Race: Federated Auto Parts 400
Date: Saturday September 6, 2014
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Well, this is it! We are headed to Richmond this weekend where the Chase field will be completely set. Atlanta proved to be a really great race at the end. The beginning was a little uneventful, but the last half was filled with cautions and wrecks and tires going down. The ultimate winner and surprise of the night was Kasey Kahne who came away with the win and locked himself into the Chase just in time. Kevin Harvick dominated much of the race, but Kahne was able to take him on the last restart and pull away. Harvick just couldn’t quite keep up when Kahne got that clean air. Needless to say, Kahne was the final of the Hendrick cars that needed to make it in the Chase, and he succeeded in a grand way! This weekend, there are 2 spots left for the taking when it comes to the Chase.
Richmond will surely not disappoint. It’s a short track. You can only imagine the chaos that the track will see, especially with so much on the line for quite a few drivers. Even though it’s a short track, it’s the biggest of the short tracks if you will. It’s a mile as opposed to the mile tracks of Bristol and Martinsville. Richmond is not as flat as Martinsville but not as banked as Bristol either. It has 14 degree banking in the turns and 8 degrees on the frontstretch with a slight 2 degree banking on the backstretch. It is not quite a true oval with the frontstretch coming in at 1290 feet and the backstretch coming in at 860 feet. As you can tell, the frontstretch still provides these drivers with more room than Bristol and Martinsville to gain some more speed.
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Richmond is a track where track position means everything. Much like Atlanta, drivers are going to want to get up front and stay up front. This is where drivers like Kevin Harvick will be challenged. With issues on pit road and the inability of some teams to get cars out of the pits in a timely manner, it’s going to be hard to get to the top of the leader board.
Potential winners for this weekend are going to be a bit tricky. There are so many storylines entering this race. We have those drivers who are trying to capture those last 2 Chase spots. We also have those drivers who are locked in the Chase but are trying to rack up an additional win and lead the most laps to get the bonus points. Then we have the guys who are just trying to salvage their season, much like Tony Stewart, who actually has a decent shot at this weekend. Overall, I think that we are going to have to take a hard look at the Penske drivers though. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have a lot of success here. Logano won this race in the spring and is certainly trying to better his 14th place finish at Atlanta. Keselowski is strong on this track and will be looking to add to his points heading into the Chase. Here are your potential winners this weekend at Richmond:
My Pick to Win: Brad Keselowski
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Ryan Newman
This is notoriously one of Ryan Newman’s better tracks. He’s also almost locked into the Chase just on points. Richmond will surely prove to be an important race for him this year. Carl Edwards has run better on the short tracks this year than the intermediate tracks. This is a bit backwards from his usual pattern, but this may be a place where he can see victory lane one more time before the points are locked down. Finally, Keselowski needs to step up this weekend and build some momentum heading into the Chase. He didn’t have a great weekend at Atlanta despite a strong record there, so hopefully Saturday night will treat him better.
Let’s take a look at how your points are shaping up heading into the last race of the regular season. Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Joey Logano
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Carl Edwards
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Ryan Newman
10. Greg Biffle
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Kyle Larson
14. Paul Menard
15. Austin Dillon
16. Jamie McMurray
I don’t understand the lack of attention given to Ryan Newman this year. He’s been consistently within Chase reach all year, yet no one will give this guy the time of day! Newman has done an awesome job of staying in the points and getting those consistent finishes. All he needs to do is have a decent finish, and he’s all but in for the Chase. Bowyer, Larson, Menard, Dillon, and McMurray have a lot of fighting to do to get into the Chase. It’s going to be a pretty wild Saturday night at RIR. Stay tuned as we watch the finale of the regular season!