16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Biffle, who led the points for 11 straight weeks earlier in the season, has been back in the top spot in the Sprint Cup standings following the last three races. He leads second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by eight points and third-ranked Matt Kenseth by 21 points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 20 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: 3rd in summer 2005. Finished 13th in this race last year and 18th last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: For a guy who grew up on short tracks like the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway, Biffle has not had the best of luck there. Given that he's the points leader -- a position he'll lose after Richmond once the points are reseeded for the 12 drivers who make the Chase -- a win Saturday night would certainly boost his standing in the Chase field when it begins. Here are Biffle's thoughts about Richmond: "It feels good to be locked into the Chase. I'm ready for Richmond, but it's been a hit-or-miss track for us. Richmond is definitely a driver's track, and the night race this weekend will be exciting for fans. We are taking a brand new chassis this weekend and hopefully we can get another win before the Chase starts."

LOOKING BACK: After clinching his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after Bristol, Biffle had hoped to pick up more points at Atlanta but struggled to a 19th-place finish. Still, he managed to hold on to the points lead, although the gap between Biffle and second place dropped to just eight points.

ETC.: Biffle has completed 97.3 percent (7,788) of the 8,003 laps contested over his 20 starts at Richmond. He has an average start of 17.8; average finish of 16.7. He also has 1 DNF.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Earnhardt climbed back into second place after Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by eight points and leads third-ranked Matt Kenseth by 13 points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 26 career starts, 3 wins, 9 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 1st in spring 2000, spring 2004 and spring 2010. Finished 16th in this race last year but jumped up to second last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: For fans who have been waiting for Earnhardt to win his second race of the season, Richmond is one of the best candidates, particularly given his record there. Here are Earnhardt's thoughts on Saturday's final pre-Chase race: "I like short tracks. Richmond has been a good one for us for a couple of races. I have always enjoyed running there, and it's a fun track. It's not your typical short track with the way the front straightaway is. It definitely makes each corner unique from the other, and the way you drive the track can change throughout the race. It's a lot of fun for a driver."

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt finished seventh at Atlanta. Although he didn't lead any laps, Earnhardt had a decent car that may not have been the best of the field, but he and crew chief Steve Letarte worked together to get a top-10 finish.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 99.1 percent (10,308) of the 10,403 laps he's contested during his 26 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 16.4; average finish is 13.9. He also has 1 DNF there.

17 MATT KENSETH, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After losing two spots in the standings after Bristol, Kenseth climbed back into third place after Atlanta. He trails points leader and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle by 21 points, second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 13 points and leads fourth-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 10 points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 25 career starts, 1 win, 3 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in summer 2006. Finished 23rd in this race last year and 11th last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Now that he finally confirmed his move to Joe Gibbs Racing next season on Tuesday, Kenseth has few distractions left from this point on. All he needs to do is go out and win races and have consistently strong finishes. If he does that, he could potentially leave his longtime home at Roush Fenway Racing with his second career Cup championship. Here are Kenseth's thoughts on Saturday's race: "You never know how the racing will be this weekend at Richmond with guys still trying to race their way into the Chase. I think certainly since NASCAR added the wild card element that it's put another interesting twist into qualifying for the Chase, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. It's nice to know that we're locked in as we head into Richmond, though, because in the past I've gone there having to still make the Chase, so it's nice to know we're already in. Of course, we'll still be racing to get another win hopefully before the Chase begins."

LOOKING BACK: After finishing 17th at Michigan and 19th at Bristol, both uncharacteristic finishes for a guy who typically does much better at both tracks, Kenseth rebounded to finish ninth at Atlanta.

ETC.: Kenseth has completed 97.6 percent (9,758) of the 10,003 laps contested in his 25 career starts at Richmond. His average start is a mediocre 21.8; his average finish is 17.0. He also has 1 DNF there.

48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: After dropping from first to fourth after Michigan, Johnson rebounded at Bristol to regain two positions, only to fall back two spots again to fourth after Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by 31 points, third-ranked and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 10 points and leads fifth-ranked Martin Truex Jr. by 10 points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 21 career starts, 3 wins, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: 1st in spring and summer 2007 and summer 2008. Finished 31st in this race last year, but was sixth this spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson is right where he wants to be heading into Richmond: He's locked into the Chase and everything from this point on is gravy. It's also the start of the best time of the season for Johnson, who will be seeking his sixth career Sprint Cup championship this year. Here are his thoughts on Saturday's race: "Richmond is unique just because of how racy it is. The shape of the track, the banking, size, good side-by-side racing -- it is a very racy track."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson was involved in a wreck that some observers blamed on him, and he ended up with a disappointing 34th-place finish at Atlanta, a track at which he typically does much better.

