The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stops at Richmond International Raceway for the 26th race of the 2012 season, the Federated Auto Parts 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 battle to make The Chase. 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, Saturday 8, 2012; 7:43 p.m./et.
Weather: Scattered T-Storms with a high around 87; wind out of the S at 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
The Track: Richmond International 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 Federated Auto Parts 400 will be wild. There should be plenty of bent sheet metal and angry drivers when the checkers fly. In the battle for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Tony Stewart controls his own destiny. If he struggles Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon could sneak into the two Wild Card spots. Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, and Paul Menard also have chances to make the Chase and will be driving “all-out” to get in. Any of these drivers will be good picks this week.
45 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. If the first practice is run, but qualifying is unable to take place, the starting lineup will be based on speeds from the car's fastest lap from the first practice, with top-35 cars in owner points no longer segregated from the non-top 35 cars. Previously, the top 35 cars lined up in front of all other eligible car owners.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy has run excellent at RIR during his career. He dominated the past three May races and has 11 top five finishes in 14 career starts at the track.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick won last fall and has finished in the top 12 in 14 of the last 16 races at RIR. A top five 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 11 races at venue. 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. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has three career wins at RIR, including the May 2006 race. He was fast this spring and should bring the heat again this trip to Virginia. Look for No. 88 to finish in the top five this weekend.
6 to 10
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards finally appeared to figure out RIR last year. He should have the Double-9 sled back inside the top 10.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has finished in the top 14 in eight of the past nine races at Richmond. He is an excellent pick.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Smoke has three career wins at RIR and has 17 top 10 finishes in 27 career starts. He hasn't won at the track since 2002 so he is due for another visit to victory lane.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer won the May 2008 race at RIR and has finished worse than 12th just three times at the track during his career. This is a good weekend to use the No. 15 car.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has finished eighth or better in six of the past 16 RIR races. The Biff is a solid second driver in all leagues this week.
11 to 20
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth hasn’t lead a lap at RIR the past two races, but he still managed a top 10 finishes. Look for the crafty veteran to use his skill for another strong finish.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has finished in the top 10 in seven of the last 15 races at RIR. He is a fine pick this weekend.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has been average at RIR in his brief career. There are better options to anchor your squad this week.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has been very successful at RIR in the past. He is worth taking a chance on.
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 good pick this weekend.
No. 55 Mark Martin: Martin has averaged a 12th place finish in 52 career starts at RIR and has finished in the top 20 in all but two of his last 23 starts at the track.
No. 31 Jeff Burton: Burton has nine top five finishes and 15 top 10 finishes in 36 career starts at RIR. The Virginia Native is a solid pick this week.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has had very little difficulty in his first seven 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 in the top 20 on Saturday.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard was awesome at RIR the past two spring races. He is a great fourth driver in most leagues.
21 to 30
No. 51 Kurt Busch: Busch won the fall race at RIR in 2005 and has finished in the top 10 in seven of the past 11 races at the track. A top 25 finish should be expected.
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano was fast enough for top 24 finishes in the past seven trips to Richmond. We should see similar results from him this weekend.
No. 22 Sam Hornish Jr.: Hornish has averaged a 23rd place finish during his career at RIR.
He should finish near his average on Saturday.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola has averaged a 22nd place at Richmond in his career.
No. 10 David Reutimann: Reutimann has had some decent success at RIR during his career. He should notch another top 25 finish.
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 three decent runs at Richmond during his career. He isn’t a bad choice for those in a deep, deep league.
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. 34 David Ragan: Ragan has averaged a 19th place finish at RIR during his career. He should have the No. 34 inside the top 30 when the checkers fly.
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 93 Travis Kvapil
No. 38 David Gilliland
No. 32 Ken Schrader
No. 33 Stephen Leicht
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 98 Michael McDowell
No. 91 Reed Sorenson
No. 0 Mark Green
No. 37 J.J. Yeley
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 19 Mike Bliss
No. 26 Josh Wise
1. Kyle Busch
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Denny Hamlin
Martin Truex Jr.