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Richmond Notes: Non-Chasers In Spotlight

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 9 2011

David Reutimann had a big day at Richmond on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

RICHMOND, Va. – David Reutimann and Jamie McMurray, a pair of drivers out of contention for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup field, stole the show at Richmond International Raceway Friday afternoon.

Nearly all of the pre-qualifying buzz focused on who will be in and who will be out of NASCAR’s 10-race playoff at the conclusion of Saturday night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400.

But when the dust settled on Friday, non-Chasers David Reutimann and Jamie McMurray found themselves locked into the front row for the start of Saturday’s 400 lapper.

“It’s no different than any other race,” said Reutimann, who is 28th in the standings. “I’ll just try to go out there and try to out run them.

“You don’t want to mess up anyone’s day, but I’m out for me.”

Five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will start third and alongside veteran driver Mark Martin. Rounding out the top ten are Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, A.J. Allmendinger and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Mike Skinner, Erik Darnell and T.J. Bell failed to qualify.

A bad day at the track got even worse for Tony Stewart on Friday following an exchange with a member of the media.

Stewart, who is winless this season but trying to nail down one of the final spots in the Chase, was upset after Michael McDowell pulled out in front of his No. 14 Chevrolet as he attempted a mock qualifying run during practice.

The driver nicknamed “Smoke” became agitated later in the day when asked by a reporter if he is feeling the pressure associated with trying to make the Chase.

“The pressure is all of the media standing here,” Stewart said. “We’re doing the same thing we always do every week. It’s you guys asking us the same questions for eight straight weeks in a row that is annoying.

“That’s where the pressure is coming in because we’re answering the same thing that we answered for the last seven straight weeks. That is where it gets annoying after awhile and gets to be very monotonous.”

When the reporter reiterated that the question is very fair, an annoyed Stewart quickly fired back.

“All right, here’s the thing,” he said. “All I care about is what I am doing this week. I’m not worried about what’s going to make your article this week. If it doesn’t make my race car go fast, I really don’t care about it right now. Got a lot of things going on.”

Roger Penske, one of the best-known owners in the history of motorsports, has seen his cars win nearly everything in sight except a Sprint Cup title.

But that could change this season.

Penske Motorsports drivers Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski are already locked into this year’s Chase and viewed by many as a legitimate threat to dethrone five-time champion Johnson.

“We all know that we’re here to bring “the Captain” his first Sprint Cup championship,” Busch said. “For Brad to have brought the championship home in the Nationwide Series (last year), that’s showing that we’re moving the needle in the right direction.

“We’ve got a great program with our two Dodges. We find ourselves in position to run through these next 10 weeks up front and we want to do that. The two of us pushing each other harder, we have to keep it into perspective, but I think that we can make each other stronger by pushing each other.”

Denny Hamlin rolls into his home track clinging to the final spot in the Chase field.

The Chesterfield, Va. native realizes that he’s a solid run away from clinching a berth in NASCAR’s playoffs.

“We control our own destiny just like (the drivers trailing him) control their own destiny,” Hamlin said. “We don’t have to have help from a few other guys.

“I think it’s probably easier on us than it is for the guys that have certain scenarios that have to happen for them to make it. Really, I’m racing this race as if it’s just a normal season race like I have the last few years – no different.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 9 2011
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