What is The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup?
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was implemented in 2004 to involve more drivers in the championship hunt and intensify fan interest and drama during the season's stretch run. Every year since the inception of The Chase, the fall Cup race at Richmond has been "One Last Race To Make The Chase," as the first 26 points events of the 36-race season have determined the drivers eligible for The Chase.
"One Last Race To Make The Chase" is an event drivers, media and fans start talking about and pointing to as soon as the season begins in Daytona. America’s Premier Short Track continues to be a favorite of the drivers and fans, and a marquee event such as “One Last Race to Make The Chase” is a perfect fit.
With the addition of the Wild Card element to The Chase in 2011, combined with the new points scoring system, there is even more attention and importance surrounding “One Last Race To Make The Chase.” Following “One Last Race To Make The Chase,” the top 10 in points will earn Chase berths. Positions 11 and 12 are Wild Card qualifiers and will go to non-top-10-ranked drivers with the most wins, as long as they’re ranked in the top 20 in points. It’s a move to reward winning and consistency during the regular season. And, with bonus points for wins still on the line for the top 10 in points, fans can count on the drivers putting it all on the line Saturday night “under the lights” for the checkered flag.
Here is a brief look at some of the highlights in recent years:
2004: Jeremy Mayfield won the race vaulting himself into the first Chase.
2005: Kurt Busch won the race and Jeff Gordon was left out of the Chase.
2006: Kevin Harvick won the race and Tony Stewart was knocked out of the Chase by Kasey Kahne.
2007: Jimmie Johnson won his second consecutive race at Richmond and earned bonus points to start the Chase as the points leader.
2008: Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer came in on the Bubble in 11th and 12th positions, respectively, and turned in clutch performances. Hamlin posted a third-place finish, while Bowyer, who entered with just a 17-point lead over 13th-place David Ragan, battled all day for a 12th-place finish to secure his Chase spot.
2009: Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch both came in outside of the Chase and battled to the final lap with Vickers earning his first Chase berth. After the final Chase berth changed hands seemingly on a lap-by-lap basis all night, in the end a seventh-place finish by Vickers knocked Matt Kenseth and Busch out of the Chase.
2010: Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle lock up the final two spaces in The Chase, while hometown favorite Denny Hamlin uses his sixth win of the season to secure the top seed in The Chase.
2011: NASCAR announced its new-for-2011 Chase “Wild Card” element. An unprecedented 14 drivers had a shot at three remaining spots in the 12-driver 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Brad Keselowski locked down the top “Wild Card” spot for The Chase on the basis of his three earlier wins in the 2011 season. Chesterfield, Virginia’s Denny Hamlin secured the final “Wild Card” spot in The Chase with a hard-fought ninth place in the final race to make the Chase.
2012: Clint Bowyer had a gulp of gas just big enough to win the race. Rick Hendrick had Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon join the Chase field. Bowyer made it to the finish line 1.198 seconds ahead of Gordon in the closing laps of the Federated Auto Parts 400. Gordon knocked Kyle Busch out of the final wild-card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.