It will be an all Hendrick Motorsports front row when the field takes the green flag in the regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night. Dale Earnhardt Jr. bumped his teammate Jeff Gordon from the top spot, winning his first pole since the 2011 Daytona 500. Jimmie Johnson joined the two in the top five, as well, and after the strong showing in qualifying, history says a good night could be on tap for the HMS bunch.
Since the start of the 2003 season, 17 of the 19 races at Richmond have been won by a driver starting inside the top 15. More importantly, 12 of the races during the stretch have been won by drivers starting inside the top five. In fact, Junior, Gordon and Johnson know all about winning at the track after qualifying near the front. The three have combined for eight wins at Richmond, and they have started 13th or better in all eight victories and have won six times from a top-five starting spot.
The HMS drivers aren't the only teammates starting up front. All three Michael Waltrip Racing cars will start inside the top 10, and all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars will start inside the top 15. The JGR bunch is particularly intriguing considering Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have the two best average finishes at Richmond and have combined to win six of the last seven races at the track. While the MWR guys don't boast the past success, they have already dominated a short track event in 2012. All three MWR drivers finished in the top five at Bristol earlier this year, and fantasy owners shouldn't be surprised to see Truex, Bowyer and Martin challenge for top-10s this weekend.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper pick may want to consider Sam Hornish Jr. He qualified 11th, and in six previous starts at Richmond, he has finished eighth or better twice. More importantly, those finishes came at a time when he was struggling to make it in the Cup Series. Hornish has no doubt been a much improved driver since returning to the Cup level midway through the year, and if he could crack the top 10 at Richmond at the lowest point of his career, he could certainly do the same now that he is running consistently in the top 15 on a weekly basis.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
Don't miss these great reports....