Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Richmond Air Guard 400 Preview: By the Numbers and Beyond...
Kyle Busch has won two races at Richmond International Raceway, including this year's spring race. He has been building momentum throughout the middle of the season and is likely to come to Richmond looking for another win. With his sweep at Bristol we know that Kyle is coming into this short-track with a lot of confidence. In third place in the Sprint Cup Points, Kyle would love to finish out the Race to the Chase this weekend by taking over the second position from Jeff Gordon. However, nothing but a win will likely give Kyle the edge he needs to come into the Chase seeded third in front of current points leader Kevin Harvick. Both Kyle and Kevin have three wins this season.
Jeff Gordon wants to hang onto that second spot in Series Points. Gordon is 41 points ahead of Tony Stewart; Stewart could take over that second spot if Gordon finishes 21st or lower and Tony brings in a top eight finish. Gordon will likely go out this weekend driving conservatively. Jeff doesn't want to do anything that will raise the risk of having a bad finish on Saturday. We saw Jeff bring home an eleventh place finish at Bristol, he finished second in the spring race at RIR, and posts an average eleventh place finish at this week's venue. Jeff will be driving smart and that is likely to get him to the front of the field.
Clint Bowyer finished 12th in the spring race at RIR this year and he is fending off Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray for the coveted 12th spot in the Race to Chase with time winding down. Clint has a 117 point lead over Newman and will not want to give up a single point to either Ryan or Jamie this week. Coming off of a seventh place finish last week at Atlanta and a fourth place finish three weeks ago at Bristol, Clint has momentum and confidence coming into this weekend. His team has been working together well, putting together good pit stops, and making few, if any mistakes on the track. McMurray and Newman will be hard pressed to catch Clint at Richmond, as Bowyer has an average finish at RIR of 10.2 to Jamie's 25.5 average. Newman will be Bowyer's biggest competition, with an average 11.4 finish at RIR.
Denny Hamlin has proven this year that he can perform on the short tracks this year with a spring win at Martinsville. Hamlin also claims an 8.8 average finish at RIR in addition to the win he had here in 2009. He has had five wins this season; the only thing that will get him ahead of Jimmie Johnson in the Chase Seedings in another wins this week. With four top five finishes out of nine races at RIR, Hamlin should be a force to be reckoned with on Saturday night. Motivation and desire to win goes a long way.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may see a good finish this week. With three prior wins at Richmond, an average finish here is 13.2, and a 12.9 average finish in short-track racing Dale could bring home a good finish this week. Earnhardt is itching for a win; he hasn't had one since June of 2008. In 19th place in Cup Points standing, Dale can come out and go for broke. He can't make the chase but he might as well have a win to his credit for the season. Earnhardt did not have a good race here in the spring, finishing 32nd. He is likely to post a much better finish than that come Saturday night.
I am picking Carl Edwards for the win on Saturday night under the lights, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for second place, and Kyle Busch to finish third. Remaining top five picks are Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon. Finishing out the top ten picks for this week will be Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, and Kevin Harvick. A mid-race accident will take Matt Kenseth out of the race, Kurt Busch will run in the middle of the pack most of the night, and Ryan Newman will finish in the low-20's, ending his Chase hopes for this year.
Coverage for NASCAR Cup Series Practice at Richmond International Raceway will air on SPEED Friday at Noon and 2:45 p.m. Qualifications can be seen on SPEED Friday at 5:30 p.m. Racing on Saturday night comes on ABC with NASCAR Countdown at 7:00 p.m. and the green flag scheduled to drop around 7:30 p.m. (All times EST)
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Photo 2: http://www.autoracingdaily.com
Photo 3: http://www.race2win.net
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Photo 5: http://sports.espn.go.com
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