Denny Hamlin Wins Richmond; 2016 Chase Field Set

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin has taken the chequered flag in the Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond. The Richmond race marks the final regular season event before NASCAR‘s Chase playoff system. Hamlin, who was already locked into the sport’s postseason system from previous wins, came out as the clear winner in a race that featured a staggering number of cautions. With the 2016 Chase field set, the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup has begun.

Denny Hamlin Wins Richmond; 2016 Chase Field Set

Who is in?

Chase Elliott

Although still fighting for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, Chase Elliott has qualified for the Chase in his rookie season. Elliott was one of several “bubble” drivers on the fringe of missing the Chase on points. Elliott made contact early with the previous driver of the No. 24 car, Jeff Gordon. Despite this setback, Elliott managed a 34th place finish. This put Elliott in the Chase 49 points clear of the cutoff mark.

Austin Dillon

At first glance, it would not appear that Austin Dillon is having his breakout year. Like Chase Elliott, Dillion is a young driver in a famous car searching for his first career victory. However, Dillion has been able to pull a consistent enough 2016 campaign to secure his first berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. His place in the 2016 Chase field came after a strong eighth place finish in Richmond, putting him 46 points clear of the cutoff mark.

Jamie McMurray

Coming into the Richmond race weekend, Jamie McMurray held the 16th and final place in the 2016 Chase field. After 400 miles, there he remained. It has not been a career-defining season for the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing team. However, like Dillon, McMurray has been able to remain consistent despite setbacks. Whether or not both of these drivers capitalized on the shortcomings of others is another story. Regardless of the circumstances allowing his 2016 Chase field berth, McMurray finished the Federated Auto Parts 400 with an impressive fourth place finish. This put the Ganassi driver 43 points clear of the cutoff mark.

Chris Buescher

The second rookie to qualify for the 2016 Chase field, Chris Buescher is perhaps the biggest surprise in the field. The Front Row Motorsports driver claimed his first career victory this season in the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 in Pocono. NASCAR’s Chase system does not guarantee qualification with a victory, but rather with a victory as well as at least 30th place in the standings. Although Buescher had won a race, the nagging question coming into Richmond was whether or not he could maintain 30th and qualify for the 2016 Chase field. Despite finishing 31st, Buescher has qualified for the 2016 Chase field and will be competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Who is out?

Ryan Newman

The past week has been a considerably difficult one for Ryan Newman. After coming within seven points of Jamie McMurray for a berth in the 2016 Chase field, Newman was docked 15 points after failing post-race inspection in Darlington. This meant that Newman would likely have to win at Richmond in order to qualify for the Chase. This could have been plausible, as Newman has historically been strong in Richmond. Unfortunately, Newman was caught in a late race accident with Tony Stewart. This incident caused a large pileup that resulted in the race being red-flagged.

Hard times are far from over from Newman, as more punishment could be on the horizon. Obviously frustrated over missing out on the Chase due to an accident, Newman made several comments regarding Tony Stewart after the incident. These included a reference to Kevin Ward Jr.‘s fatal accident with Tony Stewart: “I guess he thought he was in a sprint car, he couldn’t control his anger“. Newman continued by making comments regarding Stewart’s mental health: “I don’t think there was any reason other than him just being bipolar and having anger issues“. Newman finished the Federated Auto Parts 400 in 15th place, 43 points short of the cutoff mark.

Kasey Kahne

With Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott qualifying for the 2016 Chase field, Kasey Kahne is on the outside looking in. The No. 5 team has struggled over the past season, but were able to put themselves close on the Chase bubble coming into Richmond. McMurray and Dillion were able to capitalize on the shortcomings of Ryan Newman. Kahne, however, was not quite as lucky. Despite a strong seventh place finish in Richmond, Kahne matched Newman in points. This put him 43 points short of the cutoff mark.

Missing the Chase has greater implications for Kahne than missing out on the chance to battle for a championship. With the signing of William Byron to Hendrick Motorsports, it is rumoured that Kahne’s days at Hendrick Motorsports could be numbered. Although the team denies that Byron is being conditioned to replace him, Kahne has put the need to succeed by 2018 on himself, saying: “If I haven’t performed by 2018, I need to leave. It’s pretty simple. That has nothing to do with William Byron or anyone else. If I haven’t performed by then, it’s time to go do something different. That’s just the way racing and life is“.

Unofficial Full 2016 Chase Field

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Carl Edwards
  6. Martin Truex Jr.
  7. Jimmie Johnson
  8. Matt Kenseth
  9. Joey Logano
  10. Kurt Busch
  11. Kyle Larson
  12. Tony Stewart
  13. Chris Buescher
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Austin Dillon
  16. Jamie McMurray

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