CONCORD, N.C.— This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Richmond International Raceway.
And Saturday night's race at the Virginia track is the last chance for drivers to secure their spots in the 16-driver Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Jimmie Johnson has locked up a position in the Chase whereas teammates Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott have a final opportunity to clinch a postseason berth.
“I’ve always liked Richmond,” Kahne said. “I have been able to win here in the past and I look forward to the challenge. I think you can bring a lot back from the day race, but the bigger thing is the cars have changed since then.”
With the anticipation building for the final race before the Chase, take a look at the key notes below before the drivers start their engines and race under the lights at Richmond.
BROADCAST INFORMATION: Saturday’s race will air live on NBC Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. ET. Can’t make it to the television? Listen to the race live on MRN and SiriusXM to catch the radio coverage. Here is the full broadcast schedule:
Friday, Sept. 9:
10 a.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Practice, NBC Sports Network
Noon ET: Sprint Cup Series Final Practice, NBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, NBC Sports Network
Saturday, Sept. 10:
7:30 p.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Race, NBC Sports Network
THIS WEEKEND’S PAINT SCHEMES: This weekend, Kahne will compete in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, while Elliott pilots the No. 24 American Red Cross Chevrolet SS. Johnson and Jeff Gordon will race the No. 48 Lowe’s ProServices Chevrolet SS and No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS, respectively, in this Saturday’s race under the lights.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT RICHMOND: At Richmond International Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, 17 pole positions, 57 top-five finishes and 102 top-10s. Johnson earned the three most recent wins for the organization at the track -- a sweep in 2007 and another trip to Victory Lane in 2008.
RETURNING TO RICHMOND: Kahne returns to Richmond International Raceway and will pilot the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS for Saturday night’s 400-lap race. Kahne’s fourth-place result in this year’s April race at Richmond is tied with his finish at Dover as his highest of the season.
RACING TO THE CHASE: Kahne is on the outside looking in for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. However, a win this weekend at Richmond would punch his ticket to NASCAR’s 10-race postseason. Kahne has been in this situation before – 2014 – when he needed to win in order to earn his spot in the Chase. Kahne led 25 laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the penultimate event of the regular season and went on to win the 335-lap race to advance to the Chase.
SEASON STANDINGS: Elliott currently sits 10th in the standings with 659 points. The rookie trails leader Harvick by 181 markers. The 20-year-old is younger than any other driver currently inside the top 16 – the amount of drivers NASCAR takes into its playoffs – while also being the highest ranked rookie.
CLINCHING A CHASE SPOT: This weekend, the simplest way for Elliott to clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is to win. Beyond that, there are a number of other finishes that would also lock in Elliott’s spot in the Chase: He’ll clinch on points with 24 points if there is a new winner – he would have to be 17th and not lead any laps, 18th with at least one lap led, or 19th and have led the most laps. If there is a repeat winner at Richmond - or a new winner and Chris Buescher falls out of the top 30 in points - and Elliott earns 17 points finishing in 24th with zero laps led, 25th leading at least one lap or 26th and have led the most laps. Finally, if there is a repeat winner and Buescher falls out of the top 30, then Elliott clinches on points – regardless of finish.
JOHNSON AT RICHMOND: Johnson swept the 2007 season at Richmond, winning one of those races from the pole position on Sept. 8, 2007. Johnson’s last win at the 0.75-mile track was on Sept. 7, 2008. The No. 48 team has scored four straight top-10 finishes at Richmond in as many races.
BACK FOR MORE: With Dale Earnhardt Jr. out for the remainder of the 2016 season, Gordon will again fill in for him this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. It will be the sixth race that the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has driven for Earnhardt and the No. 88 team. Gordon’s best finish (11th) in the No. 88 came at the Bristol short track, so Richmond, also a short track, may provide a good opportunity for the team to earn a top-10 finish. He will also fill in for Earnhardt at Dover International Speedway (Oct. 2) and Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30). He is the defending race winner at Martinsville, which propelled him to a spot in the “Championship 4” of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2015.
RICHMOND STATS: Gordon has two victories at the 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval and an average finish of 13.3. He also has an impressive qualifying history at Richmond, earning six poles -- the most of any active driver -- in addition to holding the track qualifying record at 130.599 mph, which he set on Sept. 7, 2013. His average starting position is 8.3 in 46 starts, the best of any active driver at the Richmond, Virginia, facility. He also leads all active drivers at Richmond in top-five finishes (18), top-10s (30), lead-lap finishes (33) and laps led (1,637).