Matty’s Picks 2013 – Race 26 Federated Auto Parts 400 – Richmond International Raceway – September 7, 3013

The cliché holds true this week as “it all comes down to this”. Six guys have already claimed their top-10 spots when The Chase begins next week at Chicago – Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth…that’s 2 Chevy’s, a Ford, and 3 Toyotas in case you’re keeping score.

Seventh-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. faces the least pressure among non-qualifiers, needing only a finish of 32nd or better in the 400-lap race on Saturday night to enter the postseason. Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch complete the provisional top 10 – 16, 14 and six points ahead of 11th-place Jeff Gordon who is still in the hunt for a top-10 spot going into the chase, as he stands no chance at making a Wild Card without a win on Saturday Night.

Logano and Biffle each have a single victory giving them some Chase insurance as potential Wild Cards, but both have to turn around their historical finishes at Richmond to ensure they’re racing for a championship the next ten weeks.

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon, however, both are without victories on the season and need to have solid finishes, along with poor finishes from other drivers to punch their tickets to the big dance starting next week at Chicagoland. Both have done what they need to do to lead a lap on Saturday by qualifying their Chevy’s on the front row, so it will be interesting to see if they can spoil a few Chase hopefuls by winning on Saturday Night. This Race is shaping up to be even more exciting than I expected with 3 Wild Card hopefuls staring in the top 3 spots on Saturday Night.

Two-time 2013 race-winner Kasey Kahne (12th) and Sonoma winner, Martin Truex Jr. (13th) hold the provisional Wild Cards as the points run right now.

Five drivers have clinched Chase berths on the final night of the regular season since the start of The Chase for the Sprint Cup began in 2004. Ryan Newman’s sixth-place finish in 2005 is the best among the “last in” drivers. Brian Vickers (2009), Kasey Kahne (2006) and Jeremy Mayfield (2004) also were final-race qualifiers. Most recently, Jeff Gordon waited until the final race of the season to solidify his spot in the chase by finishing second in this race last season, so this parody is nothing we’ve not seen before….but we’ve NEVER seen this many drivers on the fence for The Chase. The backstretch wall at Richmond has never seen as many car numbers in yellow (meaning the driver has NOT clinched a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs) as are painted in yellow this season, so for anyone whose never watched a NASCAR race before, Saturday Night is the one to watch.

I will save my words this week and not recap my poor picks last week at Atlanta and roll right into my picks for Saturday Night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (even though my Dark Horse Pick last week finished 3rd with a broken wrist).

Winner Pick

Richmond has been Clint Bowyer’s best track over his career, and to no surprise, he’s been the best driver statistically over the past 5 races at Richmond.

Clint has finished outside the top 12 just twice in 15 races at Richmond – averaging a finish of 9th in the meantime. Bowyer is one of just 3 drivers averaging a top-10 finish at Richmond, behind Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin for third on the best average finish at the 3/4 mile short track. He’s got a couple wins, most recently and notably his win in THIS race last season. In the loop stats, Bowyer is 4th in Average Running position, Driver Rating and Quality Passes, and he’s 5th in 2 more of the 6 loop stats, Average Green Flag Speed and Laps in the Top 15.

Clint Bowyer holds the record for the deepest in the field ANY Richmond race-winner has started, that was his win from the 31st starting position back in 2008, and throw in the fact that he’s starting 4th on Saturday Night, Bowyer is still my top guy this week. Keep in mind, he led 113 laps and finished 2nd in the April race at Richmond…

Dark Horse Pick

I was on the fence on Thursday as I previewed the race with Greg on The Prime Sports Network, but after practice and qualifying, I’m a bit more confident with my selection do go with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as my Dark Horse guy this week.

He was 7th in first practice and 3rd in Happy Hour earlier today at Richmond International Raceway, and probably took a conservative approach to his qualifying lap today as a 32nd or better finish will punch Jr.’s ticket to the big dance next week.

Richmond actually ranks as Jr.’s 4th best track over his career with the other two short tracks ranking first (Bristol) and third (Martinsville), much to my surprise as everybody knows the Earnhardt’s for their restrictor-plate racing.

Jr. has 3 career wins at Richmond, granted none since 2006 but in the loop stats he ranks anywhere from 6th in Fastest Laps Run to 13th in

Driver Rating.

Dale Jr. would certainly like to have those 3 bonus points to start The Chase, so I think we’re looking at him staying out of trouble early, then a march to the front during the closing laps on Saturday Night.

That’s all for this week, enjoy the race and the hunt for The Chase and be sure to tune in Monday to the Prime Sports Network ( as Greg and all the folks from preview the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup! And as always….You Stay Classy NASCAR (and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) NATION!

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


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