Carl Edwards' season is down to one race and a must-win situation if he is to have any chance of making the field for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. But in reality, even winning the Federated Auto Parts 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Speedway won't be enough to punch his ticket for the 12-car,10-race Chase for the Cup.
The popular stock-car driver from Columbia, Mo., needs a bunch of help from other NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers and some crazy stuff to happen at Richmond, including a mandatory race win, or his' hopes for a championship season for the No. 99 Roush-Fenway Ford are over and out of the running for at least another year.
Edwards has eight top-10s, three top-fives and has led 442 laps this season, but he has no wins, which is the biggest factor working against him as the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR's top racing level, gets set for the final race of the 2012 regular season. The 12-driver field will be set after this weekend, and the Chase for the Cup, NASCAR's version of the MLB or NFL playoffs gets under way next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Edwards' teammate at Roush-Fenway, Greg Biffle is the points leader heading into the regular-season finale at Richmond, but only by a narrow eight points over second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Another Roush-Fenway driver, Matt Kenseth, sits third in the standings, 21 points back of Biffle, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr.
The top 10 drivers in the standings after this weekend automatically qualify for the Chase. To complete the field of 12, two wild card entries are then selected from the drivers in positions 11 through 20 in the points standings with the most race victories this season. Right now, Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports has the best chance of securing one of the two wild-card spots. Kahne is 11th in points and has two Sprint Cup wins this season.
If the regular season ended today, Kyle Busch would be awarded the final spot in the Chase field. The younger of the two Busch brothers who are still active in NASCAR, Kyle is currently 12th in points with one win to his credit, but he is the only 12 points ahead of four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who also has one win, for the final spot in the Chase field. Two other drivers - Ryan Newman and Joey Logano - also have one win apiece and are still in the race to make the Chase.
Edwards would have to finish ahead of all of those drivers in points, plus finish first in Saturday's race, just to have any chance at all of making the Chase. A couple of weeks ago, we predicted that the runner-up in the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship was in serious jeopardy of not appearing in the Chase for the first time in six seasons. Now his chances are probably even worse than slim to none.
"I'm hoping for an insane race," Edwards said during the practice session at Richmond on Thursday. "I want things to be just off the charts. Rain delays...oil on the track. I want things to happen. I need this race to be insane. That's what I need. I'll take whatever I can get.
"It's not farfetched to see a couple of guys have bad nights," said the driver of the No. 99 Ford. "But with everything that's going to happen here in this race, I think truly, it could happen. And I'm hoping that it does. It would be unreal to be doing a back flip on the front straightaway and be in the Chase."
Here is what Edwards would need to happen Saturday night for him to pull off the miracle of miracles that would earn him the final spot in the Chase:
- First and foremost, he would need to break his 58-race winless string. Edwards last won at Las Vegas Speedway in the third race of the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season.
- Kyle Busch would need to finish 24th or worse and lead no laps in the race at Richmond.
- Gordon would need to finish 12th or worse and not lead any laps.
You may think this is all crazy, and that's exactly what Edwards wants everyone to think. He's hoping for a track full of craziness come Saturday night.
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