NASCAR Sprint Cup teams have differing goals as they enter a race season. For some, it is to finish higher in the standings as the year before. For others, it's winning that first race. However, for the more powerful teams, success is measured by whether they make the championship Chase.
Unfortunately, there are only 12 slots available for the post season and that lead to a lot of drama Saturday night in Richmond as 18 teams struggled to make their way in.
Carl Edwards won the race and three valuable bonus points in a bizarre ending to a drama filled night. As he celebrated after the event, Edwards gave the credit for their recent success to his experienced crew chief, Jimmy Fenning.
"I told Jack, I think it was a year ago or so, about having a crew chief that would be somebody that would tell me what he needs out of me, and I will go do that. Jimmy takes control of the whole team in that manner," said Edwards on his secret weapon for the Chase. "I don't think we could be much better."
Edwards might have won the race but it will be Matt Kenseth that will head into the first Chase event as the point leader. Kenseth was red hot through the July race in Daytona but has fallen off in recent weeks. With the reshuffle of points, Kenseth is looking forward to another run at a championship.
"We've had really a terrific 26 weeks," reflected Kenseth on his season so far. "It feels like it's been a really long first two-thirds of the season. I'm ready for the Chase to start and excited about the stuff we got going for Chicago."
Kenseth and Edwards knew they were locked into the post season before they started Saturday night. However, there were eight teams that had to race their way into the last 4 available positions. Some were successful but, some were not.
Kurt Busch was the David vs. Goliath story of the night among the battling teams. Driving for a single car operation with limited funds, Busch was not supposed to be part of the post season conversation. However, with his talent behind the wheel and an owner with big dreams, they outrun many more well funded teams to get a chance at a NASCAR title.
"Unbelievable, the way this team has grown, what we've been able to accomplish, it's an amazing feeling," said Busch about his team's achievement. "We achieved something very special tonight. It's an amazing feeling to sit here at Richmond after such a long journey for myself, but to be able to deliver, to do my part along with these guys. I can't thank them enough."
Busch will surely have an uphill battle to bring a title to such a small team but Allan Kulwicki proved that nothing in impossible in racing if you work hard enough.
Of course, there were those that were not so fortunate Saturday night and will spend the next 10 weeks being a spoiler to salvage some bragging rights for the off season.
Defending Cup Series Champion, Brad Keselowski was one of those that failed to make the championship field.
"I don't really have any emotions right now," said Keselowski on his disappointment of not being able to defend his title. "We weren't good enough to make it and we didn't. That is the reality."
With the field now set for the championship battle, there is no real favorite. All of the players have had their ups and downs in the season. The driver that ends up on top in Homestead will be the one that finds some momentum and finds it quickly.
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