Wednesday, September 30, 2009

KANSAS PREVIEW: Gordon Likes His Chances This Week

by Micah Roberts

NASCAR rolls into Kansas this week for the third race of the Chase for the Championship. Kansas is a track that runs similar to a lot of the modern day cookie cutters, but is unique on it’s own because of its flatter 15 degree banking in the turns.

If there was one track it resembles, it would be the old configuration of Las Vegas Motor Speedway before their fantastic changes to the facility. Of the existing configurations, Chicagoland, California, and Michigan may be the closest.

The only driver with two wins on the track since its debut in 2001 is Jeff Gordon. Gordon won the first two races ever on the 1.5-mile track, but finds himself down 122 points in the Chase after the first two races were run.

Of all the tracks on tour, Kansas fit’s the mold as being a player in the chase who could perform best for Gordon using his 1.5-mile track experience this season. He’s been pretty solid on all occasions.

"I think our chances are really good," Gordon said about this weeks race at Kansas. "I've been really excited about the mile and a half’s in the final 10 races in the Chase. I feel like that's something that we have really done a great job with improving from last season, and I feel like that's where this championship can really get turned around for us in the DuPont Chevrolet."

"I feel like we learned a lot from Chicago earlier in the year," Gordon said. "Obviously Mark Martin is very strong in Chicago and I look for him to be strong again in Kansas but I feel like we have a great shot at winning there."

In the final eight chase races, Gordon is looking at five of those races that fall under the 1.5-mile to 2-mile tracks that he should be on a higher plateau than most based on this season.

"California was a track earlier in the year where I felt like we let one slip away. And I'm hoping that we can get that one back the next time we go. Martinsville I feel like is a great track for us but we have been getting beat by Jimmie and a couple other guys have been doing a little bit better than us there. So we have got to make some improvements."

A for the remainder of the season, Gordon feels pretty confident based on their past performances that he can legitimately win the title, especially after getting his first career win at Texas in the spring.

"I feel like Talladega is a great track for us," he said. "I feel like Texas, I can't wait to get back there after the win earlier in the season; it's totally changed our attitude about being able to go and win at Texas. I feel like we have been really good at Homestead, not a winning car but I feel like we have been a Top 5 car and maybe we can make that into a winning car."

Gordon’s odds will vary at different bet shops, bet he be expected to be around the 8 to 1 range as the third or fourth choice to win. He looks like nice value this week.

Last years Kansas winner was last weeks winner at Dover, Jimmie Johnson, who swept the Delaware season. He’s ten points behind Mark Martin for the season lead.

Despite all of Johnson’s greatness coming in, Martin has been just as effective in only one more start at the track. Each have one win on the track and each also have two top-5’s.

It was a bit disappointing that Greg Biffle didn’t finish better last week, but he’ll back on the prowl this week again after having an unsatisfactory finish at Dover last week. Biffle is a former winner at Kansas and has a total of four top-5 finishes in his seven starts on the track making him one of the top rated drivers in NASCAR‘s loop data timing.

Not quite sure what has gotten into the Juan Pablo Montoya squad, but they are putting some quality cars out there for the former Formula-One star. They have been right up there the last few weeks with the best of NACAR competing for a win each week. Look for his style to drop a notch this week, but yet still be competitive with his fellow Chasers.

Clint Bowyer is from Kansas and has shown how important it is to win on his hometown track by having the best finish among all drivers at the track with a 7.7 average finish. Chances are, Bowyer will not be as good as the top drivers of the day, but he could squeak out a top-10.

Another driver from the area who considers Kansas his home track is Carl Edwards who is sitting a miserable 11th in points. In five career starts he has two top-5 finishes. He hasn’t been close to what he showed last season on the 1.5 mile tracks and is still looking for his first win of the season.

Look for Jeff Gordon to take control of the race late as he hangs around and battles teammates Martin and Johnson for most of the race. Gordon needs this race to catapult him higher from his seventh position in points.

