With two straight visits to Victory Lane Denny Hamlin is getting hot at the right time – as the Sprint Cup Series is almost set to start its playoff schedule of races. NASCAR's top circuit will be back on the track on Saturday night for auto racing bettors as they compete in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Saturday's race is the final 'regular season' event of the year; the Chase for the Sprint Cup starts next weekend.
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Hamlin wins back to back in Bristol and Atlanta
Hamlin picked up his third and fourth victories of the season over the past two weeks at Bristol and Atlanta, and he now has more wins than any other Sprint Cup Series driver in 2012 – which would put him atop the adjusted standings when the Chase begins in two weeks. Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, and Tony Stewart – who, like Hamlin, have also already clinched Chase berths - each have three wins this year heading into Richmond.
And Hamlin has won at Richmond in the past, so he's perfectly capable of running that series-high victory total to five on Saturday night. Hamlin's latest win on the track came in the 2010 Air Guard 400, and he also took the checkered flag in the 2009 Chevy Rock & Roll 400. Johnson won the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond back in 2008 and he also won both events on the track in the 2007 season, while Stewart raced to wins at the venue back in 2002, 2001, and 1999. Keselowski is looking for his first Cup win on the track.
Busch can clinch Chase berth with Saturday win
Twelve drivers make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and along with Hamlin, Johnson, Keselowski, and Stewart that field will also include Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Kevin Harvick – they've clinched spots as well. Currently the Wild Card holders are Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch. Kahne has two wins this season and would need a lot to go wrong on Saturday to get bumped from the Chase field. Busch has one win, and getting another one this week is his best way to make the Chase.
That means it's good news for Busch that Saturday's race is at Richmond, where he won in April at the Capital City 400. That was Busch's fourth career victory at the track, as he also brought home the checkered flag in the Crown Royal 400 in each of 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Johnson favored on current Sprint Cup futures
Johnson is no stranger to winning the Chase, and the circuit's multi-time champion heads into the final race of NASCAR's regular season as the 2/1 favorite on the auto racing odds at Bovada to claim the Sprint Cup again later in the fall. Earnhardt Jr. is next at 8/1 odds, with Keselowski at 9/1 along with Kahne, and Hamlin, Stewart, and Biffle each at 10/1.
Busch hasn't clinched his Chase berth yet, but he's at 12/1 on those NASCAR futures along with Kenseth, which puts them both ahead of the 18/1 Truex Jr. Jeff Gordon, who sits just behind Busch in the standings and likely needs to overtake him this week to come away with a Wild Card berth, is then at 20/1, followed by Harvick at 25/1, and Bowyer at 28/1. The first race of the Chase is the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 16.
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