Recap and Preview: Last Chance for the Chase
Although it was rather hot last weekend in Atlanta, the weather once the sun set, the weather created the perfect setting for an exciting final night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Much of the excitement began when Stewart Haas Racing announced Tony Stewart would return to the Sprint Cup Series after taking several weeks rest following the sprint car accident. Stewart read a personal statement to the media on Friday backed by extreme emotions. Shortly after, NASCAR granted him a waiver and deemed him eligible for the Chase should he get a win. With a strong qualifying run, and impressive style during the first part of the race, it was almost as if he had not taken a break. Unfortunately, Stewart’s day ended early due to a blown right front tire. Returning to the track was an important step in the process for Stewart to get through this difficult time.
Things quickly got squirrely during the race when a critter of some sort ran across the track in front of Kevin Harvick. Identified as a cat by some and squirrelly by others, the animal promptly became well known and created quite the buzz among drivers and everyone else in attendance. The squirrel even has its own twitter handle now.
Kasey Kahne had his car dialed in by the end of the race, and after two green-white-checkered attempts, he captured his first win this season and a spot in the Chase. With Kahne’s win, it solidified that all four Hendrick Motorsports cars are locked into the Chase. Danica Patrick also posted her career best finish, finishing sixth on Sunday night. Leaving Atlanta, Jeff Gordon remains on top of the Chase grid.
It was a big announcement week for NASCAR. NASCAR newest entitlement sponsor was unveiled this week for what is currently known as the Nationwide Series. Beginning next season, the series will be known as the Xfinity Series, sponsored by Comcast. The historic deal will continue for ten years, and promises to increase the entertainment associated with the series for fans.
Long-time Crew Chief of the No. 99 car of Carl Edwards, Jimmy Fennig, stated that after this season, it is highly likely that he will not continue serving as a crew chief. While no definite plans have been made, Fennig indicated that he would probably be working behind the scenes at Roush Fenway after this year.
What do NASCAR and professional dancing have in common? It was announced this week that NASCAR driver and owner, Michael Waltrip, will be featured as a contestant on the upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars.
As NASCAR heads into the final regular season race this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, many drivers are studying the scenarios for Chase eligibility. Currently, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle hold the two remaining Chase spots, but if a driver who has not previously won this season wins, there will be only one remaining spot for seventeen drivers to vie for.
The final race before the Chase takes place at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. Drivers will maneuver 400 laps around the three-quarter mile track to complete 300 miles in the Federated Auto Parts 400. Short track racing, combined with the anticipation and tempers of drivers will produce incredible racing action. This week’s Fast Five accounts for drivers’ previous success at Richmond and like short tracks and the level of momentum they have.
Here’s the Fast Five for Richmond: Denny Hamlin, who holds two previous wins at Richmond, one of the best average finishing positions, and it is his home track; Kyle Busch, who has not had the best finishes lately, but with four previous wins at Richmond, should be counted on to post a strong finish; Kurt Busch, who has one previous win at Richmond and is a strong short track racer; Kevin Harvick, who has three previous wins at Richmond, and should be able to compete for a win this weekend; and Joey Logano, who won the earlier Richmond race this year and could very well pull off the sweep. Aside from the Fast Five, keep an eye on Ryan Newman to have a strong finish. He is looking to lock in a spot in the Chase and Richmond is one of his better tracks.
Tune into the race on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.