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Fantasy Racing: Richmond

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 10 2009

Chevy Rock N Roll 400
Richmond International Raceway
Saturday September 12, 7:30 PM ET, ABC

richmond rr400Race Facts: Seven times has a Richmond race had only two lead changes. Thankfully, the last time it happened was 1975. We shouldn’t have to worry about that Saturday night… Last year’s race saw every single car running at the finish. With the start-and-parks this year, we shouldn’t have to worry about that Saturday night either… 84 of 106 races have been won from the top 10… Richard Petty has the most wins of any driver at Richmond with 13. Among active drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are tied for the lead with three.

Drivers to Watch:

Mark Martin: The last time the old man has not finished on the lead lap at Richmond was 2001’s fall race, a span of 15 races. That’s incredibly impressive, given that Martin’s driven for three teams in that span. In his last three races at Richmond, Martin has finished fifth, third and fifth. So yeah, I don’t think the #5 team is going to be cutting it very close. Martin will be able to breathe easily at the end of the evening when he sees his name at the top of the points standings.

Denny Hamlin: The Hammer’s locked in now, and this is his home track. Need I say more?

Jeff Gordon: Remember when Gordon had to have a great night at Richmond in 2005 and smacked the wall early, ending his chances at the Chase that year? Well, that night is a distant memory. Over the last five Richmond races, Gordon has five straight top 10 finishes. And there’s no reason to think that he won’t have another one Saturday night, unless Steve Letarte and the gang try an experimental setup that goes horribly awry.

Drivers to Watch Out For:

Brian Vickers: I’m pretty sure that I had Vickers in this column for the spring race, but I’ll go ahead and say it again: Richmond has been horrible to Vickers. Quite frankly, he needed to make up more points than he did at Atlanta if he wanted to get into the Chase. Sure, he qualified first in the spring race here, but he finished 15th. And that was his best finish at Richmond since the first race of his rookie season all the way back in 2004. That’s not good at all.

Greg Biffle: The Biff hasn’t been as bad as Vickers at Richmond, but he hasn’t been spectacular, and given the guys he’s racing against, that may not cut it. In his last five races, he does have four top 20 finishes, but the highest has been 14th (twice). That may not cut it, and Biffle may be spending the waning laps sweating the Chase cut line.

Jamie McMurray: Yeah, McMurray did finish seventh in the spring race, but before then, his last top 10 was the spring race in 2005. And in that span, McMurray had five finishes of 29th or worse. Yikes.

Stone Cold Lock of the Week:

Kyle Busch: Busch has been un-Kyle Busch like in the last two fall Richmond races with finishes of 15th and 20th. But those are anomalies, as he’s finished in the top five of every other Richmond race that he’s run. And anyway, that 15th place finish in 2008 was because he got dumped by Dale Jr in a bit of payback for the spring race. Kyle’s obviously not in the position he wants to be in going into this race, but he’s definitely at the track he wants to be at. Busch wins. Handily.

The Chase field: I truly think that Vickers blew his chance last week. He did run well—and the crew did a fantastic job changing the axle on that car—but he didn’t have enough bad luck amongst the guys he’s racing against. So Vickers will be on the outside looking in after Saturday night, while Busch vaults into the field replacing Greg Biffle as Matt Kenseth barely holds on for 12th.

Last Week: (It was brutal. All three drivers to watch out for were in the top 10)

To Watch: Harvick 2nd, Earnhardt Jr. 17th, Kenseth 12th

To Watch Out: Reutimann 4th, Montoya 3rd, Newman 4th

Stone Cold Lock: Stewart 11th

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 10 2009
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