Chevy Rock and Roll 400 fantasy NASCAR preview

by Bob Frykholm on September 4, 2008 @ 14:09:12 PDT


Richmond International Raceway is 0.75 miles long and runs both its races on Saturday evenings. Richmond allows drivers to run either at the top, middle or bottom, creating good vision for the drivers and encouraging aggressive driving. The excitement of the track centers on Turn 2, when drivers will fight for the entrance into the turn, and exiting Turn 4 because drivers will be up near the wall as they enter the home stretch.

This is it, the last race before the Chase. Drivers who sit on the bubble will let it all hang out. Caution will not gain qualification. All the elements are present for a great race: running under the lights, a track that encourages aggressiveness, and the last chance to qualify for the Chase. This is a race not to miss. Tape the college football game, sit on the edge of your seat, and be prepared for exciting racing.

Location: Richmond, Va.

Shape: D-shaped oval

Length: 0.75 miles

Laps: 410

Banking: 14-degree turns; 8-degree front stretch; 2-degree back stretch

Table: Do not bench

Leading the Pack

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing

Newman lost his chance to qualify last week with his 16th-place finish at the Pepsi 500. Don't think that Newman will fall off this week. He enjoys running at Richmond, and he has a victory there. In his 13 races he has an average finish of 10.7. He also has eight top-10 and four top-five finishes. He ran a strong race on his last visit at the track finishing sixth. Newman also has been very consistent in his races here. He has averaged a 10.75 result in his last four races - extremely close to his career average. Newman may be mistakenly overlooked by fantasy owners who concentrate their sights on the bubble drivers.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Ford | Penske Racing

Kurt Busch has run 15 times at Richmond. His average finish at Richmond is 19.7 along with four top-10 finishes and one DNF. However, race fans need to consider his competitive nature and more importantly the fact that he has at this track. He ran 42nd at his last race there, but that was due to an accident. Prior to that race he had consecutive top-10 finishes at Richmond. Although his historical data is far from dominating, this is a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. His talent is too great to continue running poor races. Look past this disappointing season. Busch makes for an intriguing pick.

Clint Bowyer | No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Bowyer has consecutive top-10 finishes coming into Richmond and sits right on the bubble in 12th position. Richmond offers more of the same positives for Bowyer, who has run only five times at Richmond but has three top-10 finishes and a victory. His record has been very consistent not finishing worse than 12th. His victory came at his last race here, this year's Dan Lowry 400. This track suits Bowyer's steady style and professional demeanor on the track. His momentum and track record make him a must-have driver this week. Look for Bowyer to nail down Chase qualification with strong run.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle was the only driver to challenge Jimmie Johnson while finishing second in last week's race. He currently sits in sixth position, well-situated for a chance at the title. Last week's second-place running has shown others that Carl Edwards is not the only driver from Roush to be reckoned with. Biffle can be a streaky driver; his average finish for the last three races is 5.7. Biffle's record at Richmond is also good. He has run at Richmond 12 times with an average finish of 15.8. He has five top-10 finishes. In his last race at Richmond he finished 14th. His second-place finish last week and his comfort at Richmond suggest Biffle is a driver you want this week.

Mark Martin | No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

The part-time driver for DEI is scheduled to run at Richmond. Martin is a competitive force on any track he races on. Martin has run an incredible 41 times at Richmond with 23 top-10 and 14 top-five finishes. Martin's experience is irreplaceable. His average finish at the track is 11.41 and he has one victory. Martin is a cool driver who seldom makes mistakes and whom you can count on having a solid race. Anytime Martin races he will be a sentimental favorite. Selecting Martin makes a lot of sense. The driving will be fierce at Richmond, so picking a driver that is experienced and cool under pressure will reward you.

Drivers to Keep an Eye On

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Truex currently sits in 17th position in the Cup standings, and still is waiting to make the move to be a dominant driver. Richmond could be the opportunity for him to make himself known. He has run only five times at Richmond and has not run well here. His average finish doesn't appear to be very good at 25.8, but the last Richmond race was by far his best as he finished fifth. Judging from that finish and his 15th-place result there in the last '07 run, Truex appears to have mastered the track. Take a serious look at Truex this week based on his finish here in May.

Dave Blaney | No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota | Bill Davis Racing

Blaney still has not been able to run strong this season. He still sits in 32nd position and his two top-10 finishes this season are a far cry from what was anticipated. His record at Richmond is not much better than his season's record with an average finish of 24.2. In his 16 starts at Richmond he has not won, but he did have a fourth-place finish in the 2006 edition of this race. His last visit there produced a respectable 18th, and in his last four Richmond races his average finish is 16.8. It does indicate that Blaney has potential to run a steady race if you need a low-end driver in pick pool leagues.

David Ragan | No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Ragan's history at Richmond has been acceptable but rather inconsistent. He has run only three times at the track and his average finish is 13.3. He finished in 17th place the last time he ran at Richmond but finished third and 20th in his prior two races. Running only three times does not give him a great deal amount of experience, but he still sits one position away from qualifying. Finishing 13th in the Cup standings would be a heartbreaker. Ragan needs to drive as hard as he can; this is his last chance to move up. Another top-five finish is just what Ragan needs to propel himself into the Chase.

Bobby Labonte | No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge | Petty Enterprises

Richmond is a track that Labonte has a wealth of experience running at. He has run here 31 times with an average finish of 17.06. In his last six races there Labonte's average finish was only 18.7, pretty much in line with his career. He has 10 top-10 finishes, though, but has never won at Richmond. He ran a good race with his visit at Richmond placing 13th. Labonte is a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Based on his experience and last results on this track, Labonte is a driver you should not overlook this week.

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 Best Buy/Garmin Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

Richmond is not a track that Sadler has had much success at. He has raced at Richmond for a total of 19 times in his career, with an average finish of 23.5. The last time Sadler raced at Richmond he placed 20th. Sadler has not run well in '08. He sits in 20th position, well outside the Chase. However, in his last six races he has two top-10 finishes. Sadler is in situation where he will not qualify for the Chase, but he needs to end the season on a positive note. He could surprise many with a good finish based on his talent and stronger running of late.

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About Bob Frykholm

Frykholm has been a KFFL contributor since February 2008.

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