ETC.: Johnson has completed 94.0 percent (7,898) of the 8,403 laps contested in his 21 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 12.4; average finish is 16.7. He also has 1 DNF there.

56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Truex remained in fifth place for the second straight week after Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by 41 points, fourth-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 10 points and leads sixth-ranked Brad Keselowski by seven points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5s, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: fifth in spring 2008. Finished 30th in this race last year and 25th last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Truex did what he set out to do at Atlanta: clinch a spot in the Chase. Now he is looking for his first win of the season and of his career at Richmond, which would certainly give his team a great deal of momentum heading into the Chase. Here are crew chief Chad Johnston's thoughts on Saturday's race now that the team is locked into the Chase: "Obviously, it's a big deal for us, big deal for NAPA, big deal for MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). It feels pretty good going into Richmond knowing that you're locked in and that you don't have to do anything special. We'll just have to go see what we can do with them next week."

LOOKING BACK: Truex was oh so close at Atlanta, leading 40 laps and eventually finishing a strong fourth. He was the second of four Toyota drivers to finish in the top 10, led by race winner Denny Hamlin.

ETC.: Truex has completed 93.7 percent (4,881) of the 5,210 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 16.7; average finish is a mediocre 24.4. He also has three DNFs there.

2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Dodge

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After losing two spots at Bristol, Keselowski regained one of those positions to climb back to sixth place after Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by 48 points, fifth-ranked Martin Truex Jr. by seven points and leads seventh-ranked Denny Hamlin by nine points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 6 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: ninth in spring 2012. Finished 12th in this race last year and ninth last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski wants to start the best way he possibly can in the Chase, and a win Saturday at Richmond would tie him with Denny Hamlin for most wins going into the Chase, which would assure Keselowski either first or second place when the Chase starts. Here are his thoughts heading into Richmond: "I'm really looking forward to going to Richmond with no pressure, other than trying to win the race. That is going to be one wild race on Saturday night. Some really good drivers need to win to make it in, but we aren't going to give it to them. We want to win to go into the Chase tied for the points lead. With the security we have of already locking ourselves in, we can take some chances to see if we can hit on something that will help us get to Victory Lane. It's been a great year for the Miller Lite Dodge team. Now it's time to see what we're made of."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski didn't lead any laps at Atlanta but still managed to rally late to finish third. That finish not only locked him into the Chase, it gave him additional momentum heading into Richmond.

ETC.: Keselowski has completed 98.5 percent (2,363) of the 2,400 laps contested in his six career Cup starts at Richmond. His average start is 10.8; average finish is 20.7. He also has 1 DNF there.

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Hamlin continued his climb up the standings, moving up one position to seventh after Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by 57 points, sixth-ranked Brad Keselowski by nine points and leads eighth-ranked Clint Bowyer by 11 points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 13 career starts, 2 wins, 7 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: first in summer 2009 and summer 2010. Finished ninth in this race last year and fourth last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin is red hot, having won the last two races (Bristol and Atlanta) to become the first driver to win four races this season. Can he make it three in a row at Richmond and five overall? He certainly has one of the most impressive records of any driver at Richmond, which also just happens to be his home track. While there'll be a lot of pressure on him in the Chase, particularly with the way he folded at the end of the 2010 Chase, Hamlin knows this is a new season and he has learned from past mistakes. Here are his thoughts on being in the Chase: "It means a lot (to be the No. 1 Chase seed heading into Richmond). I look at Richmond as a race we're going to go win. That's my track -- it's my best track, arguably, and I just think we have a lot of momentum now and, for what it's worth, I will try to take advantage of it."

LOOKING BACK: Hamlin won his second consecutive race Sunday night at Atlanta, which gave him a series-leading four wins for the season. Unless Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart wins Saturday at Richmond, Hamlin will likely be the No. 1 seed heading into the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in less than two weeks at Chicago.