Top 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
3) #5 Mark Martin (8/1)
4) #16 Greg Biffle (12/1)
5) #11 Denny Hamlin (18/1)


Kansas Speedway Data

by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

At Kansas Speedway:

• Groundbreaking was held on May 25, 1999.
• The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first events being an ARCA race and a NASCAR Camping World Series West race on the same day – June 2.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was Sept. 30, 2001.

• There have been eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas
since the track opened in 2001.
• All of the races have been scheduled for 267 laps.
• 13 drivers have competed in all eight races at Kansas.
• Jeff Gordon won the first two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
• Jason Leffler won the first pole in September 2001.
• Six different drivers have won poles, led by Jimmie Johnson with two.
• Seven different drivers have posted victories, led by Jeff Gordon (two).
• There have been six different winners in the last six races at
Kansas Speedway.
• Five of the eight races have been won from a top-10 start.
• Two drivers have won from the pole: Joe Nemechek in 2004 and Jimmie Johnson last season.
• The furthest back in the field that race winner started was 21st, by Tony Stewart in 2006.
• Denny Hamlin made his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Kansas – a 32nd-place finish in 2005.
• Three drivers with more than one start have averaged a top- 10 finish: Greg Biffle (9.9), Clint Bowyer (7.7) and Jeff Gordon (9.8).
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in top fives (five) and top 10s
(six).Gordon’s only two non-top 10s were a 39th in 2006 and
a 13th in 2004.
• Three of the last four races that ended under green had a margin of victory under one second. The 2007 race ended under caution.

NASCAR in Kansas
• There have been eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Kansas, all at Kansas Speedway.
• 15 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Kansas, including Jim Roper who won the very first NASCAR Sprint Cup race – Charlotte in 1949.
• There have been two race winners in the top three NASCAR series from Kansas:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Johnson Wins at Dover; His Title to Lose

by David Newton

DOVER, Del. -- The Detroit Lions won a football game for the first time since the 2007 season, ending a stretch of 19 straight losses. Cincinnati, Iowa and Kansas are undefeated and ranked among the Top 25 in college football. Tiger Woods lost a golf tournament from the final pairing to a player who wasn't even in the final pairing.

The world of sports is upside down. Ah, but in NASCAR, all is normal. Three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson dominated Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway for his fourth victory of the season.

And nobody -- if history is an indication -- is going to stop him from winning a record fourth straight title.

"It makes you feel a little sick," Carl Edwards said after limping home to an 11th-place finish. "I didn't realize he won until I saw him doing burnouts."

Read More.....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dover Happy Hour: Kahne Fastest but not Driver to Beat

Kasey Kahne has never had a top-5 finish at Dover and he‘s coming off a blown engine last week at New Hampshire, however, on Saturday he reeled in the fastest lap in happy hour making his chances look pretty good for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Dover.

Kahne ran the fastest lap of 152.014 on is third lap during the final practice session at Dover and is looking to elevate himself in the Chase for the Championship along with just having simply a good run at Dover.

In 11 starts at Dover, Kahne has done much worse than better. He’s had seven finishes out of the top 20 as opposed to finishing only four times in the top-20. The great practice run that saw him 14th best in the early session and finish best in happy hour ought to be encouraging for a team that hasn’t fared well in Delaware. In his first run this season, Kahne finished sixth.

Juan Pablo Montoya is debuting a chassis this week, again, and whatever the team is doing is making him better. Where was all that technique throughout the season? All of a sudden, Montoya is one of the major players every week.

Montoya was second fastest in both sessions on Saturday and has baffled many around the garage how he can be so good, so quick, and so timely since making the chase and excelling throughout the chase in Jimmie Johnson fashion.

Following the two heavyweights of Happy Hour, Joey Logano joined Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, and Kurt Busch as the top performers of the day.

This is the track where Logano made his NASCAR debut in the Nationwide series and to make it special they brought a brand new car.

Kurt Busch, despite no input from lame duck crew chief Pat Tryson, is running a brand new chassis. It would seem that a top contender for the title would need their chief in a new scheme of any kind, but team Miller Lite appears to be pretty good with the change.

Mark Martin is bringing the same chassis that brought him victory at Darlington. He finished 10th earlier this season at Dover and could be the driver to beat again.

