Watch those Virginians in Richmond night race

April 29, 2008 7:00 PM
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Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

Roberts Top 5 At Richmond
1. #11 Denny Hamlin 7-1
2. #48 Jimmie Johnson 5-1
3. #31 Jeff Burton 18-1
4. #07 Clint Bowyer 15-1
5. #29 Kevin Harvick 18-1
EVENTS WINS TOP 10s
12 7 39 of 65

This Saturday night in the Capital of the Confederacy, a nationally televised audience will get to witness one of NASCAR’s wildest crowds on the circuit.

Richmond’s three-quarter mile track will serve as the stage for what will turn out to be the best action adventure on Saturday night’s TV lineup. Because the track is relatively short, the drivers get to play a little bumper cars. This gets a few drivers in hostile moods, which results in the crowd roaring with approval.

The whole process really plays out well on TV.

Richmond is listed as a short track because of its dimensions, but it runs nothing like Bristol or Martinsville. Taking a cue from the crew chiefs, the best way to figure out who will do well this week is to look at recent results from Phoenix and New Hampshire. The three tracks are nothing alike but the correlation between them is very strong. If a team has success on one, chances are they’ll be good on the other two.

Each of the top running teams from Phoenix will likely bring the same chassis to Richmond. Jimmie Johnson won at Phoenix a few weeks ago for his first victory of the season. When including last season’s results from the six races at Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond, you’ll see that Johnson has three more wins from that group and a worst finish of sixth.

Johnson swept the Richmond races last season, but has shown some vulnerability this year on the larger tracks that didn’t run the Car of Tomorrow. The team has admitted that they are behind the likes of Joe Gibbs and Jack Roush in that area.

Hendrick cars are still tops in the business is the flat mid-range tracks of Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond. Those cars they dominated with last season are still in tact and are ready to roll again this week.

Jeff Gordon finished fourth in both races last season and had a win at Phoenix. At New Hampshire, Gordon finished second twice. His worst finish in the six races was a 10th at Phoenix. This year at Phoenix, Gordon finished in 13th position.

He has always had a tough time in Richmond. In 30 career starts, Gordon only has 16 Top 10 finishes and has two wins. The lack of success is much to the delight of the Richmond Rowdies. For some reason they like to see Gordon have a bad night of racing.

Since we’re discussing Richmond, we should mention a few Virginians that have a shot at winning this week. Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton have a great chance. Elliott Sadler is also from Virginia, but he is a longshot. Hamlin comes in with his Gibbs Toyota and has the third best average on the six tracks combined, behind Gordon and Johnson.

At Phoenix this season, Hamlin finished a strong third and he stands out this week because of his desire to win on his home soil. Last season he tried so hard to win and bring something positive to all Virginians after the horrific shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech.

At both Martinsville and Richmond last season Hamlin finished third and sixth in the four races. This season he has already crossed off Martinsville with a win there last month. This week, look for him to cross off Richmond as well.

Jeff Burton is a candidate to do well because of how the Childress organization has collectively run on the flat mid-range tracks. They were already great with Kevin Harvick on these tracks before the COT. In 2006 Harvick won 4-of-6 races run at Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond.

The COT program started a little slow last season, but they were respectable until Clint Bowyer took the win at New Hampshire.

Burton currently leads in points, but you can forget about him points racing. He hasn’t won in his home state since 1998, which was the one and only Richmond win. He knows he’ll have the car this week capable of winning and he wants it almost as bad Hamlin does for the same reasons.

NOTE: Micah Roberts is the Race & Sports Director at Station Casinos and has contributed to GamingToday the past 11 years.