He has to lead the most laps and win Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway. He also needs Martin Truex Jr. to finish last or Ryan Newman to finish 39th or worse.
Others have less daunting ways to qualify for the playoffs. Officially there are 10 drivers who have a mathematical chance to earn one of five remaining spots in the Chase. Menard, Jamie McMurray and defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski face the most difficult, if not impossible, odds.
Everyone else – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman all head into Saturday night’s race knowing even the smallest of mistakes could be the difference between driving for a championship and being an afterthought during the final 10 races of the season.
Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne already have clinched a spot in the Chase.
For the others to make it here’s what has to happen at Richmond:
• Earnhardt needs to finish 32nd or better.
• Logano needs to finish in the top 11.
• Biffle needs to finish ninth or better.
• Kurt Busch needs to finish in the top two.
• Gordon needs to win the race to earn a wild card spot, or finish at least six spots ahead of Kurt Busch.
• Truex and Newman need to win.
• Keselowski, McMurray and Menard need to win and get some help.
Of course, there are other scenarios that apply based on where the contenders finish in comparison with each other.
For Menard, however, it doesn’t get any easier.
He has to lead the most laps and win just to have a slim chance.