The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stops at Richmond International Raceway for the 26th race of the 2011 season, the Wonderful Pistachios 400. This event will be one of the most exciting races of the year as drivers attempt to manage the tricky configuration of RIR's "long-short" track and qualify for the Championship playoffs. We took a look at past performances, season trends, and talked to NASCAR contacts to shed a light on how the field should finish on Saturday night.
When: Saturday, September 10, 2011; 7:43 p.m./et.
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high around 83; wind out of the NW at 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
The Track: RichmondInternational Raceway
Richmondis a .75 mile D-shaped oval. It has fairly flat 14 degree banking in the turns and 8 degree banking on the straights.
Key to Race: SATURDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Saturday night racing seem to bring out the best and worst in NASCAR drivers the Wonderful Pistachios 400 will be wild. There should be plenty of bent sheet metal and angry drivers when the checkers fly.
46 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the 2011 owner point standings will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 will be determined during qualifying on Friday, September 9 at 5:35 pm/et.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy has run excellent at RIR during his career. He dominated the past two May races and has 10 top five finishes in 12 career starts at the track.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has finished in the top 12 in 13 of the last 14 races at RIR. A top 10 finish is expected.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson admitted in the past that RIR is a tough track for him, but he has won three of the last nine races at the track. And we all know J.J. drives just a little faster once the nighttime air gets a little cooler.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin dominated the fall race at RIR in 2009. The Virginia native is a great pick in his home state.
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards finally appeared to figure out RIR this spring. He should have the No. 99 sled back inside the top 10.
6 to 10
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has finished in the top 14 in the past eight races at Richmond. Mr. Ochocinco career Cup wins is an excellent pick.
No. 22 Kurt Busch: Busch won the fall race at RIR in 2005 and has finished in the top 10 in six of the past nine races at the track. Another top 10 finish should be expected.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has been on fire since injuring his left foot/leg at Road Atlanta a month ago. There is no way he can maintain this excellent driving, but he is still worth owning in all leagues.
No. 33 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer won the May 2008 race at RIR and has finished worse than 12th just twice at the track during his career. This is a good weekend to use the No. 33 car.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has been very successful at RIR in the past. He is worth taking a chance on.
11 to 20
No. 5 Mark Martin: Martin has averaged a 12th place finish in 50 career starts at RIR and has finished in the top 20 in all but two of his last 21 starts at the track.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Smoke has three career wins at RIR and has 15 top 10 finishes in 25 career starts. He hasn't won at the track since 2002 so he is due for another visit to victory lane.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has finished eighth or better in six of the past 14 RIR races. The Biff is a solid third driver in all leagues this week.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth didn’t lead a lap this spring at RIR, but he still managed a top five finish. Look for the crafty veteran to use his skill for another strong finish.
No. 4 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has finished in the top 10 in six of the last 13 races at RIR. He is a fine pick this weekend.
No. 31 Jeff Burton: Burton has nine top five finishes and 15 top 10 finishes in 34 career starts at RIR. The Virginia Native is a solid pick this week.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has three career wins at RIR, including the May 2006 race. Look for No. 88 to finish in the top 15 this weekend.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: RIR is one of Truex's favorite tracks. He finished seventh at the track in May 2010 and is a great pick this weekend.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has had no difficulty in his first five Cup races at Richmond. The Terrific Tasmanian is worth using in most leagues this trip to the track.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya has appeared to have solved Richmond’s tricky configuration. He should have the No. 42 car near the top 10 on Saturday.
21 to 30
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano was fast enough for top 23 finishes in the past five trips to Richmond. We should see similar results from him this weekend.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard was awesome at RIR this spring. He is a great fourth driver in most leagues.
No. 6 David Ragan: Ragan is still looking for consistency at RIR. In nine starts at the track he has finished 16th, 23rd, 24th, 33rd, 23rd, 32nd, 17th, 3rd, and 20th. He will miss a top 20 finish again on Saturday.
No. 00 David Reutimann: Reutimann has had decent success at RIR during his career. He should notch another top 25 finish.
No. 43 A.J. Allmendinger: A.J. has averaged a 24th place finish during his career at RIR.
He should finish right near his average on Saturday.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: This is one of McMurray's worst tracks. Avoid him!
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged a top 20 finish the past four years at RIR. He is a fine sleeper.
No. 78 Regan Smith: Smith has had two decent runs at Richmond during his career. He isn’t an option unless you are in a deep, deep league.
No. 83 Brian Vickers: Vickers has had his fair share of struggles at Richmond during his career. We don’t recommend the Red Bull pilot this week.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte: Richmond is a track where Labonte has had decent success during his career. He shouldn't have an issue cracking the top 30 on Saturday.
No. 32 Mike Bliss
No. 34 David Gilliland
No. 36 Stephen Leicht
No. 51 Landon Cassill
No. 71 Andy Lally
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 35 Dave Blaney
No. 46 Scott Speed
No. 66 Michael McDowell
No. 38 Travis Kvapil
No. 55 J.J. Yeley
No. 60 Mike Skinner
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 50 T.J. Bell
No. 37 TBA
1. Kyle Busch
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Denny Hamlin
1. Marcos Ambrose
2. Casey Mears
Juan Pablo Montoya