The Backstretch Blog's Race Day: Playoffs? You want to talk Playoffs?
Don't call it the Chase, that word doesn't exist in NASCAR anymore. Tonight in Richmond the Cup series will set the field for it's first every playoffs, though we pretty much know who is in and who is out.
Jamie McMurray is 91 points to the good to point his way into the playoffs. He is in unless there is a first time winner tonight in Richmond. And there are a lot of good drivers (Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, just to name a few) who are trying to steal McMurray's spot.
"We are in a do-or-die situation," said Logano. "Anytime you can win a race in that situation, there is no better feeling than that."
The great thing about Richmond is, it is a track that can provide that kind of drama, Jermey Mayfield raced his way into the first chase back in 2004 and it's been edge of your seat ever since.
"I love racing at Richmond, but that last race before the playoffs is just nerve-wracking," said Michael McDowell. "If you're not fighting for a playoff spot, you still want to have a great race, but you also don't want to be a part of the story. There's just so much on the line, which usually creates really exciting racing. It also creates opportunity!"
There are 12 former Richmond winners in the field. One of those former Richmond winners, Matt Kenseth, will lead the field to the green from the pole.
"I'm hoping for the best," said Kenseth, who is one of three drivers currently in the post season on points, but is just one point ahead of 16th place McMurray. "I thought we were at our best this morning (in practice) when the track was the coolest and the cleanest. As it got hotter, we ran worse. So I guess that gives me hope that we'll have speed tomorrow night."
Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr round out the top five starters in Richmond. Tennessee native Trevor Bayne starts 18th. He needs a win if he wants one of those final playoff spots.
"We know what we have to do this weekend," said Bayne. "We know the position we are in with our Performance Plus Motor Oil Ford and that we need to win on Saturday. I'm extremely confident that we will unload fast once again this weekend and that (crew chief) Matt (Puccia) will call another great strategy on Saturday night that will put us in position for the win."
The green flag is set to drop on the Federated Auto Parts 400 at 7:44pm. You can watch the race on the NBC Sports Network.