Driver Handicaps: Richmond

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    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway for the Crown Royal Presents the "Jim Stewart 400" - the fourth Car of Tomorrow event of the 2007 season. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 400-lap event.

    Who's HOT at Richmond
  • Kyle Busch has yet to finish outside the top five at Richmond plus already has one Car of Tomorrow victory.
  • At 9.9, Richmond is Dale Earnhardt Jr's best track in finishing average.
  • Three-time Richmond winner Tony Stewart has led the most laps in Car of Tomorrow competition with 400.
  • 2006 September winner Kevin Harvick has the best average driver rating at Richmond at 127.8.
  • Greg Biffle has finished eighth or better in his last five starts at Richmond.
  • Mark Martin leads all drivers with 22 top-10 finishes at Richmond.

    Keep an Eye on at Richmond
  • Jeff Gordon has the best average finish (2.0) in Car of Tomorrow competition.
  • Reed Sorenson was the fastest in testing at Richmond last month.
  • Denny Hamlin will be driving the same chassis that has led a combined 302 laps in two starts.
  • Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson both have an average finish of 7.0 in the three Car of Tomorrow races.
  • Matt Kenseth was the fastest Ford in testing.

    COT Performers
    The Hendrick Motorsports teammates of Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch lead all drivers with a respective average finish of 2.0 and 4.0 in the three Car of Tomorrow races contested so far in 2007. Denny Hamlin (6.7), Jeff Burton (7.0) and Jimmie Johnson (7.0) are the only other drivers with an average finish of 10.0 or better. David Gilliland is last in average finish among all drivers that have competed in all COT races at 38.3. The Joe Gibbs racing teammates of Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart are the only drivers to lead more than 200 laps each, with Stewart at 400 and Hamlin at 372. Jeff Gordon (151), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (137) and Jimmie Johnson (113) round out the top five in laps led. Gordon and Hamlin, respectively, have the best starting average at 1.7 and 4.7. COT Driver Averages | COT Lap Leaders

    Testing Report
    Reed Sorenson's speed of 123.215 mph topped the four sessions of testing for the Car of Tomorrow back in early April at Richmond International Raceway. Kurt Busch jumped to second overall with a lap of 123.141 mph in the final session. Johnny Benson (123.136 mph), Jeff Green (122.945 mph) and Jeff Burton (122.800 mph) rounded out the top five of the test. Matt Kenseth was the fastest Ford over the two days at 122.560 mph. Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Riggs crashed in the night session on the first day. Testing Speeds

    Richmond Rookie Report
    None of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates have mad a NEXTEL Cup Series start at Richmond International Raceway. Paul Menard has had the most success at RIR in Cup competition, finishing in the top 10 in the last three of six track starts in the Busch Series. He is also the only rookie that has led at RIR - leading a combined 160 circuits. David Reutimann is the only other rookie that has made starts in the Busch Series at the .75-mile track with his best performance (16th) coming with Nemco Motorsports back in 2002. Reutimann and David Ragan are the only ones of the group that have started at Truck Series race at RIR, but have yet to post a top 10. Juan Pablo Montoya was the fastest among the rookies in testing at RIR with a lap of 122.393 mph. One or more of the class are seeking to continue a rookie top five streak in the May Richmond race, following Denny Hamlin (2006) and Kyle Busch (2005). Rookie Standings

    Qualifying Tidbits
    There has been a different Bud Pole winner in the last 14 races at Richmond International Raceway. Brian Vickers set the current qualifying record (129.983 mph) in the May event in 2004. Denny Hamlin, who won the pole for the September Richmond race, has the best average start among all drivers at 4.0. Ryan Newman (7.2), Richmond pole leader Jeff Gordon (7.5) and Mark Martin (10.0) are the only other drivers that have an average start of 10.0 or better. Gordon and Martin's impressive average spans over 28 and 42 races, respectively. Kasey Kahne's win in the 2005 May race marked the first time a driver has won from the pole since 1992. 57 Richmond races have been won from a top-five starting position. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Richmond Winners

    Looking For Speed
    Ken Schrader holds the best average start (16.9) at Richmond International Raceway among the drivers required to qualify on time. Richmond qualifying record holder Brian Vickers is second in average at 19.8. Johnny Benson was the fastest among the "go or go home" group in testing with a lap of 123.136 mph in the No. 46 Toyota. For the first time in 2007, Dale Jarrett will not have a provisional to fall back on. Qualifying Averages

    Richmond International Raceway Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006)

