The Final Word – One Chase place remains and Richmond will hand it to Kyle Busch

[media-credit name=”Noel Lanier” align=”alignright” width=”233″][/media-credit]Atlanta, the place where Richard Petty made his exit and Jeff Gordon made his Cup entrance back in 1992. It is where Alan Kulwicki claimed his title. It was the venue from which Sunday’s action was telecast, but after the initial broadcast hype I found these old eye lids fluttering like I was a damsel meeting Prince Harry in Las Vegas for the first time. To ask if I found much of the race boring, especially the first two-thirds, is like wondering if the Pope is German.

Then were was the ending. Jeff Gordon tried desperately to catch Denny Hamlin, to claim that elusive second victory that could push him into the Chase. It did not happen. The Pied Piper won his fourth of the season, 21st of his career, and moved alone to the head of the class with just one to go before the Chase contenders are locked in. It was not 1992 all over again, though it got interesting in the end, and even for a lap or two it might have actually be termed exciting.

It was, well, just racing. They can’t all be spectacles, though there was the wreck that collected Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, and Sam Hornish, Jr. Just a racing deal, where one of the three made a minor mistake at a high speed that resulted in bad things happening. It was worse for Newman, one of those needing a win or at least to be within hailing distance of Kyle Busch in the points, and wound up with neither.

In the end, 11 drivers found themselves locked into the Chase. Tony Stewart will either make it on points or by his three wins. Sitting in tenth heading to Richmond, Stewart is 18 points up on two-time winner Kasey Kahne, 23 ahead of Kyle Busch, with Jeff Gordon 35 points away. It only gets interesting if Stewart has a bad day.

Then there is the second wildcard berth. Busch, Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Newman, and Joey Logano can claim that with a second win this weekend. It only gets interesting if at least one of these fellows is very near the front. If not, then it comes down to a points race in which only two would be contending, as Busch leads Gordon by 12. It is a tall order, but sure better than the 40 points Ambrose would need to make up to be relevant. As for the winless Carl Edwards, he needs to win and finish 26 points ahead of Busch on Saturday night.

To make it real simple, it sounds like Rowdy needs to be roughed up early, Gordon needs to take flight, or one of the trio involving Ambrose, Newman, and Logano needs to find Victory Lane to give us some drama.  The last time Gordon won there was in 2000; Newman in 2003. The last time Kyle Busch won at Richmond was last April, his fourth straight spring victory on the track.  Richmond, where in 15 races run Kyle has finished 20th once, 15th once, 6th once, and a dozen times in the Top Five. In fact, the last time Kyle Busch finished outside the Top Six at Richmond was September 7, 2008, winning four of the past seven. Like last week, the television boys and girls will probably hype Saturday’s race, showcasing the six contenders seeking that one final Chase position. However, I think this battle is already over. Enjoy the week.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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