ETC.: Hamlin has completed 99.9 percent (5,206) of the 5,210 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Richmond. His average start there is an impressive 9.8; average finish is an outstanding 7.3. He has 0 DNFs there.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Bowyer dropped two spots in the standings to eighth in the Sprint Cup standings following Sunday night's race at Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by 68 points, seventh-ranked Denny Hamlin by 11 points and leads ninth-ranked Kevin Harvick by four points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 13 career starts, 1 win, 1 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in spring 2008. Finished 22nd in this race last year -- his worst career performance at Richmond -- but rebounded to finish seventh last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Unless 10th-ranked Tony Stewart wins Saturday and Bowyer finishes dead last, Bowyer has clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Richmond is among Bowyer's favorite tracks -- and his record there shows it. A strong finish, especially a win, would only help to boost Bowyer's placement when the standings are reseeded for the start of the Chase.

LOOKING BACK: Bowyer struggled with mechanical and setup issues all night at Atlanta, finishing 27th, three laps off the pace.

ETC.: Bowyer has completed 100 percent (5,209) of the 5,210 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 14.9; his average finish is 10.2. He has 0 DNFs there.

29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Harvick remained in ninth place for the second consecutive race after Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by 72 points, eight-ranked Clint Bowyer by four points and leads 10th-ranked Tony Stewart by 38 points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 23 career starts, 2 wins, 6 top-5s, 14 top-10s, 0 poles. Best finish: first summer 2006 and summer 2011. Finished first in this race last year and 19th last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. remain the only two drivers in the top 10 without a win thus far this season. That potentially could change Saturday, particularly for Harvick, given his track record at Richmond. A win would not only boost his seeding in the Chase, it would give his team a boatload of momentum heading into the Chase. Here are Harvick's thoughts on Saturday's race: "Richmond is a good track for me in general. Since I started racing, it seems I've been successful on the flatter-type racetracks; they really seem to fit my driving style. On paper, this is one of our best tracks. Over the past two weeks our team has really been stepping up our game and avoiding big mistakes. As long as we stay focused, avoid mistakes and make the right calls, we should have a shot to get the Budweiser Chevrolet back to Victory Lane."

LOOKING BACK: Harvick looked as if he might earn his first win of the 2012 season at Atlanta, leading 101 laps. Unfortunately, he was forced to settle for a fifth-place finish and remains in search of that elusive first win. One notable thing is how well Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin communicated and worked together at Atlanta, their second race together since being reunited.

ETC.: Harvick has completed 98.7 percent (9,086) of the 9,203 laps contested in his 23 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 16.7; average finish is an impressive 11.8. He has 0 DNFs there.

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After dropping four positions in the previous three races, Stewart remained in 10th for the second consecutive week after Atlanta. He trails points leader Greg Biffle by 110 points, ninth-ranked Kevin Harvick by 38 points and leads 11th-ranked Kasey Kahne by 18 points.

RICHMOND RECORD: 27 career starts, 3 wins, 10 top-5s, 18 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first (three times) in summer 1999, spring 2001 and spring 2002. Finished seventh in this race last year and was third there last spring.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart is having a miserable run in his last four races, a run he hopes to break at Richmond. That would give him momentum heading into the Chase and also enhance his position in the Chase when the standings and points are reseeded after Richmond. Here are Stewart's thoughts on Saturday's race: "Richmond is my favorite track. It's not one of them, it's the favorite track of mine on the circuit. I've just always thought it's the perfect-sized track for a Cup race. The other short tracks we run -- Bristol and Martinsville -- they're cool in their own right, but there's a lot of congestion at those two tracks. But at Richmond, it just seems like that extra quarter-mile, and that three-quarter-mile shape, and how wide the groove gets there allows for good racing. It seems like we have to race ourselves and race the racetrack versus racing each other a lot of times. You do have to race each other, obviously, but there are a lot of times during the race when you have the flexibility to move around on the racetrack and try to find a spot your car likes better than somewhere else. A lot of times on a short track you don't have the flexibility. You're more narrowed down with what groove you're going to be in."

LOOKING BACK: Stewart had a car that was nothing short of a handful all night at Atlanta. That he finished 22nd, one lap off the pace, is actually an accomplishment given how bad his car was overall. The odd thing is he won the pole at Atlanta, only to see the car go away so significantly once the green flag dropped.

