is yet another characteristic that separates me from most other drivers. Whether surrounded by Cups or controversy, I’m comfortable in the middle of it.”
4. Jeff Gordon: Gordon passed Kevin Harvick for the lead with 22 laps to go, but Paul Menard’s spin six laps later brought out the final caution, and Harvick beat Gordon out of the pits. Harvick went on to win, while Gordon finished third and will start the Chase For The Cup three points down to top seeds Harvick and Kyle Busch.
“We gave that one away,” Gordon said. “Normally, exchanging ‘24’ for a ‘case’ of Budweiser would be considered fair. Not this time.
“My car may say ‘Drive To End Hunger,’ but I’m saying I’m the ‘Driver To End Hunger For Five.’”
5. Carl Edwards: Edwards gained some much-needed momentum for the Chase For The Cup with a runner-up finish at Richmond. Edwards chased Kevin Harvick over the final 12 laps after a restart, but couldn’t get close enough to make the pass. Edwards will start the Chase nine points down to co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
“I knew I probably couldn’t get close enough to pass Harvick,” Edwards said, “but I was hoping to at least pressure him into a mistake. As is well known, my way of getting at Harvick is to make him ‘choke.’”
6. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski finished 12th in the Wonderful Pistachios 400, his first result outside the top 10 since a 35th at New Hampshire. As a wildcard Chase qualifier, he’ll start the Chase 12 points out of the lead.
“Thanks to NASCAR’s screwy wildcard rules,” Keselowski said, “I get no credit for my three wins. Instead of starting three points off the pace, I’m 12 behind. I don’t know what’s harder—winning three times, or proving myself twice.”
7. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth finished 23rd at Richmond, one lap down, after a night filled with handling challenges and several scrapes with other cars. By virtue of his two wins this year, Kenseth will start the Chase six points behind co-leaders Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.
“It’s certainly not the way we wanted to enter the Chase For The Cup,” Kenseth said. “The No. 17 Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Ford faced a number of issues on Saturday, but don’t ‘discount’ chances to win the Sprint Cup.”
8. Kurt Busch: Busch finished fifth at Richmond, posting his seventh top-5 result of the season. He’ll start nine points off the lead when the Chase For The Cup begins Sunday at Chicagoland.
“As my brother Kyle well knows,” Busch said, “it’s not where you start, it’s how you finish. And I’m 100% committed to finishing—Jimmie Johnson.”
9. Ryan Newman: Newman finished eighth at Atlanta, his 13th top-10 result of the year, and will start the Chase alongside Stewart-Haas teammate Tony Stewart, who finished 12th in the standings.
“It’s great to have a teammate in the Chase,” Newman said, “but Tony knows as well as I that once the Chase starts, it’s every man for himself. I’m as well prepared as anyone for that situation—that’s one, and likely the only, advantage to teaming with Rusty Wallace for several years.”
10. Denny Hamlin: With his Chase-qualification hopes on the line, Hamlin overcame damage sustained in an early accident to finish 9th, locking up a wildcard berth in the Chase.
“We certainly don’t enter this year’s Chase with the momentum we had last year,” Hamlin said. “Obviously, this team has regressed, but our off-season overhaul will take place in the same manner as a potential Cup-winning Chase—from the bottom up.”