Mash The Gas – Richmond Preview

Saturday night at Richmond will be the place for race number nine in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup series season. Kyle Busch won this race last year while Kevin Harvick got the win in the fall race. The Capital City 400 Presented by Virginia is for Lovers event comprises of 400 laps totaling 300 miles with the green flag scheduled to wave at 7:44pm eastern on April 28th.

Richmond International Raceway is the short track that thinks it’s a superspeedway. Initially a tough half-mile oval surrounded by piercing steel barriers, the track was changed in 1988 to its current .75 mile D-shaped configuration. Since tearing up a lot of equipment at Martinsville, The NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have played nice the last two weeks as both the events at Texas and Kansas featured very few caution flags and none for wrecks. Richmond’s close quarters racing under the lights Saturday night, could change that.

We look at who’s hot in the season so far combined with who runs well at the upcoming track as well as hunches to come up with the following list and discussion.

#11-Denny Hamlin
Dan Margetta – The “Hometown Hero”, Hamlin hails from nearby Chesterfield, VA and spent many years attending the Richmond races in the grandstands before moving into the driver’s seat and scoring two victories here. He has 8 top-ten finishes in 12 starts and boasts an average finishing position of 7.6.

John Wiedemann – There is no question Denny Hamlin is the top pick for this race. Half of the times he raced at Richmond, he ended up in the top thee including two wins. Following the win at Kansas and heading to one of his best tracks, Hamin is the definition of a “hot” driver.

#18-Kyle Busch
JW – Then there is Hamlin’s teammate, Kyle Busch. Relatively quiet this season, Busch may be due for a dominating win. Coach Gibbs may have a smile on his face this weekend as his drivers fight for the victory. Fourteen Richmond races and only three times finishing out of the top five, once was sixth so that almost shouldn’t count, Busch has stats that any other driver would love.

DM – “Wild Thing” has been uncharacteristically quiet since his jaw-dropping win in the Bud Shootout and Richmond is the place for him to break out of the slump and find victory lane. In 14 starts, Busch has scored three wins and 12 top-ten finishes. His average finishing position of 5.0 is the best among active drivers.

#29-Kevin Harvick
DM – Another driver who has been flirting with the front of the pack all season but has yet to close the deal and post a win. Harvick won the Richmond race last fall and has finished in the top ten in 12 of the last 14 races here.

JW – Kevin Harvick is in sixth in the standings and 25 points behind leader Greg Biffle. He also has been kind of quiet, as has the entire Richard Childress Racing team. Richmond may be the place for last years’ fall race winner to make some noise.

#29- Carl Edwards
DM – Edwards finally led a lap this season last week at Kansas en route to a top ten finish and the team hopes to carry that momentum into a more dominating run at Richmond. Edwards has scored top five finishes in three of the last four events here, including a second place result last Fall.

JW – It’s strange that we are talking about some drivers here that were strong last year but haven’t been hanging around the front of the pack. A mixed bag of results have been compiled by Edwards over the years at Richmond culminating with a second place run last fall prior to the start of the Chase. Edwards moved up two spots to ninth in the standings following Kansas but hasn’t shown himself yet this year. There is still lots of time in the season for Carl to return to form.

#88- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
DM – Statistically, Dale Jr. has faltered at Richmond over the last few years, however crew chief Steve Letarte has enjoyed success in that same time frame calling the shots for Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt and Letarte have began to show the signs of achieving that often sought after, but elusive successful chemistry between driver and crew chief and Richmond could be the place Junior’s winless streak is broken.

#5- Kasey Kahne
JW – Kasey Kahne shouldn’t be considered a dark horse, unless you look at the way his season started. With one win in the books at Richmond back in 2005 while driving for Ray Evernham, Kahne knows his way around the D shaped oval. Kahne has had top five starts with every team he drove for at Richmond and this weekend should be no different. Look for a strong qualifying run by Kahne and possibly his first trip to victory lane with Hendrick Motorsports. Wouldn’t it be funny for the newest driver to come in and give Rick Hendrick that 200th Cup win?

Other Notes:

DM – Of course you can’t talk about favorites without including Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Jimmie Johnson as all three have proven they can run well anywhere, with Kenseth and Biffle each posting a win and 5 top-five finishes while Johnson has four top-five finishes to his credit.

JW – Martin Truex, Jr. is at a point that you almost need to pick him until he wins. He only has two top ten finishes at Richmond but the way he is running right now, history just doesn’t matter. Teammate Mark Martin will most likely be in the lead pack with the number 55 as well. Someone we haven’t mentioned in this week’s article is Tony Stewart. So, I’m going to mention him. It’s time for Stewart to jump back in the headlines, win number three on the season is not out of the question.

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