Think you can make better picks than us? Well, here is your chance to prove it! Starting next week with the 2006 Chase for the Championship, we are inviting all Frontstretch.com readers to participate each week to see if you can beat the experts. We're wiping the slate clean and unveiling a new scoring system beginning at Loudon. The full rules and information will be posted on the message board…all you have to do is post your picks. At the end of 10 races we will crown the 2006 Frontstretch Picks ‘N’ Pans Champion. Good luck, and we hope to see you there!
Before we get to that, though, we have a little business at Richmond to attend toâ€¦
Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Richmond International Raceway
Saturday, September 9th: 7:00pm ET on TNT
2005 Pole Sitter: Kevin Harvick
2005 Race Winner: Kurt Busch
Mike's Keys to the Race
Richmond offers some of the best racing of the entire year. The Â¾ mile D-shaped oval is as fast as most of the cookie cutter tracks on the circuit, yet offers the close quarters racing that you find on most short tracks. Because of that, the track has historically lent itself to drivers who are good on short tracks, even though it’s bigger than the normal short track size. It is certainly a good idea to look at past winners from Martinsville and Bristol for hints on who to pick for Richmond. The other consideration this week to watch out for is the drivers competing for the Chase who need mediocre finishes to “lock” themselves in. As an example, Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs to finish 16th or better to lock himself into the Chase no matter what anyone else does. Considering such a scenario, there is a decent chance that Junior, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch will not push their cars very hard so as to avoid potential catastrophe.
Cami's Instant Replay
Kurt Busch earned his third win of the season in last year's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond, leading a Roush Racing trifecta. Busch led 185 of 400 laps en route to his win in the final race before the start of the Chase for the Championship. Matt Kenseth finished second, completing his impressive charge to make the Top 10 in the last few races of the regular season. Greg Biffle ended the night third, while Kyle Busch and Rusty Wallace rounded out the Top 5. Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon's 30th place finish put a halt to his drive for five, and Jamie McMurray fell just short of the Chase for the second straight year, ending the night 12th in the standings.
Crank â€˜Em Up
Kevin Harvick's average finish at Richmond is 14.0. However, in the last three races he has come home fifth, tenth, and third. Considering the momentum that the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team is riding, and the fact that Harvick will clinch a Chase spot by finishing 39th no matter what anyone does behind him, he will be relaxed and ready to Rock and Roll in Virginia. Look for Harvick to be a force this weekend.
Greg Biffle also has an average finish of 14th at RIR. Since the No. 16 Roush Racing team is out of contention for the Chase, they will be letting it all hang out over the next 11 races. Considering Biffle's last four races at Richmond have resulted in finishes of eighth, sixth, third, and fourth, look for him to finally shrug off some of the team's terrible luck this year and come home with a strong finish.
Sit â€˜Em Down
Brian Vickers has been a whipping boy quite a bit in the Sit â€˜Em Down section, but Richmond is another track where he begs to be benched. In his five starts at Richmond, he has finishes of 8th (his first Cup start at the track), followed by 37th, 32nd, 37th, and 37th. Clearly, Richmond does not afford Vickers a comfortable feeling…so it’s best to leave him on the sidelines this week.
Kurt Busch does not have a stellar track record at Richmond. Yes, he won the race last Fall as we were headed into the Chase, but that was one of only two Top 10 finishes he has secured in 11 starts there. With and average finish of 19.4 and the lack of momentum the team has on their side, this is the second week in a row that it is a good idea to keep Busch off of your fantasy team.
Roll The Dice
Kasey Kahne might not be a typical Roll The Dice pick, but this isn't a typical scenario. Kahne is on the outside looking in at the Chase. He needs to make up 30 points on 10th place or have Matt Kenseth AND Jimmie Johnson have a very bad night so that the 400 point cutoff comes into play. Kahne's average finish at Richmond is 19th, and his win and subsequent 8th place finish are the only two Top 10 results in his five races at the track. The other three races were mediocre 28th, 24th, and 34th place finishes, respectively. With the pressure to make the Chase bearing down on him, Kahne is a very real Roll The Dice pick.
Crank â€˜Em Up
With only a 45 point cushion over 11th place, Tony Stewart is in need of another good run at Richmond. It hasn't been a typical summer for Stewart, but his five Top 10s in the last six races are certainly encouraging, as is his average finish of 11.7 at Richmond. With a trio of wins at the Virginia short track, Stewart looks to be a good bet for a solid finish Saturday night.