Top Speeds at Dover Happy Hour:
1) Kasey Kahe 152.014 mph - AVG 37 laps @ 149.048
2) Juan Pablo Montoya 151.502 mph - AVG 37 laps @ 148.399
3) Joey Logano 151.057 mph - AVG 49 laps @ 148.415
4) Mark Martin 151.013 mph - 49 laps @ 149.309
5) Jimmie Johnson 150.981 mph - 53 laps @ 148.528
6) Greg Biffle 150.981 mph - 44 laps @ 148.416
7) Kurt Busch 150.031 mph - 56 laps @ 148.416

Top 10 Rated Drivers at Dover based on final two Dover practices, runs earlier tin the season at Dover, and current state of organization.
1) Greg Biffle
2) Jimmie Johnson
3) Kasey Kahne
4) Kurt Busch
5) Juan Pablo Montoya
6) Ryan Newman
7) Mark Martin
8) Kyle Busch
9) Carl Edwards
10) Jeff Gordon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dover AAA 400 Preview: Greg Biffle Looks Poised To Win

by Micah Roberts

NASCAR points leader Mark Martin kicked off the Chase to the Championship last week with a win at New Hampshire, the 40th win of his career, giving him a little breathing room as the Series rolls into Dover, Delaware this weekend.

This will be the second time the Series has visited Dover this season, In the first episode, Jimmie Johnson led the most laps in winning his fourth career race at Dover, but he had to battle Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle down the stretch making the winning pass with only three laps to go.

The one-mile concrete oval is a fast high banked track that doesn’t really resemble any track on the circuit. Some of the crew chiefs will bring their Bristol chassis’ from a few weeks ago because the set-up requirements are similar since Bristol changed it’s layout a few years ago.

For Martin, Dover has been a place he’s had lots of success at. In his 47 career starts, he has 29 top-10 finishes that include four wins - the last coming in 2004. Martin has become the NASCAR Nation overwhelming choice to win it all just because of the 50 year old is just an all-around good guy.

How can you not root for a driver that has stood the test of time with excellence throughout his career, but has never won a title. He’s finished second in points on four separate occasions with the last coming in 2002. His support comes from his regular long time fans, but down the stretch he’s finding fans from all over, in particular, the Junior Nation.

The massive allegiance of supporters who followed Dale Earnhardt and the current army of Dale Earnhardt Jr fans have all jumped on board the Mark Martin wagon. That good ole’ boy down home quality Martin exemplifies has endeared both old school and new school NASCAR fans to his side.

Martin’s success story has even crossed over into other realms because of his age. He’s finding new fans from all over who are inspired about his ability despite not knowing much about the sport. I’ll bet that Pfizer wishes they still had their logo on his hood for this type of marketing dream sweepstakes.

Drivers who will contend for the win this week begin with Greg Biffle who now in ninth place, 92 points behind Martin. Biffle won this race last season and has finished in the top-3 in his last four starts. Overall, Biffle has two wins on the track.

"I will be disappointed if we are not in contention for the win this weekend at Dover, Biffle said. We led several laps there in the spring and won this race last year. Our pit crew is at the top of their game week in and week out. I was at the shop this week going over our notes from Dover with Greg (Erwin) so we would be ready to hit the ground running as soon as we unload. Dover is a great racetrack, the racing is good and as a driver, it’s a fun place to race. We need a good finish there to keep Mark Martin in our sights. If we can keep gaining a little every week, we’ll be right there in contention for the title at Homestead."

Biffle and Erwin will be bringing the chassis that they ran at both Pocono races.

Carl Edwards is still winless this year, a major shock since he won nine races last season. He has the best average finish at Dover at 7.6 and did just that in the earlier race this season with a 7th place finish. Edwards is 11th in points, 113 points behind.

Tony Stewart started his career out doing very well at Dover, capturing two wins and nine top-5’s and then he went into four year slump with no top-5’s. In his first outing with at Dover with his new team, he finished second and would have won had the race been 397 laps. Look for Stewart to be top contender to win this week. He’s now sixth in points after leading for much of the season.

