Toyota Owners 400 Picks

Race: Toyota Owners 400
Date: Saturday April 27th, 2013
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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Matt Kenseth’s inaugural season with Gibbs is turning out to be one of his best with 2 wins so far this year. Kenseth took the checkers at Kansas in a caution-filled race. This weekend, we are turning our attention back to the short tracks, heading to another home state track of mine. Richmond International Raceway is a mile D-shaped oval with 24 degree banking in the turns, 8 degrees on the frontstretch and 2 degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch is slightly longer at 1290 feet than the 860 foot backstretch.

Richmond is a fun track that’s a little different than the half miles of Bristol and Martinsville. Richmond is faster. In comparison to Martinsville, Richmond is not nearly as flat giving these drivers a little more momentum coming into and out of the turns. With Martinsville, the drivers are heavy on the brakes into the turns, but at Richmond, they can keep a little more speed going in because of the banking. The stop and go effect is not as hard on the drivers or cars here.

When we take a look at the winners and records here, I’d like to put my money on Denny Hamlin, but it’s still up in the air as to whether or not he will compete. He’s definitely not competing in his charity race here, but he’s anxious to get back in his Sprint Cup car as soon as possible. If he’s back in the race, my money is on him. He’s great here. This is a home-state track and one that he’s a proven winner on. Records aren’t really very accurate here in present-day terms. Richard Petty holds the record for most wins, most top 5s and 10s, most starts, most laps led, most laps completed, and most poles. That being said, these are the types of records that more than likely will never be broken simply because the racing was different back then. It’s impressive to see that his name still occupies all of those spots, but times have changed as have the drivers, cars, and tracks. In terms of recent history and records, Kyle Busch as the best average finish at 5th place. He’s definitely going to be one to keep on the radar, especially if Denny Hamlin is not running. Another driver that is always strong here is Jimmie Johnson. Surprise. You almost thought you could get through an article without hearing his name. Unfortunately, Johnson is never one to count out. Here’s a rundown of your potential winners this week:

Winner: Kyle Busch (Denny Hamlin as first pick if only he’s back in a car this weekend)
Middle of the Road Pick: Jamie McMurray
Dark Horse Pick: Paul Menard

Both McMurray and Menard run pretty well at the Virginia tracks. McMurray always seems to charge to the front and be a contender throughout this race. Menard has been consistent this season and usually has good runs here too. Menard is currently sitting 9th in points, which is very impressive considering the big names that are in his company including Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick.

Let’s take a look at the points after Kansas, as there were several changes:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kyle Busch
3. Greg Biffle
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Carl Edwards
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Paul Menard
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Jamie McMurray

Both McMurray and Harvick moved in the top 12 after Kansas, and I expect them to maintain or move up in the points after Richmond, as this is a strong track for both teams. Jr. fell 3 positions after troubles at Kansas, with teammate Kahne and 2012 champion Brad Keselowski both losing 2 positions.
Stay tuned for an exciting short track race under the lights at Richmond International Raceway this weekend!

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