ETC.: Stewart has completed 98.3 percent (10,621) of the 10,803 laps contested in his 27 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 17.3; average finish is an impressive 10.6. He also has 2 DNFs.

CUT-OFF FOR "CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP"

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 18 points out of the top 10. Stands first in the wild card standings with two wins.

RICHMOND RECORD: Finished fifth in the spring race. Overall, has one win and seven top-10 finishes in 17 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne said, "We had a solid finish at Richmond in the spring, and we need another one this weekend. Our cars have been really fast on the short tracks all year. We need to put together a full race and get ourselves in the Chase on Saturday night."

LOOKING BACK: It was a long night for Kahne as he struggled to finish 23rd at Atlanta. "We just really missed it tonight," said Kahne. "We just never got it. I was so loose. We could take off decent at best, and then I would get out of control loose and just couldn't drive hard at all. The harder I drove, the worse I was. I just had to really take it easy and I still was about wrecking every lap. But we got back to 23rd and it was the best we could do tonight."

ETC.: Kahne can still finish in the top 10 in the Sprint Cup standings and earn a spot in the Chase that way. But he also knows that he can't have "another race like this (Atlanta). There are some things that could still go on and we could probably miss the Chase pretty easily. We just need another solid top-five like we had there (Richmond) in the spring."

5 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 23 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week. Stands second in the wild card standings with one win.

RICHMOND RECORD: Won the spring race for his fourth win in the last seven races. Has not finished worse than sixth in those seven races. In his 15 starts, has 13 top-10 finishes, including 12 top-fives. His four wins are the most among active drivers.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said he is not sure what to expect this weekend. "We were in this situation in 2009 and we had to go to Richmond and finish five spots ahead of Brian Vickers and we finished fifth, which was great, but Brian finished eighth, so we missed the Chase that night," he said. "You feel like you can run well, but you can't guarantee it, either. You can't go there and bank on getting a win or anything like that. There are definitely never any guarantees you're going to show up and win. You just do what you need to do to run as well as you can."

LOOKING BACK: Busch led three times for 66 laps before finishing sixth at Atlanta. "Overall the night was good for us -- our car was fast -- we qualified up front, ran up front and stayed up there," said Busch. "We ran third to sixth there most of the night, so that was pretty good. There the last pit stop we just didn't have what we needed and came out ninth. Had to pass a few cars (during the last two laps) and finished sixth. Our teammate (Denny Hamlin) did us justice tonight and kept the 24 (Jeff Gordon) from Victory Lane, so that was good."

ETC.: Busch knows anything can happen this weekend. "Jeff (Gordon) is no slouch at Richmond, either," Busch said. "I feel like he's the guy we're racing (for the second wild card spot and a spot in the Chase) -- the 24 car. We'll just have to see how it all plays out. Jeff could give us a run for our money." Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman or Joey Logano all would leapfrog over Gordon and Busch into the second wild card spot by winning Saturday.

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 35 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week. Stands third in the wild card standings with one win. Trails second-place Kyle Busch by 12 points in the race for the second and final wild card spot.

RICHMOND RECORD: Two wins and 24 top-10 finishes, including 15 top-fives in 39 starts. Has won five poles. Stands first among active drivers in laps led.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon knows his best shot to make the Chase is to win the race this weekend at Richmond. "I'm not going into the race thinking that we've got to finish 12 positions ahead of Kyle (Busch)," said Gordon. "I'm thinking we have to win. We're going with guns loaded ready to do battle. This race is always intense, and I expect it to be a pretty crazy night."

LOOKING BACK: Despite finishing second, Gordon was kicking himself for not being more aggressive on the last lap of the race. "I should have just run into the back of him (Denny Hamlin) going into (turn) three and moved him up the racetrack and we would have been sitting in Victory Lane right now and counting another win," said Gordon. "This Chase is too important for me to be in it and not make a move like that. I wouldn't have wanted to wreck him, but I would have liked to have that one over again." A second win would have moved Gordon into the all-important second spot in the race for the two wild card spots.

ETC.: Gordon said the team plans to go to Richmond "with a little bit more conventional -- typical for us -- setup and try to improve on it. And we'll see how the race unfolds and try to adapt as needed. If we don't have the fastest car, then we may have to switch it up and try some tire strategy, fuel-mileage strategy or whatever we can to get track position. Our focus won't be on what 'this driver' is doing. Our focus will be to try to have the fastest race car."

