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“The mind considers the worst: "What if I blow an engine? What if a part malfunctions and ends my night? What if someone wrecks in front of me and takes me out?" So, do you play it safe? "I don't think we can," said Greg Biffle, 11th in the standings and 68 points ahead of 13th-place Vickers. "We're going to fight tooth and nail." But each bubble team has to consider what the other bubble teams are doing during the race. Are you far enough ahead of the guys you need to beat? Are you behind them? It becomes a mathematical hodgepodge that constantly changes. "As a team, we'll be well aware of where everybody is," Vickers said. "Our guys have a points monitor lap by lap. "For me, personally, I won't do much on it. Sure, if I'm around Kyle or Matt, I'll be aware of it. But I won't be on the radio asking, 'Where's Matt?' If a bubble guy has a problem, I'm sure the team will let me know because it would change our strategy. We just have to play it by ear." If the guys you're chasing wreck, you drive defensively the rest of the race. If they are ahead of you on the track, you race aggressively and go for broke. "We feel good about where we are,'' said Juan Pablo Montoya, who ranks eighth, 88 points inside the Chase cutoff spot. "But things can still go terribly wrong and you can miss it. We realize that." And while all this is going on with the Chase spots, a few drivers are going all out to win, trying to earn those 10 bonus points to start the playoff. Each regular-season victory is worth 10 extra points to start the Chase. "The focus won't be on the lead for the race," Stewart said. "But I'll be going for those 10 bonus points. I really need them." A victory Saturday would give Stewart four wins, enabling him to start the Chase tied for the top spot with Martin and Kyle Busch, if Martin and Busch make it. It's possible the two drivers with the most victories will fail to make the Chase. "Unfortunately, we're in this predicament," said Busch, who won at Richmond in May. "It's going to be tough." A few drivers will become heroes Saturday night and breathe a big sigh of relief. A few will hang their heads and wonder what might have been. Without the Chase format, Richmond in September is just another race. With the Chase, it's the best race to watch all season. Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are going to do whatever we can to get in the Chase. It all comes down to this race, but we had 25 other races that got us in the position we are now.” -- Matt Kenseth