NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2010 Air Guard 400 at Richmond

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

There were a trio of surprise names in the Air Guard 400 top 10, with Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger all having stellar nights, but Logano had far superior equipment to the others. In the end, the run that impressed me the most was Allmendinger’s. Allmendinger has had a subpar year by all counts, in subpar equipment, and even he was surprised when he qualified third. He went on to finish eighth.

What… was THAT?

There wasn’t much said on the broadcast, but apparently Kyle Busch missed driver intros. The reason is elusive, but apparently Busch eventually showed up and made his parade lap. This gave fans the opportunity to boo Busch twice, but NASCAR was apparently “OK” with Busch’s no-show, and didn’t make him start from the back as the rules state. Why? Because he eventually showed up? The only valid reason I can see for allowing a driver to miss intros is if he was in a NASCAR-mandated meeting in the Big Red Truck. Other than that, NASCAR made the rules and they need to follow them, no matter who breaks them.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Hoping for a win to boost his points position in the Chase, Carl Edwards was fast early on, leading for much of the early going. However, the No. 99 faded as the race went on, and Edwards had to settle for a respectable 10th. Not where he wanted, perhaps, but a solid race.

When… will I be loved?

There wasn’t really a villain on track at Richmond, but the Chase once again reared its ugly head. Nothing like erasing a points lead of over 200 to remind people what’s wrong with this sport. If the Powers That Be asked when their points system will be loved… the answer is never.

Why… is there irony in NASCAR’s reversal of thinking on limiting Nationwide points for Cup drivers?

How about this: The reasoning for not keeping Cup drivers from earning NNS championship points was that if a Cup driver would have won but didn’t only because of the points system it wouldn’t be fair to the fans. Um, that didn’t stop them when they created the Chase. What about the drivers we all know had the most real points all year long? That’s fair to the fans but making them suffer through the joke the NNS races have become is? Please.

How… did the points race shake down heading into the Chase?

Busch would have moved into second spot in the standings, but will have to settle for fourth. If you think that’s rough, try Kevin Harvick, whose months-long stint at the top was unceremoniously (or very ceremoniously, depending on how you look at it) taken away, dropping Harvick to third.

Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin’s win gave him sole possession of the lead over Jimmie Johnson, who once again settled for a third-place finish. Johnson has been settling a lot lately, and it’s hurt his team’s championship chances badly. Hamlin has fared little better leaving Richmond; if he can carry the momentum, he’s one of the favorites along with Harvick. Kurt Busch enters in fifth, also driving for a team whose early momentum has faded lately. Tony Stewart settles into sixth and Greg Biffle seventh, the last drivers to make the Chase and have a race win.

The rest of the Chasers are winless in 2010. Jeff Gordon is officially eighth on the strength of his pre-chase run, and the rest of the top dozen includes Edwards, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer.

Johnson remains the only driver to make the Chase every year since its inception.

The points are pretty much equal; all 12 Chasers are now within 60 of the lead. No team has really tipped its hand as far as looking like a real contender, with the exception of Harvick, so the seedings mean little.

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