    *Fastest Early in a Run
    *Fastest Late in a Run
    Avg. Running Position
    1. Kevin Harvick
    1. Terry Labonte
    1. Kevin Harvick - 3.6
    2. Kyle Busch
    2. Kyle Busch
    2. Kyle Busch - 5.8
    3. Kasey Kahne
    3. Kasey Kahne
    3. Denny Hamlin - 6.5
    4. Denny Hamlin
    4. Kevin Harvick
    4. Greg Biffle - 7.5
    5. Greg Biffle
    5. Tony Stewart
    5. Ryan Newman - 9.4
    Laps in Top 15
    *Quality Passes
    *Driver Rating
    1. Kevin Harvick - 1595
    1. Clint Bowyer - 74
    1. Kevin Harvick - 127.8
    2. Kyle Busch - 1567
    2. Ricky Rudd - 46
    2. Kyle Busch - 116.2
    3. Greg Biffle - 1463
    3. Kasey Kahne - 88
    3. Kasey Kahne - 111.7
    4. Ryan Newman - 1423
    4. Greg Biffle - 86
    4. Greg Biffle - 109.4
    5. Tony Stewart - 1218
    5. Kevin Harvick - 78
    5. Denny Hamlin - 107.8


    *Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
    *Driver Rating : Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes

    2006-16
    2006-12
    2005-23
    2005-21
    2004-20

    Average: 18.4

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps
    2006-48
    2006-61
    2005-60
    2005-53
    2004-57

    Average: 55.8

    *RacingOne Staff Picks

    Jeff Wackerlin: Tony Stewart
    Pete Pistone: Denny Hamlin
    Jorge Mondaca: Jeff Burton
    Rachael West: Kyle Busch

    *Note: Drivers can be selected only one time per season. Race points will be added up each week. This is the fourth race of the season for this section of the handicaps. Standings

    Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

    1. Jeff Gordon (Points: 1521): In the last 13 races at Richmond Int'l Raceway, Gordon has finished in the top 10 six times, including a win in the September event in 2000 - his last of two victories at RIR. In two of the last four races Gordon has posted a DNF, most recently last May when an ignition problem relegated him to a 40th-place finish. In total, Gordon has finished in the top five 10 times and in the top 10 16 times, and has led 754 laps. This weekend marks his 29th start on the .75-mile track. With his 7.5 starting average, Gordon has the best average among drivers who have started in 11 or more races at RIR. This average is bolstered by his four pole starts.

    2. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -203): Burton has competed in 25 races at Richmond International Raceway, capturing one win, one pole and 12 top-10 finishes. His best RIR finish (ninth) in five races with Richard Childress came in the 2006 September race. Burton has also made 20 starts in the Busch Series at RIR, capturing three poles, two wins and 11 top-10 finishes. This weekend Burton will pilot the same COT chassis (No. 193) that finished 13th at Phoenix last month.

    3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -229): Kenseth has competed in 14 races at Richmond International Raceway, scoring one victory after leading 134 laps in the 2002 fall event. With that win, Kenseth became the third person to visit victory lane at RIR after starting 25th or worse. Over the last 10 races at RIR, Kenseth has captured seven finishes of eighth or better. Last year in this event, Kenseth finished 38th - his worst finish at RIR - after a brake rotor broke and punctured the oil pan. This weekend he will drive the same COT chassis (RK-451) that finished fifth at Phoenix last month.

    4. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -231): Richmond International Raceway is Johnson's worst track by finishing average at 21.2. His only top 10 was a runner-up finish in this event in 2004. The Car of Tomorrow could be the perfect medicine for Johnson as he is currently tied four fourth overall for the best finishing average at 7.0. In this event in 2005, Johnson's day ended with a trip to the backstretch inside retaining wall, resulting in a 40th-place finish - his only DNF at RIR. This weekend Johnson will drive a new COT chassis (No. 48424).

    5. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -332): Last year in this event, Denny Hamlin thrilled the home state crowd after battling Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win. He wound up finishing second after leading 19 laps from the seventh position. In the September race he won the pole and then went on to finish 15th. Hamlin will be back behind the wheel of one of the strongest COT Chassis in the series. This car led a combined 302 laps in its two starts.

    6. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -443): In his first of three NEXTEL Cup wins at Richmond International Raceway, Stewart led a dominating 333 of the 400 race laps on September 11, 1999. His last win came in the 2002 spring race, and since then he has finished in the top-five twice, including the 2005 May event, where he led 143 laps and finished second. In two of the last three races, Stewart collected his ninth and 10th top 10s at RIR. Stewart has also been successful in the Truck Series at RIR with two wins and a top-three finish in three starts. The only years Stewart failed to win at the track were in 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Stewart has led the most laps in Car of Tomorrow competition with 400.

