RICHMOND, VA. (September 7) - - Jeff Gordon has qualified for the chase for the championship for the fourth time in five years. An 8th place finish at Richmond International Raceway secured Gordon's spot in the season-ending 10-race "playoff." Although Gordon is winless on the season, the chase format gives him a chance -- albeit a longshot -- at his fifth championship. At Richmond, Gordon started 10th and ran the first five laps on the outside of Matt Kenseth before taking the 9th spot. Two laps later he ducked to the inside of Greg Biffle and moved into 8th. After brushing the wall, Gordon didn't seem to miss a beat as he took 7th place on lap 12. He moved into the top-5 a few laps later with a pass on Tony Stewart. Gordon then passed Jimmie Johnson to take 4th before the competition caution on lap 35 which brought the field onto pit lane. A two-tire pit stop allowed Gordon to exit with the lead and lower his position standing needed to qualify for the chase. He held the lead for just two laps after the restart as Kevin Harvick assumed the top spot. Gordon's two tires were no match for the frontrunners as he dropped spots to Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Tony Stewart by lap 50. Gordon ran in 7th until the second caution on lap 97. A four-tire and spring rubber change followed and put Gordon back to 12th in the field. He moved up to 9th a few laps after the restart but was unable to make further headway. A caution for Juan Pablo Montoya's spin brought the field to pit road on lap 165. Gordon held 9th through the round of pit stops. Shortly after the halfway point, Earnhardt Jr spun Kyle Busch in turn one, sending the points leader into the wall. On lap 236, Gordon's handling deteriorated and he dropped back to 12th place. Busch's second spin of the day brought the leaders to pit road on lap 244. Gordon restarted in 27th after 16 cars stayed on the track. He gained 7 spots after the restart and moved up to 20th on lap 260. However, he was hindered by traffic and ran 14th with 100 laps to go. A caution for Ken Schrader's spin brought the field to pit road for the final time with 42 to go. Gordon moved into the top-10 with 15 laps to go, and climbed to 8th before the finish. "We were really strong at the start of the race and just seemed like the adjustments we made we lost a little bit of track position," Gordon said. "Just couldn't never make up that ground. Good effort, good race car."
Deja Vu All Over Again
RICHMOND, VA. (September 7) - - No driver has mastered the 'chase for the championship' concept any better than Jimmie Johnson. He's claimed two consecutive Cup championships and has qualified for the chase every year since its inception. One year ago, Johnson went into the chase on the heels of back-to-back victories at California and Richmond. Although Johnson trailed Jeff Gordon by more than 400 points at the end of the regular season, the chase concept put Johnson in the lead at the outset. He then put together a modern-era record-tying four straight wins late in the chase to claim the title from Gordon. This time around he finished the regular season more than 300 points behind Kyle Busch -- but he once again scored back-to-back wins at California and Richmond heading into the chase. Busch and Carl Edwards have been this season's two most successful drivers, but the chase is a season unto itself. And there's simply no better driver in the chase than Jimmie Johnson.
RICHMOND, VA. (September 7) - - After being fired by Hendrick Motorsports last year, Kyle Busch signed with Joe Gibbs Racing where he has experienced immediate success. Busch swept the road courses, won 2 out of 3 restrictor plate races, and visited victory lane on intermediate and short tracks. On the heels of two mundane races at Indianapolis and Pocono over the summer, Jeff Gordon commented that Kyle and his team were slipping. Busch responded with a victory at Watkins Glen. During the Richmond weekend, Gordon was asked whether Busch was ready to win a championship. "I think Carl Edwards is more ready than Kyle," said Gordon. "He has the ability to go really hard, really fast, and he's made big improvements in my opinion this year over last year... I would put Carl ahead of him as far as being ready experience-wise, and I'd put Jimmie Johnson ahead of both of those guys with just his experience of winning the last two."
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