Five things to watch for this weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, where NASCAR’s regular season comes to an end:
▪ Martin Truex Jr.’s victory at Darlington means the Chase bubble has four winless drivers with hopes of making the postseason. Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray are still in good shape to make it.
▪ Ryan Newman finished Darlington seven points behind McMurray and apparently still had a slim chance at the Chase heading to Richmond. Newman failed post-race inspection, however, and the 15 points he was penalized might have ended his hopes (unless he wins the race).
▪ Chris Buescher needs to be careful. Although he has the necessary victory for Chase qualification, he hasn’t clinched a spot inside the top 30. The guy he needs to worry about is No. 31 David Ragan, who trails Buescher by 11 points.
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▪ There are a few drivers who can use Richmond to regain momentum – Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch, specifically. Although six-time champion Johnson came into Darlington with back-to-back top-10 finishes, he hasn’t won since Fontana (the fifth race of the season) and had a hot-and-cold summer. It’s not the first time he’s gone into the Chase with these kinds of concerns, however.
Reigning champion Kyle Busch hasn’t had a top-10 in his past three races and older brother Kurt, a model of consistency earlier in the season, has just one top-five in the past 11 races.
▪ NASCAR will have a rare two-day show this weekend at Richmond, with one day of track activities leading to Saturday night’s race. Darlington was cut to two days, as well, when rain washed out Friday and pushed preliminary activities to Saturday. It’s a nice break from the usual Friday through Sunday grind (with Thursday a travel day).