Saturday Night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 Huge For a Few NASCAR Chase Hopefuls
September 10, 2011 – By Scott
A huge weekend in NASCAR is set and it culminates this Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway for the Pistachio 400. Saturday night’s race will be the last of the “regular season” in NASCAR and is a huge race for a few drivers who have not locked in their spots for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s version of a playoff system.
The field consisting of 12 drivers will be set following the 400-lap race Saturday night. In the new format, two wild card spots will go to drivers who are ranked 11th to 20th in the points standings with the most victories in the season.
One of those drivers who fall in this category is Denny Hamlin who is 12th in the points standings. He currently holds the second wild card spot and is almost assured a spot in the Chase unless any eligible driver below him doesn’t earn a second victory or if Brad Keselowski hops into the top ten in points and Hamlin is still the top-rated driver who isn’t in the top 10. Hamlin has raced well at Richmond and has won the last two fall races at the 0.75 mile oval. He qualified 28th for Saturday’s race.
Keselowski, who is currently 11th in the standings, is assured a spot in this year’s Chase after getting three wins this season.
The drivers who are fighting for the final spots in the Chase will be looking for big things in Saturday’s race. One of these is Dale Earnhardt Jr who is currently 9th in the points standings. He qualified 27th on Friday but only needs to finish 20th or better to land his spot in the Chase. Tony Stewart is another in need of a great race as he is 10th in the points standings. He qualified 22nd for Saturday’s race and only needs to finish 18th or better.
David Reutimann has won the pole, the fourth in his career, for the Wonderful Pistachios 400 but is out of contention for the 10-race Chase. Another driver out of contention, Jamie McMurray qualified second and he is followed by Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin.
Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson enter the race as the favorites according to NASCAR Sportsbooks with odds set at 9/2. Gordon has his odds set at 13/2 while Hamlin is at 8/1.