Driver Handicaps: Richmond

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This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the Richmond International Raceway for Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400. To help you make your fantasy racing 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 leads all drivers with a 5.6 average finish.
• Richmond is Dale Earnhardt Jr's best track based on finishing average at 11.7.
• Tony Stewart joins Earnhardt Jr. as the only active drivers with three wins.
• 2006 September winner Kevin Harvick has the best average driver rating at Richmond at 118.9.
• Denny Hamlin, who led 381 laps in May, has finished sixth or better in three of his five starts.
• May winner Clint Bowyer has finished 12th or better in his five starts.
• Two-time winner Jeff Gordon is coming off three consecutive top 10s.

Keep an Eye on at Richmond
• Jimmie Johnson won both races at Richmond in 2007.
• Mark Martin leads all drivers that are entered in this weekend's race with 24 top-10 finishes.
• Kasey Kahne is coming off consecutive top 10s at Richmond.
• David Ragan finished third in this event last season.
• Ryan Newman holds a 10.7 average finish in 13 starts.

Richmond Rookie Report
Regan Smith was the highest finishing rookie when the series first visited Richmond in the spring. He finished 21st, while Sam Hornish Jr. was close behind in 23rd. Michael McDowell and Patrick Carpentier both suffered accidents and finished 40th and 43rd, respectively. Although not technically a rookie yet, Joey Logano will attempt to make his first Cup start this weekend driving the No. 02 for Joe Gibbs Racing. He'll have to make the field by qualifying since the team isn't within the top 35 in owner's points. Rookie Standings


Qualifying Tidbits
Brian Vickers still holds the qualifying speed record at Richmond of 129.983 mph that he set in qualifying for the 2004 spring race driving a Chevrolet for Rick Hendrick. The last 10 races have seen 10 different pole winners. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five poles. Twenty-one races have been won from the pole position, the most of any starting position at RIR. Jimmie Johnson was the last to win a race from the pole in the fall last year. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Richmond Winners

Richmond Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2008)
*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Denny Hamlin
1. Denny Hamlin
1. Denny Hamlin - 5.3
2. Kevin Harvick
2. Kyle Busch
2. Kevin Harvick - 5.8
3. Kyle Busch
3. Tony Stewart
3. Kyle Busch - 7.1
4. Tony Stewart
4. Matt Kenseth
4. Tony Stewart - 9.5
5. Kasey Kahne
5. Kevin Harvick
4. Ryan Newman - 10.1
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Kevin Harvick - 2677
1. Kevin Harvick - 191
1. Kevin Harvick - 118.9
2. Ryan Newman - 2506
2. Kyle Busch - 168
2. Denny Hamlin - 114.8
3. Kyle Busch - 2487
2. Tony Stewart - 161
3. Kyle Busch - 110.6
4. Tony Stewart - 2313
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 154
4. Tony Stewart - 102.3
5. Greg Biffle - 2015
5. Ryan Newman - 153
5. Kasey Kahne - 98.2

*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.


RacingOne Staff Picks
Jeff Wackerlin: Denny Hamlin
Pete Pistone: Kevin Harvick
Rachael West: Kyle Busch
Kym Opalenik: Tony Stewart

Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

1. Kyle Busch: Richmond International Raceway is Busch's best track based on his finishing average of 5.6. With the exception of this event last year, Busch has finished in the top five in all of his starts, including three runner-up finishes. Richmond is also the site of Busch's first NASCAR win when he won the May 2004 Nationwide Series race.

2. Carl Edwards: Edwards captured his best Sprint Cup finish (sixth) at Richmond International Raceway in his first start at the track in 2004. His only other top-10 in eight starts came in the 2006 and 2008 May races when he finished seventh. This weekend, Edwards will pilot the same chassis (No. 587) that won at Pocono in August.