    7. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -462): Last year, McMurray finished 19th and 25th, respectively, in his first two NEXTEL Cup starts with Roush Racing at Richmond International Raceway. His previous six starts came with Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray's best finish (ninth) - and second top 10 - came in the 2004 September race after breaking a valve spring in the closing laps. With that finish, it also cut short McMurray's chance to make a run for the championship by only 15 points. McMurray will return in the same Car of Tomorrow (chassis No. RK-463) that he tested last month at RIR.

    8. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -467): Busch has finished in the top five in his four NEXTEL Cup starts at Richmond International Raceway. He led 248 laps last September en route to his best finish, of second, at the track. Richmond is also the site of Busch's first NASCAR win when he won the 2004 May Busch Series race. This weekend Busch will look to keep the top five streak alive by driving the same COT chassis (No. 418) that finished seventh at Phoenix last month.

    9. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -469): In 12 starts at Richmond International Raceway, Harvick has finished in the top five three times. In the last four three races at RIR, Harvick has combined to lead 494 laps en route to consecutive top-10 starts and finishes, including a win in the last event. Harvick will be back in the same COT (chassis No. 190) that has posted a 18.3 average finish in three starts.

    10. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -483): Busch posted his first win, and first top five at Richmond International Raceway in the 2005 September race after leading 185 laps. Busch's only other top 10 came in the May 2003 event when he finished eighth. In 2006, Busch finished 29th and 27th, respectively, in his first starts at the track with Penske Racing. He will race the same COT (chassis No. PSC-514) that was tested at RIR and turned in the fastest lap of the final session at 123.141 mph.

    11. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -500): Clint Bowyer posted two solid finishes of 10th and 12th in his first two NEXTEL Cup starts at Richmond International Raceway. In fact, his 11.0 average finish was the best among all of the 2006 rookies at RIR.

    12. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -517): Edwards captured his best NEXTEL Cup finish (sixth) in the 2004 fall event and first start at Richmond International Raceway. Last May he equaled his best start (ninth) before scoring his second top 10 with a seventh-place finish. Edwards will be driving the same COT (chassis RK-453) that he raced to a 12th-place finish at Bristol in March.

    13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -527): Earnhardt Jr. won the this event last year event after leading 47 laps from the 10th starting position. The win marked Jr's third victory at Richmond Int'l Raceway. After 15 starts, he has finished in the top five seven times and the top 10 nine times. In 2004, Junior scored more points (924) on short-tracks than any other driver and backed-up his last RIR win with a second-place finish in the September race. Saturday will mark the third race for COT chassis No. 051. This car finished seventh and 19th, respectively, at Bristol and Phoenix.

    14. David Stremme (Points Behind: -561): Richmond International Raceway is Stremme's worst track by finishing average at 33.7. His average in three Car of Tomorrow races in 2007 is comparable at 30.3.

    15. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -581): Sadler finished 12th or worse in his first 12 starts at Richmond International Raceway. In the 2005 May race, Sadler scored his first, and only, top-10 finish (seventh) after starting a career-best fifth. Last year he finished 16th in his first track start with Evernham Motorsports.

    16. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -590): Biffle has finished eighth or better in the last five races at Richmond International Raceway. In the second race in 2005, he scored his best finish of third in nine starts. Biffle also has one win and three finishes of third or better in the Truck Series at RIR. He will be racing the same COT (chassis: RK-404) that finished 17th at Phoenix due handling problems.

    17. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -600): Martin will be making his seventh start of the 2007 season this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. It will be his first in a Chevrolet and 43rd overall. In his 25 year career at RIR, Martin has captured one win (1990), 23 top-10, 13 top-five and has finished 15th or better in 12 of the last 13 races. He scored his first career pole on September 13, 1981, at Richmond and his 41st on May 5, 2001. Martin also has five Busch wins at RIR. Martin holds the best average finish (12.) among all drivers that have made just one Car of Tomorrow start.

    18. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -613): At 40.5, Richmond International Raceway is Truex Jr's worst track in finishing average. He will be racing the same Car of Tomorrow chassis (No. 018) that finished 29th at Martinsville in April.

    20. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -638): Labonte has yet to win a race at Richmond International Raceway in 28 starts. His last of 10 top 10s came with Joe Gibbs Racing in this event in 2005 when he finished eighth. In his second race at the track in 1993, Labonte started on the pole for the only time at RIR, which was his first career Bud Pole in the Cup Series. Labonte finished 24th and 22nd, respectively, in his first two track starts with Petty Enterprises.

    Notables (Outside The Top 20)
  • Ryan Newman has the best average finish (11.6) at Richmond among the drivers outside the top 20.
  • Reed Sorenson was consistently fast in all of the test sessions last month at Richmond.
  • Kasey Kahne has one win and three top 10s in six Richmond starts.
  • Ricky Rudd has 19 top-10 finishes in 35 starts at Richmond.

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