Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth led 352 of 400 laps and cruised to an easy win in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond. The win was Kenseth’s fourth of the season and places him atop the points standings for the start of the Chase.
“I have the early momentum for the Chase,” Kenseth said. “And speaking of ‘early momentum,’ Joey Logano says I jumped the final restart. I dispute that. If I jumped anything, it was ‘ship,’ when I left Roush Fenway Racing.”
2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick struggled at Richmond, finishing 14th, one lap down, in the final race before the Chase For The Cup.
“It felt like I was driving on flat tires,” Harvick said. “That made the No. 4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet ‘leaky fast.’
“Of course, the tires weren’t really flat. Or were they? The last thing NASCAR needs is its own ‘Deflate-Gate’ controversy.”
3. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski finished eighth at Richmond, posting his 18th top-10 result of the year. By virtue of his one win this year, he will start the Chase with 2,003 points, nine out of first.
“This is where you’ll see the real drivers separated from the pretenders,” Keselowski said. “Or, if you’d care not to wait, I’ll do it for you. Pretenders: Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray. Contenders: everyone else.”
4. Kyle Busch: Busch finished second at Richmond on a commanding night for the Joe Gibbs Racing stable. Matt Kenseth won while Denny Hamlin finished sixth and Carl Edwards took 11th.
“JGR looks like the team to beat,” Busch said. “Kenseth is dominant while Edwards is domineering. Some people say Denny Hamlin isn’t a threat to win because of his injury, but they don’t have a leg to stand on. Me? I certainly have the talent, but history says that once the NASCAR post-season starts, I hit a wall.”
5. Joey Logano: Logano finished third at Richmond, and will start the Chase For The Cup with 2009 points, three points behind four-time winners Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth.
“Kenseth clearly jumped the final restart,” Logano said. “Replays verify it. Sure, Kenseth led 352 of 400 laps, but in this instance, he wasn’t ‘in the zone.’”
6. Carl Edwards: Edwards finished 11th in the Federated Auto Parts 400 as Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth dominated for the win.
“I traded paint with Kenseth during the race,” Edwards said. “To his credit, Kenseth didn’t give an inch. He’s really manned up. If he wins another championship this year, it seems he will have finally ‘grown a pair.’”
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt finished fifth at Richmond, the top finisher among Hendrick Motorsports cars. Earnhardt will join HMS teammates, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon in the Chase.
“HMS hasn’t had a win since Daytona in July,” Earnhardt said. “And we really need it. Our team motto for the upcoming race is ‘Just one, baby.’”
8. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished ninth and will enter the Chase For The Cup in first place with 2012 points by virtue of his four wins.
“’2012’ is a great number,” Johnson said. “It was not a good year. That’s when my run of six straight Cups came to an end.
“I just signed a contract extension to remain with Hendrick Motorsports through 2017. That’s good news for a team struggling to find speed heading into the Chase For The Cup. Finally, it’s a good ‘sign’ for HMS.”
9. Kurt Busch: Busch finished 15th at Richmond and will start the Chase For The Cup with 2,006 points, six behind the leaders at 2,012.
“Now,” Busch said, “the pressure really heats up. This is when you find out what you’re really made of. Sometimes, you never really know what someone is made of….until you go ‘court-ing.’”
10. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin finished sixth at Richmond despite driving with a torn right ACL, an injury suffered in a pickup basketball game on Tuesday.
“I probably shouldn’t have been playing basketball,” Hamlin said. “After all, this is the second time I’ve injured my knee. In both cases, I was wearing my favorite sneakers, the ‘Err Hamlins.’ Anyway, my right leg feels a little loose in the center.”