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Air Guard 400 Preview and Pick to Win

Race: Air Guard 400
Date: Saturday September 11th, 2010
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
Channel: ABC

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From one great night race to another, we are headed to my great state of Virginia this weekend! We are going to race at the nation's capitol on the short track at Richmond International. It's really cool to see how different these guys race from the intermediate tracks of Atlanta and Charlotte to the short tracks of Richmond and Bristol. There's such a difference in strategy and car setup and such a huge difference in attitude.

Richmond is not as short as Bristol and Martinsville, but it's just as dicey with all of the traffic it seems. There's really no room for huge leads or a need for drafting like you see at the other tracks. It gets insane when you're watching a race where Kyle Busch or Jimmie Johnson have a 6 second lead over everyone else in the field. You definitely won't see that here at Richmond.

Richmond is a mile oval in the heart of the Commonwealth state. Even though it is a short track, it's still a heck of a lot different. Being almost a mile longer is saying something too. That's a big difference from a mile or a 2/3 mile track. The turns have 14 degree banking with the 1290 foot frontstretch sitting at 8 degrees and the 860 foot backstretch sitting at 2 degrees.

The number one most important aspect of this track is staying out of trouble. Like all short tracks, track position is everything, but luckily in these shorter venues drivers are able to make up that position when necessary. Starting at the back at any track is never desirable though. Being able to stay up front is a good indication of the guys who are taking care of their tires. With all short tracks, tires are the deal breaker in a lot of late race cautions. Those drivers with better tires will push their way to the front on the short runs and the green-white-checker finishes that are almost inevitable here. So, two things: number one, a driver needs to be up front; number two, a driver does this by having good tires.

Beating and banging is going to happen. It's just the nature of the beast, but as I said before, those guys with good tires and good track position are the ones to watch for. It may seem unnecessary to say that a driver needs good track position somewhere, but if you look at the super speedways and even some of the longer intermediate tracks, track position can mean absolutely nothing. A driver in 30th place can get to 1st within a lap because of drafting. Here, there is no drafting and aerodynamics are not such a major factor. Being up front and staying up front are necessary.

This particular track is a great track for the driver I am tired of talking about. Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the Spring race from this year and last year. Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson are also major factors, but Busch takes the cake for this track. This is a track where he simply drives through everyone. He is able to get up front, stay up front, and do so usually with minimal contact unlike the other tracks that we've seen recently. With a good track record here, I hate to say it, but he's my pick this week. I do think that the Hendrick drivers of Johnson and Gordon are two more to watch as well as Busch's teammate Hamlin.

Here is a recap of your current top 12 after Atlanta:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Kyle Busch
4. Tony Stewart
5. Carl Edwards
6. Jeff Burton
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Kurt Busch
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Denny Hamlin
11. Greg Biffle
12. Clint Bowyer

The field is essentially set for the Chase. As Richmond is the last race until the 'playoffs' of NASCAR, pending any catastrophic events, I don't think that the top 12 will change in terms of who is included. Ryan Newman sits in 13th place, but he is a whopping 117 points behind 12th place Bowyer. Given 2 to 3 more races, I'd say that was feasible, but it really doesn't look like anyone else is going to be able to race their way in this year. Stay tuned though! Richmond never fails to excite. It's short track Saturday night racing! Who doesn't love that?

Virginia's Pick to Win: Kyle Busch

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