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Fantasy Racing – Russ Friedman 400

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 2 2009

(Disclaimer: I am going to stay away from studs like Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards and the start and parkers unless there is a compelling reason to pick them or not pick them. Otherwise, this column would be exceptionally boring with the top dogs in the “Drivers to Watch” category every week while I told you to watch out for Dave Blaney and Todd Bodine)

Crown Royal Presents the Russ Friedman 400
Richmond International Raceway
Saturday, May 2, 7:00 ET, FOX

Crown Royal 400 logoRace Facts: Of the 105 Sprint Cup races that have been contested at RIR, 84 of them have been won from a top 10 starting position… With his win in last year’s spring race, Clint Bowyer became the driver to win from the worst starting position in RIR history. Bowyer started 31st. Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond than any other team at 15. Don’t look for no. 16 to happen Saturday night unless Kasey Kahne is competitive… Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have each won three Richmond races, the most of all active drivers…

Drivers to Watch:

Denny Hamlin: Yes, this is a very obvious pick given Hamlin’s performance at Richmond, but I want to reemphasize how strong of a pick he is at his home track. The performance that Hamlin had before losing a tire at the spring race was something that we haven’t seen—nor will see for some time—in the COT era and the most dominating performance since Jeff Burton in that restrictor plate debacle at New Hampshire. While Hamlin has been snakebitten—not getting to victory lane despite his performances—he’s due for a win at Richmond, and barring any bad luck, is a lock for the top 10.

Ryan Newman: Newman has eight top 10s in 14 career Richmond starts, and has finally gotten around the bad luck that plagued him at the beginning of the season. Stewart-Haas Racing has shown themselves to be a top-tier program, and Newman could very well beat Tony Stewart to the team’s first win, even though obviously Stewart isn’t too shabby at Richmond himself. Newman may not be in contention to win on Saturday night, but he’ll be near the front.

David Reutimann: Reutimann sits a shocking (to some) 11th in the points standings, and has established himself as a legitimate Chase contender, and Saturday could be the night that he takes the next step and wins a Sprint Cup race. In the rain-delayed race in the fall, Reutimann had one of the best—if not the best—cars on the track, and even led for a large portion of the latter half of the race until a bad pit stop put him back in the field. With the advances that Michael Waltrip Racing has made, there would be many more surprising faces (Brad Keselowski, anyone?) to see in victory lane on Saturday night.

Drivers to Watch Out For:

Jamie McMurray: McMurray has been abysmal at Richmond, with just an average finish of 27.4 in 12 career starts. McMurray has only recorded two top 10 finishes—with a high of ninth—and his best finish in the current car at Richmond is 25th. McMurray’s most memorable Richmond moment may be crashing out on the backstretch in the fall race in 2005 as he was fighting for the last spot in the Chase. That’s not good.

Brian Vickers: As bad as McMurray has been at Richmond, Vickers has been worse, recording an average finish of 29.2 at Richmond. Vickers finished 8th in his first start at the track in 2004, but since then has a highest finish of 24th (twice) and has finished worse than 30th five times. Sure, Vickers is going to win multiple races in a season for Team Red Bull one of these days, but one of those race wins isn’t going to come at Richmond.

David Ragan: Ragan arrived as a rookie at Richmond in 2007 when he scored a third place finish in the fall race. But in 2008, Ragan finished 32nd in the spring race and 17th in the fall race. The guy that many people had pegged to break out and make the Chase in 2009 has struggled and sits just 26th in points, already 444 points behind Kurt Busch. If Ragan wants to even have a sniff of Chase contention he needs to turn his season around immediately. Just don’t expect him to do it Saturday night.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 2 2009
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