Kyle Busch isn’t in the Chase, but should be a good candidate to do well based on his record at the Dover and his recent success at Bristol. Busch’s last win of the season was at Bristol, similar in ways to Dover, and his last Dover win was last year. No pressure on Busch now, it’s all about wins and finishing the season strong, something that evaded him down the stretch last year.

Kurt Busch has not had the best of success at Dover over his career. He’s only had three top-5’s in his career, but he did have one those top-5’s this year. Even though his crew chief Pat Tryson is in lame duck status, and only allowed into Penske headquarters for Tuesday meetings, Tryson still wants that Championship attached to his resume before he leaves.

Jimmie Johnson won at Dover earlier in the year, but is bringing the chassis he drove at Michigan that led 133 laps before running out of fuel late in the race. The chassis he won with at Dover will serve as a back-up. He is favored, not just because of his wins on the track, but more so because of how dominant he’s been in Chase races winning a NASCAR record 14 times.

This week was supposed to be the debut of betting NASCAR at the track of Dover, Delaware, something that not even Las Vegas has. Sports betting was approved in Delaware a month ago, but a crusade led by the NFL stopped straight betting and wagers taken on other sports. The only thing that can be bet in Delaware now is parlays on NFL games which has drawn far less action over the first two weeks than expected.

If action on the NASCAR race had been allowed on site, the figures would have blown away what they are currently writing on NFL parlays. Imagine three days of racing on a track holds 100,000. Figure that at least half of them would wager an average of maybe $50 with the house expected hold of about 40%. It would have a been spectacular for the fans and also the state of Delaware who is now going to have a tough time matching their lofty budgeted goals.

TOP 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #16 Greg Biffle (11/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (9/1)
3) #14 Tony Stewart (7/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
5) #5 Mark Martin (8/1)

Dover Facts

by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

At Dover International Speedway:

• The official opening of Dover International Speedway, then called Dover Downs International Speedway, was in 1969.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on July 6, 1969.
• The first two races at Dover were 300 miles. The race length was changed to 500 miles in 1971.
• The track surface was changed to concrete in 1995.
• The race length was changed to 400 miles beginning with the second race in 1997.
• The track name was changed to Dover International Speedway in 2002.

• There have been 79 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Dover International Speedway since the track opened in 1969.
• There was one race in 1969 and 1970. There has been two-a-year since 1971.
• Richard Petty won the track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
• There have been 34 different pole winners, led by David Pearson (six). David Reutimann won his first Dover pole in this season’s May race
• David Pearson won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole in July 1969.
• Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman lead all active drivers, each with four poles.
• 32 different drivers have posted victories led by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty, each with seven.
• Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson lead all active drivers, each with four victories.
• Hendrick Motorsports has 11 wins, more than any other car owner.
• 47 races at Dover have been won from a top-five starting position; 17 races have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
• The furthest back in the field a race winner started was 37th, by Kyle Petty in 1995.
• In his Dover win earlier this season, Jimmie Johnson scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0. He led 298 laps in May.
• Several active drivers had their first start at Dover, including Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, David Ragan and Tony Raines.
• In addition, Matt Kenseth (2002) and Michael Waltrip (1991) earned their first pole at Dover. Martin Truex Jr. won his first race there (2007).
• Three of the last four races have ended with a margin of victory under one second.

NASCAR in Delaware
• There have been 79 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Delaware, all at Dover International Speedway.
• Eight drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Delaware, though none have posted victories.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nice Guys DO Finish First: Martin Wins at Loudon, 5th Win of Season

by Ed Hinton

LOUDON, N.H. -- Mark Martin fought it out for this one, slugged and clawed and widened his points lead at the outset of the Chase for a championship he has never won. And at long, long last, there was controversy over how he won a race.

"Mark just screwed me out there," Juan Pablo Montoya said of the driver esteemed by his peers for more than two decades as NASCAR's cleanest, fairest driver.

Martin, of course, had a gentlemanly and credible explanation for the dogfight that ended Sunday's playoff-opening Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But first, let's let Montoya let 'er rip. It's not every day - or year, or decade - you get to hear someone complain about Martin's tactics.

