It has come down to one event for many drivers. All-or-nothing, all in or come up empty because the Chase is now about to be set for 12 drivers.
Some are in, and are focused on their quest. Others practically are shoe-ins, but many are either right on the cusp of being in, or are right there on the outside possibly missing out on another chance to hold the checkered flag trophy.
It is one race to decide the fate for 12 drivers, but also one more race for many to win.
All this taking place at a track that has been nicknamed "Racing Perfection." There has been no better place to set up the Chase than at Richmond, a track that can test out tempers, test out egos, and test out patience. At just 3/4ths of a mile in length, it combines the high speeds of many tracks but the confines of a short distance.
With 400 laps on the docket, it will be a big test for everyone involved.
The writers, well aware of what's at stake, are choosing their final winner in the regular season, as starting next week, the game changes. Here are the picks for the final race to make the Chase, the Federated Auto Parts 400:
Misan Akuya: Clint Bowyer
So Clint Bowyer has had the best car the last two races. Bowyer got spun out by a lap car leading at Bristol and blew up leading at Atlanta.
He was so strong here in the Spring and has two wins here. Also he is the defending winner of this race. If Bowyer really wants to win the championship he needs to win. Saturday night could be the night.
Rob Blount: Kevin Harvick
Harvick has been fast all season, and he won at Richmond back in May. I’m not expecting him to win on Saturday and sweep the Richmond season, but I do believe he’ll be very close to the front of the pack at the end of 400 laps at The Action Track.
James Broomhead: Kyle Busch
Kelly Crandall: Clint Bowyer
Billy Fellin: Kevin Harvick
I really wrestled with this pick. I feel like no one on the track will be more motivated to win the race than Denny Hamlin, since he missed the spring race at his home track. Kyle Busch is always a threat to win at Richmond, Clint Bowyer is good here and Joey Logano is riding a hot streak.
But, I'll take the 29 since he's won 2 of the past 4 Richmond races, including the spring race.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Kyle Busch
Gotta go with Rowdy, again.
Kara Martin: Kyle Busch
Ryan O'Hara: Clint Bowyer
Dustin Parks: Denny Hamlin
I NEED A WIN. Going into the Chase without a win is bad, that is unless your name is Tony Stewart. I'm possibly in the top-10 in our Chase standings, but I don't want to go into the final 10 races and hope I win some. Having one to start the Chase is big.
All year, Hamlin has experienced bad luck. From sitting out due to injury, to returning and not being up front, it's just been a bad year. But this track, this place, is his home. He loves this place, and last time I was in Richmond he won the event. I need that kinda luck, so I'm taking a major gamble and going with the 11.
Patti Rodisch: Kyle Busch
Sal Sigala Jr: Brad Keselowski
Rob Tiongson: Kevin Harvick
Because appropriately, it just makes sense to "close out" the regular season with "The Closer." And he won in the spring, so sure, why not?
Standings following Atlanta:
Rob Tiongson (876) Jeff Gordon finished 6th (2)
Kelly Crandall (816) Jimmie Johnson finished 28th (1)
Patti Rodisch (808) Kasey Kahne finished 36th (0)
Billy Fellin (805) Kevin Harvick finished 9th (1)
Rob Blount (784) Kasey Kahne finished 36th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (781) Kyle Busch WON (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (778) Kasey Kahne finished 36th (1)
Dustin Parks (755) Matt Kenseth finished 12th (0)
Kara Martin (728) Kyle Busch WON (1)
Ryan O'Hara (724) Jeff Gordon finished 6th (0)
James Broomhead (690) Kyle Busch WON (2)
Misan Akuya (633) Kasey Kahne finished 36th (1)
Christopher Leone (596) Kevin Harvick finished 9th (0)
Final Thoughts: There truly is no better setting to decide who is going after a championship. It is the best setting for everyone involved. Whether battling to get in the Chase, or battling for victory, Richmond has provided the best environment to decide the 12 drivers that will embark on their quest to capture the 2013 Sprint Cup championship.
It all happens this Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.
Summary of Picks: