Richmond has hosted the last race of the regular season since the inception of the Chase. (Getty Images)
There's no reason for any driver to hold anything back in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400, which could make it one of the best races of the year.
The final race of the regular season is all about winning. You won't hear a driver talk about having a good points night at the end of the 400-lap run around the .75-mile short track, because getting to Victory Lane is really all that matters.
The top 10 in the standings are assured a spot in the 12-driver Chase field. A checkered flag means three bonus points for a higher Chase seeding.
And for those still trying to lock down a playoff berth as a wild-card entry, things basically boil down to win it and you're in.
"It comes down to every man for himself,” said Kyle Busch, who along with Kasey Kahne holds a wild-card spot heading into the weekend. “This is your year, this race here. Otherwise, if you don't make the Chase, essentially you're just another car out there making circles."
That do-or-die attitude has the potential to spark some fireworks on Saturday night.
Jeff Gordon, who without a win more than likely will be a Chase spectator this season, is still lamenting his decision not to be more aggressive with Denny Hamlin last week at Atlanta.
But Gordon promises he'll do whatever necessary in Richmond to cross the finish line first.
"Right now we're going to be treating anybody in front of us as if they're the enemy," Gordon said. "That's the way it is going to have to be approached. It's our responsibility to go out there and be aggressive and do what it takes to win. … If I'm leading the race and Kyle is behind me, I know what's coming.
"Whether you're a teammate or not a teammate, you should know what's coming."
Gordon's plight is somewhat comforting to Carl Edwards, who needs a Richmond miracle to make the Chase. Last year's championship runner-up is winless this season and unless he can find a way to Victory Lane, he has no chance at running for the title in a second straight season.
"It makes me feel real good that Jeff Gordon is in as bad a position as I'm in," Edwards said. "It shows you how tough this sport is. A year ago, we were cruising. We were dominating the points. Not a care in the world. And pretty sure we were going to be contenders for a championship. Everything was great. You fast-forward one year, and it's a whole different story.
"The true tragedy for us would be to not make the Chase and then have all these things we've been working on come to fruition, go out and win six races and not even be in contention. We want to be in it if we can."
Richmond Int'l Raceway
Race #: 26 of 36 (09-08-12)
Track Size: 0.75-miles
Banking/Corners: 14 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 8 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,290 feet
Backstretch Length: 860 feet
Race Length: 400 laps / 300 miles
2011 pole winner: David Reutimann, Toyota (127.383 mph, 21.196 sec., 09-08-11)
2011 race winner: Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet (89.910 mph, 3:20:12, 09-10-11)
Track qualifying record: Brian Vickers, Chevrolet (129.983 mph, 20.772 sec., 5-14-04)
Track race record: Dale Jarrett, Ford (109.047 mph, 2:45:04, 9-6-97)
Federated Auto Parts 400 Race Facts
There have been 112 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Richmond since the track opened in 1953.
The current 400-lap race length was established on the .542-mile measurement in March 1976.
Buck Baker won the pole in 1953.
Lee Petty won the first race in April 1953.
There have been 50 different pole winners, led by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty (eight).
Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin lead all active drivers with five poles each.
47 different drivers have posted victories at Richmond, led by Richard Petty (13).
Kyle Busch leads all active race winners with four.
Petty Enterprises has won 15 races at Richmond, more than any other team. Hendrick Motorsports has the second most wins with 10.
63 of 112 races have been won from the top five starting positions, including 22 from the pole.
The last driver to win from the pole was Kyle Busch on May 1, 2010.
The furthest back in the field a race winner has started was 31st, by Clint Bowyer in the 2008 spring race.
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch (4.7), Denny Hamlin (7.3) are the only active drivers with an average finish in the top 10.
Kyle Petty became the first third-generation NASCAR race winner when he won his first race at Richmond, on Feb. 23, 1986. Richard Petty posted his first Richmond victory in 1961 and Lee Petty won the very first Richmond race in 1953.
Three of the last five races have had a margin of victory less than one second.
Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Richmond International Raceway winner: Richard Petty (04/23/1961 – 23 years, 9 months, 21 days)
Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Richmond International Raceway winner: Harry Gant (09/07/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 28 days)
Four drivers have come from outside the Chase for the Cup cut-off to make the Chase at Richmond:
Jeremy Mayfield in 2004 made up a 55-point deficit
Ryan Newman in 2005 made up a one-point deficit
Kasey Kahne in 2006 made up a 30-point deficit
Brian Vickers in 2009 made up a 20-point deficit
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are the two drivers who clinched wild-card spots in 2011 to make the Chase.
Who's Hot at Richmond
Kyle Busch – Trying to hang on to the second wild-card spot and coming to a track that has been very good for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver over the years. Busch won the April Richmond race and has not finished outside the top 10 since 2007 with four wins in his last seven starts.
Denny Hamlin – Red hot and heading to the Virginia driver's home track. Hamlin can lock down the No. 1 seed in the Chase with his fifth win of the season on Saturday night. He carries a string of four straight RIR top five finishes into the regular season finale.
Tony Stewart – Stewart's recent streak of frustration could turn around at Richmond where he's been stout throughout his NASCAR career. The defending series champion has an average finish of 8.5 in his last 10 Richmond starts and was third in the April race.
Paul Menard – Technically still in the wild-card picture, he will have his work cut out at Richmond where the Richard Childress Racing driver has a 28.6 average finish dating back to 2007.
Regan Smith – The Furniture Row Racing driver's disappointing season figures to continue at Richmond where his best finish is 18th in eight career starts.
Sam Hornish Jr. – After this week's disappointment over Joey Logano getting the full-time Penske Racing Sprint Cup Series gig next season, Hornish now gets to tackle a track in Richmond, where his last two starts in NASCAR's top series resulted in finishes of 36th and 28th.
Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond International Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was April 19, 1953.
The spring 1964 race was run on a Tuesday night under temporary lighting.
The track name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.
The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between races in 1968.
The track name changed to Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1969.
The track was re-measured to .542-mile for 1970.
The track was rebuilt as a three-quarters-mile, D-shaped oval following the Feb. 21, 1988 race.
The first race under permanent lights was Sept. 7, 1991.
The first season with both races as night races was 1999.
There have been 276 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Virginia.
165 drivers in NASCAR's three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Virginia.
There have been 18 race winners from Virginia in NASCAR's three national series.