Last year was a big night for Roush Racing; this year, it could be Joe Gibbs' night with Stewart and Denny Hamlin. Hamlin, looking to become the first rookie to make the Chase, is heading back to his home track, where he scored an impressive second place finish his first time out. Riding the momentum of 16 Top 15 finishes in the last 17 races, Hamlin shouldn't have a hard time making the Top 10 by the end of the night.
Sit â€˜Em Down
On the other hand, it could be a tough night for Hendrick Motorsports. Jeff Gordon currently sits 4th in the standings, and has a 100 point cushion over Kasey Kahne. But even that amount is not safe when you look at his recent woes at Richmond. Last year, he hit the wall and kissed his Chase chances goodbye, and earlier this year he suffered a 40th place finish due to an engine failure. Overall, Gordon has three straight finishes of 30th or worse at Richmond. I doubt he'll do that bad this time around, but I don't think he's worth the risk.
Another HMS driver I'd shy away from is Jimmie Johnson. Yes, he might be desperate to get the point lead back from Matt Kenseth with one regular season race remaining, but he's not going to do anything stupid. Moreover, his record at Richmond just isn't all that great. With only one Top 10 finish in nine races there, Johnson’s average finish is a sad 21.0; that's not something that jumps out and says “pick me for your team.”
Roll The Dice
After a rough few weeks, Clint Bowyer finally caught a break last weekend at California and managed to stay out of trouble and earn a third place finish. Bowyer has been overshadowed by his RCR teammates and fellow ROTY candidate Denny Hamlin, but he has been running fairly well as of late, even if the finishes don’t always shot it. The young driver was tenth here in the spring, and is certainly worth a look for your team.
Mike: You are really looking to piss off Hendrick nation by sitting Jimmie and Jeffy this week.
Cami: Well, neither one of them have a decent average finish at Richmond. They might do well, but I don't think they are obvious Crank â€˜Em Up picks by any means.
Mike: You don’t think Gordon’s team has found something in the last few weeks?
Cami: They have, but the last three trips at Richmond he’s plain ol' stunk. What about your picksâ€¦you’re rolling with Kasey this weekend?
Mike: Evernham did it before. I think they can do it again.
Cami: Yeah, they’ve really turned it around since the Mayfield distraction is gone.
Mike: I am actually thinking that Kenseth and Johnson could both have trouble in the race, and the 400 point deal could come into play. Kahne has to come in like 15th or something, and he is right on the edge of that.
Cami: Very possible. Mark Martin would love that. So would Kahne. Speaking of Kahne… who picked the winner last week?
Mike: Um…The Fantasy Vixen?
Cami: That’s right. Hopefully you can keep up and make our Chase for the Championship interesting. At least I’ll get some competition from the readers!
Mike: Oh, I see. The blind pig in the oak forest finds an acorn, and now she can act like she picks the winner every week.
Cami: I’ve done it more than once this year. Let’s see if you can do it this week.
Mike: We shall see how it pans out.
Alright, now the part you’ve really been waiting for…how to play along with our new Frontstretch game! Read along for more info.
How to Play:
Pick a total of 5 drivers (2 Crank Em Up, 2 Sit Em Down and 1 Roll the Dice pick) by the drop of the green flag each week.
Points will be accumulated based on the drivers on track performance using our scoring system below.
Making Your Picks:
Crank Em Up: Pick two drivers you think will fight for the win or a Top 10 finish in the upcoming race. There are no limits on what drivers you can choose for this category.
Sit Em Down: Pick two drivers that you think won't run very well that week. Anybody can pick a struggling driver, but we're not making it that easy. You can only choose drivers inside the Top 25.
Roll the Dice: Have a hunch one particular driver will run well this weekend? Then take a gamble and roll the dice. If your pick comes through and wins, you can earn big points. But the big payout doesn't come without a price, you can't roll the dice on any drivers in the Top 10.
|Finish||Crank Em Up||Sit Em Down||Roll the Dice|
|Crank Em Up||Sit Em Down||Roll the Dice|
|Mike||Edwards- 4th||Ku. Busch- 27th||Sadler- 13th|
|Johnson- 11th||Stewart- 9th|
|Cami||Kenseth- 7th||Earnhardt- 2nd||McMurray- 20th|
|Kahne- 1st||Biffle- 24th|
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