by Ryan Isley
It will be almost like déjà vu for Jeff Gordon this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Almost.
After trailing Kyle Busch by 12 points heading into the final race before the Chase last season, Gordon will only have to be half as good at Richmond this season to catch the other Busch brother for a spot in the Chase, as Gordon trails Kurt Bush by six points. He also trails Greg Biffle by just 14 points.
Gordon held off Kyle Busch last season to take the second wild card spot, and is chasing Kurt this season for the final non-wild card spot in the Chase. If Gordon could win the Federated Auto Parts 400 and pick up his fourth career win at Richmond, he would guarantee himself a spot in the Chase, as the worst he could finish in that scenario is as one of the two wild card entries.
Barring a win, Gordon would need to beat Kurt Bush by at least seven positions if neither leads a lap. Gordon could beat Busch by six positions if he leads at least one lap and Busch doesn’t, or can beat Busch by five spots if he leads the most laps and Busch doesn’t lead any.
In the earlier race this season at Richmond, Kurt Busch finished ninth, while Gordon finished 11th. If that race repeats itself, Kurt Busch would beat Gordon for the spot in the Chase. But where it gets interesting is that Biffle finished 36th in that race, which would allow Gordon to sneak by him and knock Biffle down to one of the wild card spots.
Despite Busch finishing better than Gordon in April, Gordon has better career numbers than both Busch and Biffle at Richmond. In 41 career starts, Gordon has an average finish of 14.3 with two wins and 16 top-5 finishes. In 25 races, Busch has one win and four top-5s and an average finish of 17.9 while Biffle has an average finish of 17.2 but just two top-5s and zero wins in 22 races.
Not only has Gordon had more career success than both Busch and Biffle, but he has also been in this position before where he needs to race his way into the Chase. I think that the experience he gained last season in his do-or-die run at Richmond where he finished second will be invaluable this season. He and crew chief Alan Gustafson know how to handle the pressure and communication throughout the race after doing so just a year ago.
While Dana wouldn’t do it, my prediction is that Jeff Gordon win the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond and gets his spot in the Chase, with Busch coming up just short and missing out on the Chase altogether.
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