"He always does run very clean," Montoya said, "so I was kind of surprised when he did that. I know it's the Chase and everything, but he just …"

Montoya clearly had the strongest car all afternoon, and had led 105 of the 300 laps. So, on a double-file restart with only three laps left, and Martin and Montoya starting on the front row, Martin looked cooked.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Hampshire Practice: Montoya Fastest Again, and Again, and Again!

by M Roberts

On Friday Juan Pablo Montoya won his second pole position of the season and also the second of his career. Saturday, Montoya picked up right where he left off during the final practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Montoya not only led Friday’s early practice geared towards qualifying - then took the pole, but he carried those blazing speeds into Saturday and was fastest in both sessions. In each practice, Montoya was the only driver to pass he 130 mph barrier on a lap. During happy hour he laid down the quickest lap of the day at 130.376 mph.

Montoya brought a brand new chassis this week and with it, became the only driver this season to sweep all three practice sessions prior to any given race, a rarity considering race conditions on separate days and having two different set-ups in race and qualifying trim.

Montoya will look to improve upon his career average of 20th at New Hampshire in the first race of the Chase on Sunday. His 12th place finish In the June race was already a vast improvement over what he did in his first two seasons on the track, and now with the beast of a car he has this week, he should be able to improve upon his best even further.

Kurt Busch is a three time winner in New Hampshire and was very impressive in Saturday’s practices. He was seventh fastest in the early session while running the most laps and then came out in happy hour and was second fastest behind Montoya while running the third most laps. Busch brought the same chassis that a great run in the June race finishing third.

It should come as little surprise that points leader Mark Martin had a great pair of practices because he brought the same chassis that won at Phoenix earlier this year which was also run last week at Richmond finishing fourth.

The correlation between Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond has always been strong over the years with several drivers winning multiple races during a year on those tracks using the same chassis for each. Despite the three tracks being vastly different in configuration, the length and banking make them similar in crew chiefs minds.

Martin’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson, has also been the beneficiary of having dominant rides on all three tracks over his career. He brought the same chassis from June’s race that led the most laps before the rain came. During practice, Johnson showed that his car is just as good now as it was then with the fifth fastest lap in each session while running the most laps of the day.

Martin Truex Jr brought a brand new car, just like his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and the results were very similar in practice. He was second fastest in the early session and third fastest in happy hour. Loudon has traditionally been one of Truex’s best tracks. His poor finish in June ended a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes on the track. He’s a great dark horse this week to spoil the Chase party.

Other drivers that had great runs Saturday who aren’t in the Chase were Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Harvick had the ninth fastest lap in happy hour using the same car that was very racey last week in Richmond. The best sign for a good run from Harvick was that he had the third best average times in the final session.

Earnhardt Jr was sixth fastest during happy hour using the same chassis that ran 13th in June’s race. The positive note for Junior is that his car was been able to run completive speeds with the leaders, something hasn’t happened very much in practice for him all season.

Final Practice session (Happy Hour)
1) Juan Pablo Montoya 130.376 mph - AVG 39 laps @ 128.337
2) Kurt Busch 129.843 mph - AVG 61 laps @ 128.035
3) Martin Truex Jr 129.843 mph - AVG 45 laps @ 128.270
4) Mark Martin 129.820 mph - AVG 56 laps @ 128.004
5) Jimmie Johnson 129.758 mph - AVG 67 laps @ 127.955

Second Practice session:
1) Juan Pablo Monyoya 130.131 mph - AVG 33 laps @ 128.208
2) Martin Truex Jr 129.922 mph - AVG 31 laps @ 127.590
3) Mark Martin 129.688 mph - AVG 43 laps @ 128.053
4) David Stremme 129.639 mph - AVG 32 laps @ 126.453
5) Jimmie Johnson 129.595 mph - AVG 46 laps @ 128.037

See the practice page link for complete list of practice times

TOP 10 Rated Drivers for New Hampshire based on Saturday’s practice sessions, current state of team, last weeks Richmond race, with a mix of Phoenix and June’s Loudon race.