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 49 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week. Stands seventh in the wild card standings with no wins.

RICHMOND RECORD: Will be seeking his sixth straight top-10 finish. Finished second in the fall race a year ago.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards said, "We're going to Richmond to win. We need some luck and we need it to be good luck. We've passed more cars in the last month than we've passed all year. I wouldn't go to Richmond with any other team, in any other car. I feel like the 99 Cheez-It-Ford is the favorite there because of how we ran in the spring, and we're settling for nothing less than Victory Lane."

LOOKING BACK: Edwards' hopes of making the Chase literally went up in smoke Sunday night at Atlanta when his engine blew while he was running in the top 10. He ended the night in 36th place. "It's just hard to put into words," said Edwards. "That's just how our season has been going, and I don't know what the reason is. But we'll go to Richmond and go win that race and somehow maybe a miracle will happen."

ETC: Even if Edwards wins Richmond, his chances of making the Chase are not very good -- he trails Kyle Busch by 26 points in the race for the second and final wild card spot. If Edwards does win the race Saturday night, Busch would have to finish 24th or worse with no laps led and Jeff Gordon would have to finish 12th or worse.

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 59 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

RICHMOND RECORD: His 13th-place finish in the spring race was his best finish in 11 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "Richmond is a three-quarters mile short track, but it races like a track much bigger than that. You carry a lot of speed into turn one, you get hard on the brakes and then the groove opens up as you exit turn two and you can run where your car wants to run. You don't have to stick to the bottom of the race track; you can run in the middle and three-quarters of the way up the track."

LOOKING BACK: Menard finished eighth at Atlanta for his third straight top-10 finish. "We kept making the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet better and better tonight," said Menard. "When we started off in the daylight, it wasn't that good. As the sun went down we got better, made the right adjustments and came away with another top 10. You always want more, but it was a solid night for this 27 team."

ETC.: Menard is another driver who could win the race at Richmond and not make the Chase. In his case, Kyle Busch would have to finish 34th or worse with no laps led and Jeff Gordon would have to finish 22nd or worse with no laps led.

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 63 points out of the top 10. Stands fourth in the wild card standings with one win. Trails second-place Kyle Busch by 40 points in the race for the second and final wild card spot.

RICHMOND RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in seven starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose knows "this weekend's race at Richmond is huge for us, and we have a lot at stake. We have ourselves in a position to make the Chase if we can pull off a win this weekend, and we really have to deliver on that. You never know what's around the corner, but we are hoping it's a trip to Victory Lane in our Mac Tools Ford."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose finished 17th at Atlanta. "We started off the night so good," said Ambrose. "We ran fourth up to the first stop and then I don't know what happened, but we lost pace there and couldn't keep up with it. We were just fighting grip. We struggled and we were just sliding around with no grip. It was a tough night."

ETC.: Crew chief Todd Parrott doesn't mince words in describing this weekend in Richmond. "Our No. 1 goal is to go out and win," said Parrott. "Anything less isn't going to be acceptable when we are trying to get in the Chase. This is our last chance to make it in, and we are going to do everything in our power to do so."

39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 72 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week. Stands fifth in the wild card standings with one win. Trails second-place Kyle Busch by 49 points in the race for the second and final wild card spot.

RICHMOND RECORD: One win and 12 top-10 finishes in 21 starts including an eighth in the fall race a year ago.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman said, "We have one chore to do with this U.S. Army team, and that is to go to Richmond and get the win. We've done it before, and we can do it again. The result (in Atlanta) hurt us relative to the Chase, but the battle is not over. Our mission is clear. We have to win the race." Newman can only make the Chase if he wins the race.

LOOKING BACK: Newman's hopes of making the Chase took a real hit Sunday night at Atlanta when he was caught up in an wreck with only 56 laps left. As a result, Newman finished 35th. He was not too pleased with Jimmie Johnson, who triggered the three-car accident when he slid into Sam Hornish Jr. "The 48 (Johnson) ran out of talent coming off turn two, whether it was his fault or the spotter's," said Newman. "In the big picture, it hurt. It was just unfortunate that we were in that position because we raced our way from 13th, a lap down all the way up to eighth, and back on the lead lap."

