It’s the last race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, but Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch already have their Chase berths locked up for 2013. The two Chase-bound drivers, plus JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, all have wins at Richmond International Raceway, home of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400, plus Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 Nationwide Series race.
Kenseth, driving the No. 20 Home Dept/Husky Tools Toyota Camry, has five wins this season and is looking to keep the top seed in the Chase over Jimmie Johnson and Busch, both with four wins each. In 27 races at RIR, Kenseth has one win and 11 top 10 finishes. He’ll also be making the start in the No. 18 Resers Toyota in the Nationwide Series race; Kenseth has 19 Nationwide Series starts at Richmond, with 16 top 10 finishes.
Busch, in the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the Cup Series race, leads active drivers with four wins at Richmond; he also has 13 top 10 finishes in 17 career Cup races at the 0.75-mile track. He’ll join Kenseth in the Nationwide Series race, driving the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota on Friday night; in 16 Nationwide Series starts at Richmond, Busch has 13 top 10 finishes, including four wins.
Hamlin, in the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, has nine top 10 finishes in 14 RIR starts, including two wins. The Virginia native missed the spring race at his home track with a back injury.
Friday’s Nationwide Series Virginia 529 College Savings 250 marks an historic number for the series: race No. 1,000. To mark the special event, Elliott Sadler’s No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota will sport a tribute to the first series champion, Jack Ingram, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame next January. Another Virginia native, Sadler has 20 previous Nationwide Series starts at RIR, with seven top 10 finishes; he also made 24 starts in the Cup Series at the track.
Brain Vickers, driving the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Friday night, has four top 10 finishes in six previous Nationwide Series starts at Richmond, and also has 15 Cup Series starts at the track. Vickers will also be racing Saturday night in the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Qualifying for the Federated Auto Parts 400 takes place Friday at 5:35 p.m. ET, with the race going green Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET. Qualifying for the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 takes place Friday at 4:05 p.m. ET, followed by the green flag at 7:30 p.m. ET. Keep up with the action at www.nascar.com and joegibbsracing.com.
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