1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Juan Pablo Montoya
3) Kurt Busch
4) Mark Martin
5) Denny Hamlin
6) Tony Stewart
7) Martin Truex Jr
8) Jeff Gordon
9) Kevin Harvick
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr

Montoya Wins Pole at New Hampshire; Second Pole of NASCAR Career


Montoya wins pole at New Hampshire:
#42-Juan Pablo Montoya won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a speed of 133.431mph for a new track record [the old record was 133.357mph by Ryan Newman set six years ago]. This is the 3rd track record broken in 2009 after 27 races. The pole is Montoya's 2nd pole of the season and 2nd career pole.

#14-Stewart was 2nd fastest followed by #2-Busch, #11-Hamlin, #99-Edwards, #12-Stremme, #1-Truex Jr., #71-BLabonte, #18-Busch and #24-Gordon. Points leader #5-Martin will start 14th. The fastest 43 cars made the race and the two slowest failed to qualify.

The non Top-35 drivers who made the race: #71-Labonte, #66-Blaney, #87-Nemechek, #82-Speed, #64-Wallace, #37-Raines, #09-Almirola and #36-McDowell.
The two drivers who failed to qualify: #75-Cope and #51-Bean.

See the starting lineup, qualifying results & order, pole progreession and more on the New Hampshire Starting Lineup/Qualifying Page.(9-18-2009)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Hampshire Preview - Green Flag to the Chase

By Micah Roberts

The 12-driver field in the Chase for the Championship has been set and this Sunday in Loudon, New Hampshire, the NASCAR playoffs begin.

It’s important for drivers to get out of the gate quickly, but also play it conservative along the way. Last season was one of the best Chases ever with two drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards, battling like a classic 15-round heavyweight title match.

Johnson ended up winning because he stayed consistent throughout and had flashes of dominance during the 10-race stretch that’s saw him three times. His worse finish down the stretch was a 15th.

Edwards was equally dominant winning three times and finishing in the top-4 a total of eight times in the 10 races. His downfall, which ultimately cost him the title was finishing 29th and 33rd in race four and five of the Chase. Any other year, against any other driver, and Edwards would have won.

Last season, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards finished 1-2-3 at New Hampshire. After the 10-race Chase, the final top three in the standings not surprisingly ended up with Johnson, Edwards, and Biffle as the top three finishers.

In 2004, the first year of the Chase format, Kurt Busch kicked it off with a New Hampshire victory. He didn’t win again during the Chase but that Week 1 win proved critical – he edged Jimmie Johnson for the championship by only eight points.

In 2007, Clint Bowyer, who was given little thought to be a real contender, got his first career NASCAR Cup victory to open the Chase – and rode that momentum to an eventual third-place finish in the final standings. ?

This year looks to be much of the same as it’s been the last three seasons, which is more of Jimmie Johnson. The guy is a machine and when it comes down to business, no one is better. He has more wins (14) and top-5 finishes in Chase races than anyone else by a large margin. He gets into a prime-time mode like a Joe Montana or John Elway late in games and it’s almost a given that he will not fail in the crunch.

To see who will do well for this weeks race at New Hampshire, looking back at who did well in both Richmond races, Phoenix, and the first New Hampshire race prior to the rain is helpful. Many of the teams use the same chassis’ from those races if successful and use them on all three tracks because the banking and distances are similar, despite the configuration being vastly different on all three.

Over the years there has been a strong correlation between winners at one doing well on the other two, and sometimes winning multiple times.

We can look back at last week’s race as a quick refresher to who those candidates are because they did well all season on these type of tracks. Denny Hamlin won last week at Richmond after nearly coming close on several occasions in the past. Mark Martin has been stellar on all the tracks and claims a Phoenix win.

In the rain shortened Loudon race won by rookie Joey Logano, the dominant driver was Jimmie Johnson who led the most laps prior to the rain. Look for Johnson to start the Chase in style with a great run and possibly a win this week. He doesn’t want to dig himself a hole by getting too racey and finding trouble, as Kyle Busch did last year, but his car should be good enough to capture his third New Hampshire win overall and propel him to the top of the standings.

Johnson is also bringing that same exact chassis that led the most laps the first time around in Loudon.

TOP 5 Finish Prediction:

1) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
2) #5 Mark Martin (10/1)
3) #11 Denny Hamlin (10/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (9/1)
5) #14 Tony Stewart (7/1)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Hampshire Facts

Compiled by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

At New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

• Groundbreaking for New Hampshire International Speedway, as New Hampshire Motor Speedway was originally named, was Aug. 13, 1989.
• The official opening was June 5, 1990 with the first race a NASCAR Nationwide Series race on July 15, 1990.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was on July 11, 1993.
• The first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was on Sept. 9, 1996.
• The track was renamed New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2008.

• There have been 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; one per year from 1993 through 1996 and two per year since.
• Four drivers have competed in all 29 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek.
• Mark Martin won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole.
• Rusty Wallace won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
• There have been 15 different pole winners, led by Ryan Newman (four).
• 19 different drivers have posted victories, led by Jeff Burton (four).
• In June, Joey Logano became the all-time youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup race winner at 19 years, one month and four days.
• Jimmie Johnson (2003) and Kurt Busch (2004) are the only drivers that have posted season sweeps. Those are also the only back-to-back winners.
• Roush Fenway Racing has won seven races, more than any other organization.
• The deepest in the field that a New Hampshire race winner started was 38th, by Jeff Burton in 1999.
• The last race winner to win from the pole was Clint Bowyer in 2007.
• There have been nine consecutive different race winners.
• Jeff Burton led all 300 laps raced in the 2000 fall race.
• Clint Bowyer led 222 laps and scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 in the 2007 fall race.

NASCAR in New Hampshire
• There have been 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in New Hampshire, all at NHMS.
• 13 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) are listed as New Hampshire natives.
• There has been one race winner from New Hampshire in NASCAR’s three national series: Jamie Aube. Aube, from Manchester, won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Oxford Plains Speedway in 1987.

The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup

• 22 different drivers have made the Chase, including Brian Vickers and Juan Pablo Montoya, who each made their first Chase this season.
• There will be 3,152 laps and 4,095.48 miles run during the 2009 Chase.
• Only one driver has made all six Chases for the NASCAR Sprint Cup: Jimmie Johnson
• Three drivers have made five Chases: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth has made all five previous Chases, but missed this year’s after finishing the regular season 14th in points.
• In the 50 Chase races, Jimmie Johnson has won a series-high 14 races. He’s followed by Carl Edwards (six), Greg Biffle (six), Tony Stewart (four) and Jeff Gordon (three).
• Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to average a top-10 finish in Chase races (8.7).
• In the 50 Chase races, Greg Biffle has an average finish of 14.4. But in the 20 Chase races where he was in contention for the championship, Biffle has an average finish of 9.6.
• Three drivers have notched more than 20 top-five finishes during Chase races: Jimmie Johnson (26), Jeff Gordon (22) and Carl Edwards (20).
• Nine drivers have more than 20 top-10 finishes during Chase races: Jimmie Johnson (36), Jeff Gordon (34), Carl Edwards (29), Tony Stewart (26), Kevin Harvick (25), Kurt Busch (25), Matt Kenseth (23), Greg Biffle (22) and Jeff Burton (22).
• Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, two drivers have a Driver Rating of at least 100.0: Jimmie Johnson (108.8) and Carl Edwards (100.0).
• Ryan Newman’s average starting position in Chase races is 10.9, which ranks second to Jimmie Johnson’s 9.5. But in the 20 Chase races Newman has been in contention for a championship, he has an average starting position of 5.1.

Chase Drivers Past History at Loudon, New Hampshire

compiled by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

Below is a look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top 12 going into the first race of the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 20.