ETC.: Newman feels Richmond is a "place where strategy, as far as getting off-sequence on tires, has the potential to make a big difference. So this is a big race, where, not only is it important for the driver to be at his best, but the pit crew has to be on top of it all night. We need to maintain and gain position in the pits."

20 JOEY LOGANO, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 105 points out of the top 10. Stands sixth in the wild card standings with one win.

RICHMOND RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in seven starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Logano said, "We are like a couple of other guys. The only way for us to make the Chase is to win the race. So we are going to do everything in our power to do just that. Our luck hasn't been too good lately, so it is time for it to change. A little luck certainly wouldn't hurt Saturday night."

LOOKING BACK: It was a long weekend for Logano -- he spent much of Saturday in the Atlanta Motor Speedway care center and missed both practice sessions. And his problems continued Sunday night in the race when a flat right-front tire caused an unscheduled pit stop from which Logano was never able to recover, and he finished 18th. "It was one of the toughest weekends I've ever been a part of," said Logano. "The medical staff here at the track and with NASCAR, they did a great job, and without them I wouldn't have been able to make it through the race."

ETC.: Penske Racing announced Tuesday that Logano has signed a multi-year agreement to drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford beginning with the 2013 season. "I am very excited to join Penske Racing and begin the next phase of my career," said Logano. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to drive for Roger Penske and race for wins and championships." Earlier in the day, Joe Gibbs Racing made it official by announcing that Matt Kenseth would drive the 20 car in 2013 and beyond.

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 151 points out of the top 10.

RICHMOND RECORD: Only three top-10 finishes in 19 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "We continue to work hard on all facets of our program. It seems like we are non-stop with racing and testing the last several weeks, but I feel like we are making strides in the right direction. We just need to focus and stay patient while that process evolves and we start seeing the payoff with good finishes for our Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray seemed headed for a top-15 finish when he suddenly cut a tire and slammed hard into the wall with only six laps left in the race. He was able to limp his way back to the pits when his crew repaired the damage enough for McMurray to continue. He ended the night in 24th place. "Just a bad ending to what had been a pretty good night," said McMurray.

ETC.: McMurray points out, "Richmond always seems to be an exciting race. And this year will be no different with everything that is going on in the battle for the two wild card spots. I wish we were part of it, but it still will be fun to see how all of it turns out."

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 160 points out of the top 10.

RICHMOND RECORD: One win and 15 top-10 finishes in 36 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Burton said, "Our finishes at Richmond the last few races haven't represented how strong our cars were there. There have been a few races where we have had fast race cars and silly things happen. The track is different every time we go there. For whatever reason, the track is always changing."

LOOKING BACK: Burton finished 12th at Atlanta. "The team effort tonight was outstanding for the 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet," said Burton. "Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer made great calls in the pits and the pit crew was solid all night on every pit stop. We were fighting a tight-handling condition most of the night, and it turned out the left side of the front splitter was completely ripped off. So that explains a lot."

ETC.: Burton is a big fan of Richmond International Raceway. "I think it's an awesome track," said Burton. "I don't know how you can build a better track. You can run any kind of car on that track. It is the perfect size (three-quarters of a mile). This track is the perfect mix of size and banking. It is a very difficult race track to beat."

OTHERS

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 200 points out of the top 10.

RICHMOND RECORD: Finished 26th in his first Cup start in the spring race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "Richmond is a fun track. It's faster than most short tracks, so it's not quite the same style of racing as a Bristol or a Martinsville. We had a fast car when were there in April. We qualified 11th and ran in the top 10 and top 15, and then a late pit stop kind of shuffled us toward the back. I think we can definitely go back there and run up front again."

LOOKING BACK: Almirola was forced to go behind the wall early in the race to have a cut oil line repaired. By the time he returned to the race, he was 28 laps down. Almirola ended the evening in 32nd place. "The worst part about it was our AdvoCare Ford was actually pretty decent," said Almirola. "Looking at the lap times on the race track on comparable tires, we were probably a top-10 car and for sure a top-15 car, but I think we were a top-10 car. It's a shame to cut an oil line like that. I'm ready for the bad luck to be over."

ETC.: Car owner Richard Petty said he hopes to have a new deal with Ford in the next two to three weeks, but Petty admits it probably won't be as good financially as his present contract with the addition of Penske Racing to the Ford camp. As for his driver lineup for 2013, Petty said, "We'll see. Right now, everything we've got going on is in the air, just like it has been the last three or four years." Almirola signed a one-year contract at the beginning of the year.

