Capital City 400 Picks

Race: Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is for Lovers
Date: Saturday April 28, 2012
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Time: 7 pm ET
TV: Fox

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Racing Handicapper,

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Denny Hamlin dominated the race on Sunday, taking the checkers at Kansas Speedway. Much to the chagrin of Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin just couldn’t be passed. Truex certainly gave it all he had, as you could see when he came out of the turns sideways. Needless to say, it just wasn’t enough. Look for more of this kind of domination from Hamlin this Saturday night as we head to one of his home tracks here in Richmond, Virginia!

Hamlin proved that he’s still one to be reckoned with, although his performances this year have not lent us to believe that. We are seeing more and more determination from the teams, as everyone is trying to get to the top 10 in the points or at least make a name for themselves this season. It’s been pretty crazy, with a few unexpected drivers taking the poles and the checkers, but that just goes to show what kind of talent there really is out there. Given the equipment, for example, A.J. Allmendinger has been able to grab a pole and to maintain strong position in mostly every race.

He is vying for the same this weekend as we head to short track Heaven in Richmond, Virginia. As you can see, Virginia is a state of great racing. We’ve already had quite the finish at Martinsville, which is a bit smaller than Richmond, but we are bound to see some more great racing as we head into the mile track this Saturday.

Richmond is a bit larger, with Martinsville only standing at mile. That being said, we have longer green flag runs than we typically do at Martinsville. That changes the dynamic of the race just a touch. While track position isn’t as important as Martinsville, it means a little bit more here. Drivers have a tendency to pull away from the field a little bit more here than they would at Martinsville because of the larger track size, leading to more green flag runs. Pit strategy is going to be another interesting thing here because of the slightly bigger size. With longer green flag runs, there will more than likely be several different fuel strategies, with many drivers gambling for the win.

Typically, we see a few big names at the top of the roster at Richmond. Denny Hamlin is certainly one of them and he is my pick to win this weekend. He is looking strong coming off his dominating performance at Kansas, and we are now going to probably his best track on the circuit. Jeff Gordon is simply a driver to watch on these short tracks. He has a decent history here. Teammate Jimmie Johnson is a good one to watch along with Tony Stewart. Smoke has a good chance at grabbing the win here as well. Here is the rundown for my picks this week:

Pick to Win: Denny Hamlin
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Prediction: Juan Pablo Montoya

I know. Juan Pablo. Yes. If you look at his stats at Richmond, they are pretty evenly split with half having 15th place or better and the other half having 29th or worse. That being said, he had a decent finish of 14th at Kansas and tends to do relatively decently if luck stays on his side here at Richmond. He had the pole here last year and has the potential to do well. Let’s see if he can make that happen.
Here are your current top 10 in the points after Kansas:

1. Greg Biffle
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Tony Stewart
9. Carl Edwards
10. Ryan Newman

Is it just me or is the lead board getting weirder and weirder? Greg Biffle is somehow extending his lead, not to step on the toes of Biffle fans out there, but that’s just strange. Truex Jr. is having a very impressive 2nd place standing despite barely hearing his name this season. Dale Jr. is managing to hold on in 4th place, which may be his longest run in the points standings in years! And then there are those drivers still conspicuously missing from the top 10. Jeff Gordon sits in 18th place, 112 points behind the leader. Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch are also outside of the top 10. This is shaping up to be a pretty eventful season. Let’s see if any of those guys can redeem their names this weekend as we head into Richmond International Raceway for some great short track racing.