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Pressure Is On Chase Bubble-Sitters At Richmond

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 10 2016
Chris Buescher is one of a handful of drivers who need a good night Saturday in Richmond. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett )

Chris Buescher is one of a fair-sized handful of drivers who need a good night Saturday in Richmond. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett )

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

RICHMOND, Va. – Pressure is a way of life for those competing in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, but in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 it’s different for those already solidified in the Chase versus those still trying to gain a spot in the title run.

sprint-logo-08Chris Buescher possesses a victory, but must remain in the top 30 in points in order to gain access to the Chase. He enters Saturday’s race at the three-quarter mile track 11 points ahead of David Ragan in 31st. In qualifying Friday, Ragan gained the upper hand by claiming the 21st starting position, while Buescher had to settle for 31st.

“We are going to control what we can control and do our best to have a good, clean race; stay out of trouble,” Buescher said. “This is historically not one of my better tracks, but we have been making progress. We are not in a full defensive mode. We are coming out here to race aggressively for every position, every point we can possibly get, without taking unnecessary risks.”

If Buescher maintains a top-30 points position and another driver wins for the first-time this season, that reduces the number of positions in the 16-Chase field earned by points to two. Entering Saturday night’s race, for which Denny Hamlin earned his first pole this season, the final two Chase positions would go to Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon. However, if a first-time winner doesn’t appear and Buescher remains in the top 30, then it would be three drivers – Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne – vying for the final spot. The scenarios under which Elliott, Dillon, McMurray, Newman and Kahne can clinch a Chase berth are numerous.

Of those five drivers, McMurray posted the best qualifying run of fourth. Next came Kahne in seventh, Dillon in eighth, Newman in 15th and Elliott in 34th. Hamlin noted that due to the deficit Newman incurred when he was docked 15 points by NASCAR for failing post-race laser inspection at Darlington, he thought McMurray would make the Chase unless he had a bad night.

“The first time I was involved in a Chase battle was 2005,” said Edwards, who qualified 13th. “I can still remember very specific details about that race. It seems like it took about a year. It was a huge amount of pressure just to make it in.

“Now with the Chase format that we have, we’ve got this race for a lot of guys is huge pressure. Then three races from now all of us are going to feel it. Sometimes when I feel all that pressure I think, ‘Man, there’s really nothing else in my life that makes me feel this way.’ It’s pretty cool to have the opportunity to have something that you care about that much.”

Edwards noted that Saturday night’s race was the last one this season in which his Joe Gibbs Racing team could afford any mistakes.

“This is the last one without all the pressure, so we’re going to have some fun,” Edwards said.

Those drivers possessing at least one victory headed into the season’s 26th and final race in the regular season are Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Edwards, Hamlin, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart and Buescher.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 10 2016
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