NASCAR at Richmond After Thoughts: RIR Changes Nothing and the Chase Begins

The racing was good at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night, but nothing changed for the Chase lineup and the results really weren’t that unexpected. Although the way his luck has been running lately, I can’t say I thought Denny Hamlin would win but I can say Joe Gibbs Racing has performed well at RIR lately and it figures they would finish first, second and fourth at this last race before the Chase.

So the big question raised by many is whether or not the JGR teams are entering the Chase with “Big Mo” on their side and my answer to them is, “Yeah, probably, but only for the first race.” That is unless they do the same thing at Loudon and then we can, at least, begin to look at their “Big Mo” chances.

Marcos Ambrose finished fifth and has quietly finished well in the last two races and is still showing promise to me for his move to Richard Petty Motorsports next year. From this fan’s view he could be one of the surprises during the Chase this year and during the season next year. It is a real shame he had such a disappointing season but to me it looks like next year may be good for him in several ways. I guess we’ll see and, like I said, it is possible he could surprise many before this year is over.

The Hendrick teams have picked a bad time to be in a slump. Richmond wasn’t good for anyone from HMS except maybe Jimmie Johnson as he finished third and did look to have a strong car at least part of the night. To say he has looked as dominate entering into the Chase as in the past couple of years would be a gross overstatement. All of the Hendrick teams have looked inconsistent the latter part of this season and I am anxious to see if their competitive status changes as they enter into the last ten weeks of racing. (We already know they won’t repeat as 1-2-3 in points for 2010.)

Look, I know it only takes one thing make a difference and cause a season turn around on a dime, but they have been struggling for a while now. Jeff Gordon has been the most consistent but has also looked the most vulnerable during a race. I do expect him and his team to step it up now that the Chase is on, but they do have a long way to go before anyone should get too excited about Jeff’s fifth championship.

Even the RCR teams looked a little cautious and pensive. Well, that is unless you look at Clint Bowyer’s performance over the last three races. If the #33 team continues to perform the way they have, they could be strong contenders for the Cup Championship when everybody shows up in Homestead in November. I do look for all three of the Childress teams to make a statement during the Chase and I’m not ruling out Kevin Harvick or Jeff Burton from mixing it up for taking the Cup either. Kevin Harvick, in particular, has had a rock solid year and unless something really out of the ordinary happens, I look for him at the very least to be finishing up in the top three for the year.

Gee, did anyone notice what kind of night Greg Biffle had. I sure hope I didn’t jinx him by hoping he and Clint Bowyer would make the night a little more interesting by having trouble early on in the race. (Of course, Clint Bowyer didn’t appear to pay much attention, but Greg Biffle had a night no one would want to have.) When all was said and done, Biffle finished five laps down in 32nd. (Gee, who’d a thunk it? I really didn’t think he’d take me up on it…)

Well, the top twelve are set and the Chase begins this coming weekend at Loudon, NH. Twelve of the teams will be running for the Championship and the other thirty-one will be running for thirteenth. Even if one those thirty-one cars wins a race or more, hardly anyone will pay much attention. Oh sure, they’ll get the coverage in Victory Lane and a few seconds of attention after that, but all eyes are focused on the top twelve.

I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda anxious to see what happens… This has been a stellar year for NASCAR and it looks like everyone believes it is going to be a Chase that goes right down to the last race of the season. Many even believe that last race is going to be decided on the last green-white-checkered restart after a late race caution. I don’t know if I’ll stick my neck out that far at the moment, but I will say this… just about anybody in the top twelve can take this Championship and, in about ten weeks, we’re going to find out who that person is…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 14, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

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