If Denny Hamlin had his choice, he wouldn't head into Richmond with his Chase chances still in doubt.
But at least nothing disastrous happened at Atlanta and, coupled with Clint Bowyer's misfortune on Tuesday, Hamlin finds himself in solid position to grab a wild card berth after an eighth-place finish.
"You never know in this sport," he said. "You never know what can happen. We need to go out there next week and get a solid finish and try to win. We know we're in if we win."
Actually, Hamlin can lock up a Chase berth just by finishing seventh or better – as long as Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose or David Ragan don't win the race and get into the top 20 at the same time. Hamlin has an 11-point lead over AJ Allmendinger, so Hamlin has an advantage even if Allmendinger wins Richmond.
Hamlin's advantage over the rest of the potential wild card winners only grows after Allmendinger, with Menard the only other driver who has won a race and is currently in the top 20.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said his confidence after Atlanta was "better than what we were going into this week, but we still just would have liked to get a win today."
"Our car just faded there a little bit at the end and just fought track position," he said.
Still, last year's championship runner-up called it "a step in the right direction."
"We're taking baby steps at this point," he said.