Heath Calhoun 400 Preview and Pick to Win – Richmond International Raceway

Race: Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400
Date: Saturday May 1, 2010
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
TV Channel: FOX

By Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com

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And to think that Talladega couldn’t get any better! This past weekend’s race at Talladega brought in record lead changes and a record number of leaders. I dare to say it was one of the best Talladega races I’ve watch. Even the Nationwide race had a ton of excitement in it.

From the Superspeedway, we now move on to the short track at Richmond International. Richmond usually brings just as much excitement as Talladega being that few drivers have enough patience to come away without any dented fenders or donuts on their doors. This is an absolutely great race to watch. Being one of the two great short tracks here in my home state of Virginia, Richmond always brings out the best and the worst in the drivers. The most interesting rivalry to watch this weekend will be Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson since Johnson felt the need to wreck Gordon again at Talladega. If anything, it’s going to be interesting to see how in-check and composed Gordon can stay because he was pretty fired up after the race on Sunday.

RIR is a mile oval, a little bigger than Martinsville. The frontstretch is 1290 feet, and the backstretch comes in at 860 feet. The banking ranges from 14 degrees in the turns to 8 degrees on the frontstretch and 2 degrees on the backstretch.

A common theme here at RIR is the wrecks. There’s something about Saturday night races at Richmond that bring out the bad in these guys. It’s almost like the fear subsides and it’s every for himself. Night races really are great though. If you ever have an opportunity to go to one, I strongly advise doing so. It’s such a huge party and the fans are all awesome, especially here in Virginia, not that I’m biased or anything of course!

This particular track has had a handful of different winners. Denny Hamlin is the defending winner of the fall race while Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the spring race here. Jimmie Johnson has multiple wins here along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Other notables are Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne who typically both have strong finishes. Starting position here seems to mean a great deal. With the exception of Clint Bowyer in 2008, no driver since 2002 has won the race starting outside the top 15. Among those winner, Kyle Busch is the only one who has started outside the top 10, so track position is key here. Based on that fact, My pick to win is Jimmie Johnson this week. I lost a ton of respect for this guy last week after wrecking his teammate, but regardless, he is still extremely strong here and has been running well. If he qualifies well, I’d look for him to be at the front of the pack. Jr. is another guy who has the potential to come away with a much needed strong finish. He’s getting stronger and stronger as the weeks go on, so this weekend will be a good test to see if he can maintain that consistency. Jeff Gordon usually does okay here, but he’s not nearly as good here as he is at Martinsville, so look for a top 10 for him.

Here’s a recap of your current top 12 in the points after Talladega:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Greg Biffle
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Kyle Busch
6. Mark Martin
7. Kurt Busch
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Jeff Burton

Again, look for these guys to get a little wild as the nights always bring out the excitement at the track. The Hendrick guys are going to have a strong night. Some other guys to watch out for are the Busch brothers and Virginia-native Denny Hamlin. He usually does really well here, and he was having a strong run last weekend before getting involved in an incident.

Stay tuned for this weekend’s night race at Richmond International Raceway!