News & Media

Busch-Gordon showdown shaping up at Richmond

September 06, 2012, Joe Menzer,

RICHMOND, Va. -- In a strange twist of events, heading into potentially the most exciting NASCAR race of the season, the driver nicknamed Rowdy said Thursday that he's hoping for a dull event.

And the driver with four championships and a reputation for doing everything the right way said he's ready to do whatever it takes to shake it up and produce the win he so desperately needs.

"This is our championship. This is our Homestead. ... We're ready to win this race this weekend and seal the deal."


"This is your year, as far as trying to make the Chase. If you don't make it ... you just become another car out there making circles."


That's because for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, the less eventful the better in Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. He heads into the race clinging to the second and final wild-card spot in the Chase, but knows there are others gunning for it.

And for Jeff Gordon, nothing short of a victory likely will allow him to replace Busch -- or anyone else -- in the Chase lineup. Saturday's race is the final one before the 12-driver field for 10-race Chase that determines this year's Cup champion is set.

* Sound Off: Ready to fight | Chase clinch scenarios

"This is our championship. This is our Homestead," said Gordon, referring to the final race in the Chase. "We're prepared. We've got back-to-back top-fives. We're ready to win this race this weekend and seal the deal.

"When you're faced with a have-to-win situation, you're in a position where you have to force the issue -- and others around you have to understand what you've got on the line and how important it is."

Busch said he plans to try to keep Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet in his sights Saturday, and he also promised to do whatever he feels he needs to do to prevent Gordon from winning -- if it comes to that.

"I feel like Jeff is our biggest threat," said Busch, whose only win this season came in the spring race at RIR. "The 24 car has been good here in the past, and they obviously have a good notebook with the Stewart-Hass [Racing] cars running good here in the spring and having all the resources they have. They're no slouch. So for us, that's probably our guy."

Of course there are six others who still have a mathematical chance of earning a wild-card berth. But realistically, the battle for the final spot seems most likely to come down to Busch vs. Gordon.

Marcos Ambrose is the next-best wild-card threat, but he's never won on an oval and even he admits he can understand why others consider him a long shot. Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Paul Menard each would need not only to win but to have virtually all the others in contention, plus in some cases even defending champion Tony Stewart, have horrible nights. Their odds of winning the MegaMillions or Powerball lotteries on Saturday night might be better.

Gordon, who like Busch owns one victory this season, said he just wants to get in the Chase to see if his team can duplicate the kind of championship run he witnessed Tony Stewart pull off last year. Stewart won five of 10 Chase races, including the season finale at Homestead, to forge a tie in the final standings with Carl Edwards. Stewart claimed the championship via the tiebreaker.

"We watched what Stewart did last year in the Chase for the Sprint Cup," Gordon said. "When he had to win, he did. And that's what we've come here to do."

Busch admitted that just because the potential is there for an on-track showdown with Gordon, it doesn't mean it's going to happen. But it could, and he admitted that selling that idea to fans could help pack the house Saturday night.

"You want fans to show up for the race?" Busch said. "I mean, Jeff and I could have brought boxing gloves here and really made it a big thing between us if we wanted to -- but there are [six] other guys who have an opportunity to make the Chase, as well.

"For us on the 18 team, we need to go out there and run well, run strong. ... There certainly is a great opportunity for it to be very wild. And there's certainly a great opportunity for it to be a little dull. To be honest with you, I'm going more with the dull side. I'd rather have it be more dull so there's less B.S. afterward, I guess."

And so he gets into the Chase.

"I'd rather us already be in. I'm used to that," Busch said.

Gordon reiterated that it's not just going to be about him and Busch on Saturday. But he did also admit that his team's plan is to come out strong right from the start and place extraordinary pressure on Busch and his team.

"Listen, our job is to put as much pressure on them as we possibly can -- and they're going to try to do the same to us," Gordon said. "He runs good here; we're capable of winning here. So we certainly go into this race, like I said, like this is our championship. We're going to come out fighting; we're going to push hard; we're going to be aggressive. And hopefully take that control back, to where it pushes those guys to get outside of their comfort zone and their boundaries and see what happens to them."

• Kyle Busch: If Tony Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kasey Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Busch will clinch a Chase spot by losing 12 or fewer points to Jeff Gordon AND by losing 40 or fewer points to Marcos Ambrose. A win would guarantee Busch a Chase berth. Busch is a four-time Richmond winner (including April) and stands second in five key Loop Data categories, including Driver Rating (116.1). His average finish is 4.7.
• Jeff Gordon: If Tony Stewart remains in the top 10 or if Kasey Kahne supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon will clinch by finishing 13 points ahead of Kyle Busch AND by losing 28 or fewer points to Marcos Ambrose AND by losing 37 or fewer points to Newman. If Busch supplants Stewart in the top 10, Gordon would clinch a Chase berth with a win AND finishing 18 points ahead of Kahne at Richmond. Gordon has won twice at Richmond but not since 2000. He has a sixth-best Driver Rating of 96.2.

Busch added: "I think it would great if the two of us were going for the win at the end, whether he's leading or I'm leading. But again, in reality, it comes down to every man for himself. This is your whole year right here. This is your year, as far as trying to make the Chase. If you don't make it, as far as I'm concerned, you just become another car out there making circles."