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Field Set for 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup

by Pete McCole
Monday, September 08, 2008

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The 12 drivers who made the Chase for the Sprint Cup
Jimmie Johnson’s victory Sunday brought the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup regular season to a close, setting the field for the 12-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup to begin next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The top 12 drivers in the points standings will advance to the 10-race Chase, seeded by number of victories. Each driver will receive 10 bonus points for each victory, with tiebreakers decided by number of top-two, top-three or top-four finishes.

Kyle Busch, who has led the points standing since week 10, will lead the 12-man Chase field with 5080 points, tallying 80 bonus points for his series-leading eight victories this season. Carl Edwards, with six victories, follows with 5050 points.

Sunday’s race winner Jimmie Johnson will start third with 5040 points, followed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Burton with 5010 points. Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth with 5000 points each rounded out the 12-driver field.

With the top five drivers coming into Richmond locked in the field for the 10-race Chase, the attention was focused on the three drivers fighting to claim the final two spots, with Bowyer trying to hang onto the 12th position with David Ragan and Kasey Kahne looking to leapfrog into the top-12.

An extra day’s delay due to Tropical Storm Hanna just heightened the anxiety for the drivers on the bubble – all wondering who would be on the outside looking in when the checkered flag finally flew on Sunday.

Ragan was looking to join his three Roush Racing teammates already in the Chase field. Coming into Richmond 13th in points and just 17 points behind Bowyer for the final transfer spot, Ragan’s goal was nothing less than a top-five finish.

With the starting field lined up by points, Ragan started right behind Bowyer and kept himself in the hunt for much of the early part of the race until he spun on lap 123, collecting teammate Matt Kenseth in the process.

Ragan’s team fixed the damage and kept their driver in the hunt, as Ragan battled side by side with Bowyer for position and for points. Later, while running nearly side by side in the pack, Bowyer got into the back of Regan Smith, pushing him up into Ragan, costing Ragan valuable track position he was never able to make up. Regan ended up 32nd, falling to 14th in points.

“Regardless of how we ended up today, I told everyone before the race that whether we made the Chase or not wasn't gonna solely be on the Richmond race,” said Ragan. “I can look back at three or four races earlier in the year we didn't do a good job that resulted in the loss of a few points and also some races we had run good and everything was fine.

“We've still got 10 more races to go.  It certainly would be a disappointment if this was Homestead and this was it, but we've still got 10 more races to go to try to finish 13th in points, try to get a win out of the year and get some more top fives and get ready for next year.”

With Ragan fading, Kahne made his bid for a spot in the Chase, pushing past Ragan in the points standings, but he too fell short with a 19th-place finish, 69 points behind Bowyer.

Kahne, winner of the 2008 All Star race back in May, joined Kurt Busch and Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman as the only three race winners from 2008 to not make it into the championship hunt.

“I feel like I drove everything I could all day,” said Kahne. “I tried to take chances.  I tried to be smart at the same time to get what we could get. 

Track position hurt us all day.  It was a long day in the pits.  I came out about last every single time it seemed like.  At least we came out after those cars all the time.  That didn't help, but either way, we weren't going to beat Clint (Bowyer).”

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