Richmond International Raceway is the closest track to me and my friends and I try to go at least one race a year.  We made it to the race yesterday, September 8th, and what a hot day.  We tailgated a lot of anticipation of the race but we all were watching our phones at the approaching storms.  We grilled earlier than we would have and thankfully, when the wind started, we had to break down the tailgate setup.  We still ate well…and then sat in the truck as the rain fell.  Over two hours late we walked into the Raceway.

Several drivers were on the cusp of making The Chase, and it all came down to this one race.  Notably, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose were fighting for the wild card slots.  This was going to be a great race, the setup was there.

At the start of the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was looking to be the top dog of the day.  From his pole position, he led the first 86 laps and then he started trading places with Denny Hamlin, who has been on a tear the second half of this season.  Denny in the open track seemed to dominate with Dale Jr. catching him when they caught up to traffic.  Finally, as most of us knew it would, the rain came again and they red-flagged the race.  It seemed like hours that we sat in the steady rain, but soon the drivers were firing up their cars again.

After the red flag, Dale Jr. struggled but Denny was still on fire.  I didn’t have on headphones to listen to MRN, but I am sure that the wild card slots went back and forth right up until the end of the race.  I have to say, Gordon had an inspired performance to take second place and with Dale Jr. passing Kyle Busch, that secured Gordon’s place in The Chase.

For those that don’t understand the wild card slots, here is the short explanation:  in the points standings, positions 1 through 10 are automatically in The Chase for the Championship.  The two wild card positions are for the drivers in 11th through 20th place who have the most wins.  Kahne had two wins, he was automatically #11 and then several drivers had 1 win, so it was a matter of their position in the standings at that point.  Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch both had 1 win and Gordon raced his way in by being ahead of Busch.  Clint Bowyer, who had spun out earlier in the race, battled back to take the win, giving him a 6th place finish.

So, the standings are now reset and the top 12 drivers are level set with advantages for season wins.  Denny Hamlin, with the most wins (4) is the leader Jimmy Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski each had three wins and are three points behind Hamlin.  The field is set below:

1              Denny Hamlin                    Leader

2              Jimmie Johnson                -3

3              Tony Stewart                     -3

4              Brad Keselowski               -3

5              Greg Biffle                          -6

6              Clint Bowyer                      -6

7              Dale Earnhardt Jr.            -9

8              Matt Kenseth                    -9

9              Kevin Harvick                     -12

10           Martin Truex Jr.                -12

11           Kasey Kahne                      -12

12           Jeff Gordon                        -12

With Gordon and Kahne taking the two wild card slots, that gives Hendrick Motorsports four drivers in The Chase.   Michael Waltrip Racing has two in The Chase with Boyer and Martin Truex Jr.  So who is going to take the Championship this year?  Good question…who is going to win more races?  Will Tony Stewart turn on the heat like last year?  Will Denny Hamlin continue to tear up the track here in the late season?  Will Dale Jr. find more wins this season to get his first Championship?  I think the way Hamlin is racing right now; he is going to be hard to beat.  I am pulling for Dale Jr. to secure his first Championship.  But I would never count out the five-time champ, Jimmie Johnson or the veteran Jeff Gordon.  Fall is here, Football started this week, and the Racing is heating up.