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Stewart Will Steer The Course Of The Chase

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 8 2012

Tony Stewart will have a major effect on what this year's Chase will ultimately look like. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

RICHMOND, Va. – Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart possibly has never possessed as much power as he wields headed into Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Currently 10th in the standings, Stewart’s performance in the 400-lap race on the 0.75-mile track will affect eight drivers who are vying for the final wild card position in the title Chase that begins next weekend at Chicago.

If Stewart remains 10th in the standings, he will receive nine bonus points for his three victories during the regular season and be reseeded in the top five. If he falls out of the top 10, he receives no bonus points. No matter which route his performance takes, he affects Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, teammate Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Paul Menard.

Kahne, Busch and Gordon trail Stewart by 18, 23 and 35 points, respectively, giving them a mathematical chance of reaching the top 10. Entering Saturday’s race, Kahne, with two victories, and Busch, with one, possess the two wild card positions. However, there’s no guarantee they will own them after the race due to Stewart.

Kahne clinches a wild card with a Richmond victory. If Stewart remains in the top 10, Kahne automatically clinches. If Stewart falls out of the top 10, Kahne gets in the Chase if a single-win driver outside the top 10 doesn’t win. If Busch replaces Stewart in the top 10 and Gordon wins, Kahne clinches a wild card by finishing
13th or better, 14th with at least one lap led, or 15th with the most laps led.

Busch will get a wild card position if Stewart remains in the top 10. If Kahne replaces Stewart, Busch must lose 12 or fewer points to Gordon and 40 or fewer to Ambrose.

Gordon’s scenario is a little more complicated. If Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne replaces him, Gordon will get into the Chase by finishing 13 points ahead of Busch, losing 28 or fewer points to Ambrose and losing 37 or fewer points to Newman. If Busch replaces Stewart in the top 10, Gordon gets a Chase berth with a win and finishing 18 points ahead of Kahne.

Ambrose, Newman, Logano, Edwards and Menard have more of an outside chance of making the Chase, but one still exists for each of the five drivers.

For Ambrose, if Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kahne replaces the Indiana driver, Ambrose snares a wild card by finishing 41 points ahead of Busch and 29 points ahead of Gordon.

Newman must win to clinch a Chase berth. If either Busch or Gordon replaces Stewart in the top 10, Newman is eliminated.

Like Newman, Logano, Edwards and Menard must record a victory. However, if either Busch or Gordon replaces Stewart in the top 10, Logano is eliminated.

Edwards must win, have Busch finish 24th or worse and Gordon place 12th or worse. If Busch or Gordon replaces Stewart in the top 10, Edwards is eliminated.

Menard’s victory will work only if Busch finishes 34th or worse with no laps led and Gordon finishes 22nd or worse with no laps led. If Busch or Gordon replaces Stewart in the top 10, Menard is eliminated.

“There is so much that’s gonna happen out here that it’s gonna be hard to keep track of all the scenarios as the night progresses,” Edwards said. “If Tony Stewart were to have a bad night, it changes a lot. If Jeff and Kyle have bad nights, it puts a lot more pressure on us. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things happen in this sport, so that’s why I’m doing my best to not think about ‘what if we don’t make it.’ I’m just trying to focus on what I can do to win this race.”

And if winning the race means moving someone out of the way, Edwards and Gordon have said they would execute the maneuver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he wouldn’t expect anything less.

“I truly think in a situation like that, that nobody is gonna blame a guy for going for it and being a little aggressive,” Edwards said. “There’s a difference between wrecking somebody and trying to ruin their night or just moving them out of the way to win. I think there will be more acceptance of that stuff this weekend just because there’s so much on the line. It doesn’t mean the emotions won’t be there, but I think people will understand it better after they calm down.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 8 2012
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