Richmond International Raceway is the setting for this Saturday night’s Sprint Cup venue, and what a race it should be. The high banks of RIR allow for fast racing, and the 3/4-mile length keeps the competition in close quarters, making this track one of the fan favorites.
Fantasy owners will also be breathing a much-needed sigh of relief. While picking a team last week at Talladega was almost a crapshoot, this weekend’s race is a lot easier to have a feel for as far as who’s gonna run well and who’s gonna struggle. So without further ado, lets look at who you want on your roster this week and who you want to avoid like the plague.
This week’s studs include Mark Martin and Tony Stewart. A 12th-place career average finish at Richmond becomes even more impressive when you consider how long Martin’s career has lasted. He has four straight top fives at RIR and in the last three races has finished fourth, sixth, and fifth to move from 17th to sixth in points. Let’s face it, the old man’s on a roll, and another top 10 is in the works this Saturday night.
Stewart’s career average finish at RIR is 10th. And although his career hasn’t quite yet spanned the time Martin’s has, that’s still a pretty good number. Stewart has just one finish at RIR worse than eighth in the last seven events there and is due for a solid top-10 run. Look for him to get it Saturday night.
Who Will Carry You
For your underdogs this week, you have to go outside the top 25 in points to find Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr. and Marcos Ambrose. Keselowski has done very well on the short tracks this year. At Bristol, Brad finished 13th after starting 36th and came from 30th to 12th at Martinsville. He also had four straight top-20 finishes before being caught up in a wreck at Talladega. In fact, prior to the top-20 streak, he had a sure top 10 – if not top five – run taken from him by Carl Edwards, who intentionally dumped him with just a handful of laps to go in the flip seen ’round the world at Atlanta.
Ambrose has also been impressive on the short tracks in his brief career, posting a 16th-place average finish. In 2009, he finished 11th and 22nd at Richmond and looked very good at Martinsville earlier this year, finishing 11th. Like Keselowski, he also had a streak of top-20 finishes snapped by someone else’s mess at ‘Dega last Sunday.
Finally, Hornish Jr. was one of just a handful of drivers to post top-10 finishes in both Richmond events in 2009. He ran 13th at Martinsville a month ago and continues to show steady improvement – as does all of Roger Penske’s Cup program. Look for all three drivers to post top-20 finishes this weekend.
Who Will Bury You
Apparently, all is not well in the house of Hendrick and therefore, you may be wise to avoid both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson this weekend. A short track is a good place for retribution, and that may well be what we see after Johnson got a little crazy at a restrictor-plate track, again, with an ill-timed block leaving Gordon an innocent victim of a wreck. Gordon expressed his displeasure with Johnson after the race, and until they show they can play nice together again, you should keep both of them off your roster as the next three events are great “get even” tracks.
So there you have it, enough insight to go set your rosters with confidence for next Saturday night’s main event. Check back next Thursday as we’ll preview my personal favorite, the Southern 500 from Darlington.