78 REGAN SMITH, Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 223 points out of the top 10.

RICHMOND RECORD: His best finish in eight starts is 17th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Smith said, "It looks like it's going to be an exciting weekend at Richmond with all the Chase scenarios. The fans and television can't ask for a better script. Though I am not in contention for a Chase spot, I am pumped about the weekend. I will approach the Richmond short track race as if I need to win to make the Chase."

LOOKING BACK: Smith seemed headed for a top-10 finish at Atlanta, but a late caution flag proved to be a costly one for him as Smith did not a good restart with two laps to go and finished 14th. "This is really frustrating since we had an apparent lock on a top-10," said Smith. "We didn't need that last caution, but we still should have finished in the top 10. For some reason our car had issues with sticker tires tonight and that was our problem in the final two laps."

ETC.: Smith is still upset after "seeing a top-10 slip away in the overtime shootout at Atlanta." It would have been his third in the last five races. "I can't wait to get back in the car and prove that we are capable of knocking off top-10s on a regular basis," said Smith.

47 BOBBY LABONTE, Toyota

Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 24th, 231 points out of the top 10.

RICHMOND RECORD: 10 top-10 finishes in 39 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Labonte said, "We've had some respectable finishes recently and are confident heading into Richmond. When you finish in the top-20 and the top-15, you hope top-10s follow, then top-fives and ultimately a win. We think this will be a good weekend for us."

LOOKING BACK: Labonte finished 19th at Atlanta. "We were like a lot of other people, struggling to find grip," said Labonte. "We made a lot of adjustments and we were able to get back on the lead lap at the end. We would have liked to finish a little higher, but we'll take a top-20 finish on a night where it could have been worse."

ETC.: Labonte said, "Richmond is a track that everyone enjoys. It has more than one groove and it's really a fun track to race on under the lights. There's also a lot on the line for the drivers trying to make the Chase. It should be an action-packed race with a lot of storylines to watch. A top-10 finish would be a nice storyline for us."

51 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Phoenix Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 286 points out of the top 10.

RICHMOND RECORD: One win and seven top-10 finishes in 23 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said Richmond has "always been a tough place for me. Even with the win there, I still just find it to be one of the more difficult tracks to get a handle on. It's a short track, but it's pretty unique because, other than the fact that it's under a mile in length, it doesn't really compare to a Martinsville or Phoenix. It's almost like a 1.5-mile track that has been packaged into a three-quarter-mile track."

LOOKING BACK: Busch rallied in the final 100 laps to finish 13th at Atlanta. "We were just so loose in the early part of the race -- it was all we could do to hang on," said Busch. "Then we were actually way on the tight side during the last part of the race, but that ended up being a good thing because it let us take advantage of the high line around the track. All in all, it was a pretty good night for this team."

ETC.: Busch said, "The toughest part of that track (Richmond) has always seemed to be the exit of turn four. It's really hard to get the traction put down just right to not be just flat-out dead sideways all the way to the start-finish line. It's really hard to get the speed through (turns) three and four and carry the traction off of turn four."

22 SAM HORNISH JR., Dodge

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: His team stands 22nd in the car owner point standings.

RICHMOND RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in six starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hornish said, "We're really looking forward to getting back to Richmond. I just fell in love with that track from the very first time we went there with the Indy cars. It just fits my style. We had a lot of success there in the open-wheel competition, and the momentum seemed to follow us on over when we started racing the stock cars."

LOOKING BACK: Hornish was running in the top 10 when he got caught up in an accident with 56 laps to go. Hornish suffered damage to the front of his Dodge, but he was still able to finish 11th at Atlanta. "Yeah, too bad that we got caught up in that wreck," said Hornish. "We had a good car from the start of the race. We had a car that we could run about anywhere on the track. We had good pit strategy and rebounded from the tough deal with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and 39 (Ryan Newman)."

ETC.: Roger Penske said, "At the end of the day, no matter how we end up, Sam's going to have a ride with us in 2013." It won't be in the 22 car as Penske has signed Joey Logano to drive that car next year, but Penske is trying to find sponsorship for a third Sprint Cup team with Hornish as the driver.