Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon take front row at Richmond

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“I think we’ve got a great shot at three in a row,” Hamlin said. “We’ve just got to keep it going.”

Regan Smith, not eligible for the Chase, qualified third and was followed by Chase drivers Clint Bowyer and Johnson. Sprint Cup Series points leader Greg Biffle qualified 23rd in a rough day for Ford drivers.

Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, Biffle’s Roush Fenway Racing teammates, qualified 16th and 17th. Edwards, who lost the championship to Stewart last season on a tie-breaker, is clinging to the outside possibility of making the Chase. He’s winless this year, although a late penalty for jumping the restart cost him the win here in May.

He said he’s rooting for “an insane race” Saturday night.

“I want things to just be off the chart. I want rain delays and oil on the track. I want things to happen,” he said. “I need this race to be insane. I need people running out of fuel and crazy cautions and four-wide down in turn one. That’s what I need and I’ll take whatever I can get.”

That’s exactly what Busch doesn’t want to happen.

“I hope it’s not crazy,” he said this week. “If I had my way, I’d just as soon see somebody already in the Chase win the race and I finish second.”

Busch can clinch a berth by winning the race, or by losing 12 or fewer points to Gordon.

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