As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series enjoys a rare weekend off for drivers to relax and recharge, the action will quickly intensify with only two races left to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. The Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is first up on September 6 followed by the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 12.
Eleven drivers are locked into the odds for the 2015 Sprint Cup Championship provided they remain in the top 30 in points and start the next two races. Those drivers include Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.
The remaining five drivers in the top 16 Chase Grid are will be searching for Victory Lane at Darlington or Richmond to ensure their inclusion into the Chase playoffs. If they can’t secure a win, they will undoubtedly focus their efforts on accumulating as many points as possible. This will prevent them from losing their spot in the Chase if we see a new winner from those currently outside the top 16.
All eyes will be on the five drivers in positions 12th-16th; Jamie McMurray (76 points above the cutoff line), Ryan Newman (+63), Paul Menard (+54), Jeff Gordon (+52) and Clint Bowyer (+35). For the rest of the field, a victory at Darlington or Richmond could quickly take them from obscurity to contention when the playoffs begin.
Drivers to watch in the Southern 500 are past winners at Darlington Raceway, Gordon and Greg Biffle. As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway for the final race before the Chase, favorites include Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart, who have all previously captured the checkered flag at Richmond.
Excitement surrounds The Southern 500 as it returns to its traditional Labor Day weekend date for the first time since 2003. Many of the drivers are showing their support with unique paint schemes honoring the rich history of Darlington Raceway. You can visit Nascar.com for a gallery highlighting these throwback paint schemes.
Tune in Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC as the action begins for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. With only two races to go before the Chase for the Championship, the drivers have nothing to lose and everything to gain.