3. Jimmie Johnson: Richmond International Raceway is Johnson's worst short track based on his finishing average of 18.8. He lowered that stat by leading a combined 209 laps en route to victories in both races last year. The victories were his second and third top-10s at the track. Johnson's only DNF at Richmond came in the 2005 May race when his day ended with a trip to the backstretch inside retaining wall, which resulted in a 40th-place finish. This weekend, Johnson will debut a new chassis (No. 520) in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Since winning his third Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in the 2006 May race, Earnhardt Jr. has gone on to post an 18.8 average finish. In 18 starts, Junior 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 when he backed-up his second RIR win with a second-place finish in the September race. This weekend, Earnhardt will be driving the same car (chassis No. 490) that led 15 laps and nearly won before being involved in a late-race accident at RIR in May.

5. Jeff Burton: Burton has competed in 28 Sprint Cup races at Richmond International Raceway, capturing one win, one pole and 12 top-10 finishes. His best RIR finish (ninth) in eight races with Richard Childress came in this event in 2006. Burton has also made 21 starts in the Nationwide Series at RIR, capturing three poles, two wins and 12 top-10 finishes. This weekend, Burton will pilot the same chassis (No. 240) that finished sixth at Phoenix in April.

6. Greg Biffle: Prior to last season, Biffle finished eighth or better in five consecutive races at Richmond International Raceway. His best finish, of third, came in the September race in 2005. Biffle also has one win and three finishes of third or better in the Truck Series at RIR. This weekend, Biffle will shoot for his first top-10 with the COT at RIR in the same car (chassis No. 566) that finished third at Dover.

7. Kevin Harvick: In 15 starts at Richmond International Raceway, Harvick has finished in the top five four times. In the last seven races at RIR, Harvick has combined to lead 599 laps en route to seven consecutive top 10s, including a win in the 2006 September race. This weekend Harvick will race the same car (chassis No. 251) that finished 14th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

8. Tony Stewart: In his first of three Sprint Cup wins at Richmond International Raceway, Stewart led a dominating 333 of the 400 race laps on September 11, 1999. His last win there came in the 2002 spring race, and since then, he has finished in the top-five four times, including the last two races. Stewart has also been successful in the Truck Series at RIR with two wins and a top-three finish in three starts. This weekend, Stewart will pilot the same car (chassis No. 219) that started 20th and finished second at Pocono last month.

9. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has competed in 17 Sprint Cup events at Richmond International Raceway, scoring one victory after leading 134 laps in the second event in 2002. His last of nine top-10s came in the 2007 May race when he finished 10th after starting 28th. Kenseth's worst finishes (38th) at RIR came in the 2006 and 2008 May races. This weekend Kenseth will be back in the same car (chsssis No. RK-574) that was involved in an accident at RIR in May.

10. Jeff Gordon: In the last 16 races at Richmond International Raceway, Gordon has finished in the top-10 nine times, including a win in the 2000 fall race - his last of two victories at RIR. His best run at the track since 2004 came last year when he led a combined 305 laps en route to a pair of fourth-place finishes. In total, Gordon has finished in the top-five 12 times and in the top-10 19 times, and has led 1,059 laps. This weekend marks his 32nd start on the .75-mile track. With his 7.8 starting average, Gordon has the best average among drivers who have started in six or more races at RIR. This average is bolstered by his five pole starts.

11. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been showing what he's made of, as he's bounced back from some disappointing finishes to finish third in the last two Cup races. He'll try to redeem his disappointment from the spring at Richmond, when he had to settle for a 24th-place finish after cutting a tire after leading 381 laps of the race's 410. The finish was his worst at the .75-mile track, where he has an average finish of 10.0 after five starts. Hamlin has led at least 12 laps in each of his starts and will make the Chase if he can finish 21st or better, but can also get in by finishing 22nd and leading one lap or finishing 25th and leading the most laps. The team will unload Chassis JGR 220 this weekend at Richmond. This car has two starts this season and has posted finishes of third (Indianapolis) and 39th (Michigan).

12. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer benefitted from Hamlin's misfortune in the spring at Richmond as he took the victory after the dominant Hamlin cut a tire late in the race. He'll hope for another break this weekend as he attempts to fend off David Ragan and Kasey Kahne's pursuit for a Chase spot. Chances are pretty good that he'll make the Chase, as he's got an average finish of 8.8 at RIR in five starts. The average is strengthened by the fact that he hasn't finished worse than 12th at the .75-mile track.

13. David Ragan: Ragan has a solid chance of making the Chase in his sophomore year of Cup Racing. He's only 17 points behind Bowyer, who sits in the last transfer spot. Ragan finished third in this race last year after starting eighth, but his two spring outings at RIR haven't been as successful. This year he finished 17th and in his track debut last year he finished 20th. He's made four other starts at the track - three Nationwide and one in the Trucks. The car that the No. 6 team is bringing to the track (RK-573), was last raced at Loudon to a 40th-place finish.

14. Kasey Kahne: Kahne also has a chance of making the Chase as he sits 48 points out of 12th in the standings. He's making his 10th start at RIR this weekend and is coming off two top-10 finishes there. Kahne won at Richmond from the pole in the spring of 2005 and has two top fives and five top 10s. His average finish is 17.3, affected heavily by two bad finishes in the beginning of his career and a crash in the spring event in 2007.

15. Brian Vickers: Vickers won the pole in his first start at Richmond in 2004 and after leading 32 laps went on to finish eighth while driving a Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports. He still holds the qualifying record at the track for that pole winning lap (129.983 mph). That finish was his only finish within the top 20 in eight starts there. He's made two starts at the track driving a Toyota for Red Bull Racing and posted a best 24th with them in this event last year.

16. Ryan Newman: Newman's stats back up his sentiment that Richmond International Raceway is his favorite short track on the Cup schedule. He has the best average finish of drivers at Richmond who have made more than eight starts. In 13 starts, Newman has an average finish of 10.7, with one win, four top fives and eight top 10s. This spring, Newman finished sixth at RIR. The No. 12 team is bringing chassis PRS-555 to Richmond, which finished 21st in Charlotte in May and 14th at Pocono in August.

17. Martin Truex Jr: Truex Jr. will be back with his crew chief and car chief this weekend after the two come off their respective six-week suspensions. Since they were suspended Truex managed to post two top-10s but he also posted five finishes of 15th or worse. Truex has progressively gotten better at RIR in his five starts. His track debut in 2006 resulted in a 41st-place finish, but his last start there this spring, brought him his first top five there as he wheeled his Chevy to a fifth-place finish.

18. Jamie McMurray: McMurray is making his 12th start at Richmond this weekend. Although he's posted two top-10 finishes there, the track is his worst on the circuit by finishing average (26.9). His best finishes came while driving for Chip Ganassi. He managed a 19th-place finish in his debut at the track with Roush Racing in 2006. Since then, McMurray has posted four finishes of 25th or worse, including crashing out of his last two races there. The team is bringing chassis RK-567, which was last raced in April at Phoenix.

19. Kurt Busch: Busch will try to redeem himself at RIR this weekend after crashing out just over halfway into the spring race. That 42nd-place finish was his worst to date at the track and came on the heels of two top-10 finishes in the previous races. Busch has won once at RIR in this event in 2005 in his last appearance there for Roush Racing. Since joining Penske, Busch has built a 22.4 average finish in 5 starts. Busch will be driving chassis PSC-574, which he used to win the June New Hampshire race.

20. Elliott Sadler: Sadler is returning to his home track this weekend to make his 20th start at Richmond International Raceway. He's had two top-10 starts in his last two appearances there but hasn't been able to capitalize on them and finished 20th there in the spring and 27th last fall. Sadler's only top-10 finish at RIR came while driving for Yates Racing in the spring event in 2005. His best finish there driving the No. 19 Gillett-Evernham Dodge was 16th in this event in 2006. The team is bringing chassis #253, which Sadler brought home fifth at New Hampshire in June.

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