1 – Mark Martin (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.7
2009 Rundown
• Four wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s
• Average finish of 15.6
• Led 17 races for 707 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Eight top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
• Average finish of 11.1 in 47 races
• Has led 397 laps
• Average Running Position of 11.9, sixth-best
• Driver Rating of 93.4, seventh-best

2 – Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.6
2009 Rundown
• Three wins, 13 top fives, 18 top 10s
• Average finish of 9.1
• Led 14 races for 275 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Two wins, 11 top fives, 13 top 10s
• Average finish of 12.3 in 21 races
• Has led 976 laps
• Average Running Position of 9.5, second-best
• Series-best Driver Rating of 115.8
• Series-high 253 Fastest Laps Run
• Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 124.397 mph
• 2,130 Laps in the Top 15 (79.9%), third-most

3 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 110.3
2009 Rundown
• Three wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s
• Average finish of 12.7
• Led 21 races for 1,252 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Two wins, four top fives, 10 tops 10s
• Average finish of 9.9 in 15 races
• Has led 274 laps
• Average Running Position of 10.1, third-best
• Driver Rating of 105.3, third-best
• 206 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 123.976 mph, fifth-fastest
• 2,240 Laps in the Top 15 (84.1%), second-most
• 277 Quality Passes, fourth-most

4 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.6
2009 Rundown
• Two wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s
• Average finish of 12.3
• Led 12 races for 992 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• One win, two top fives, five top 10s
• Average finish of 8.3 in seven races
• Has led 52 laps
• Average Running Position of 10.3, fourth-best
• Driver Rating of 100.1, fifth-best
• Average Green Flag Speed of 124.037 mph, fourth-fastest
• 1,691 Laps in the Top 15 (81.9%), eighth-most

5 – Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.0
2009 Rundown
• Two wins, five top fives, 10 top 10s
• Average finish of 13.9
• Led six races for 180 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• One top five, five top 10s
• Average finish of 16.0
• Has led 49 laps
• Driver Rating of 82.3, 17th-best

6 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 100.4
2009 Rundown
• One win, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s
• Average finish of 10.9
• Led 14 races for 698 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Three wins, 13 fives, 16 top 10s; three poles
• Average finish of 11.3 in 29 races
• Has led 1,205 laps
• Series-best Average Running Position of 7.0
• Driver Rating of 109.4, second-best
• 240 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 124.380 mph, second-fastest
• Series-high 2,413 Laps in the Top 15 (90.5%)

7 – Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.7
2009 Rundown
• One win, seven top fives, 14 top 10s
• Average finish of 14.0
• Led 13 races for 391 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Three wins, six top fives, eight top 10s
• Average finish of 14.8 in 17 races
• Has led 326 laps
• Driver Rating of 88.1, 14th-best
• Average Running Position of 14.6, 12th-best

8 – Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.8
2009 Rundown
• One win, four top fives, 13 top 10s
• Average finish of 14.9
• Led 10 races for 101 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• One top five; one pole
• Average finish of 23.1 in 10 races
• Has led 53 laps
• Driver Rating of 79.5, 19th-best

9 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.0
2009 Rundown
• Seven top fives, 11 top 10s
• Average finish of 14.0
• Led nine races for 159 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Two top fives
• Average finish of 13.5
• Has led 63 laps
• Driver Rating of 87.2, 15th-best
• Average Running Position of 14.5, 10th-best

10 – Ryan Newman (No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.6
2009 Rundown
• Five top fives, 12 top 10s
• Average finish of 14.0
• Led 11 races for 157 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; four poles
• Average finish of 14.2 in 15 races
• Has led 537 laps
• Driver Rating of 90.3, 10th-best
• 96 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
• 1,696 Laps in the Top 15 (63.6%), seventh-most

11 – Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.4
2009 Rundown
• Two top fives, 12 top 10s
• Average finish of 13.8
• Led six races for 164 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• Average finish of 20.6 in five races
• Has led six races
• Driver Rating of 74.4, 20th-best

12 – Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
• Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.2
2009 Rundown
• Eight top fives, 12 top 10s
• Average finish of 14.5
• Led 11 races for 432 laps
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
• One win, four top fives, five top 10s
• Average finish of 18.1
• Has led 85 laps
• Average Running Position of 14.6, 11th-best
• Driver Rating of 88.8, 13th-best
• 73 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hamlin Wins on Home Track at Richmond


Hamlin wins at Richmond: #11-Denny Hamlin won the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Race for his 1st win at Richmond [his home track], 2nd win of 2009 and 6th of his career. #2-Busch finished 2nd followed by #24-Gordon, #5-Martin, #18-Busch, #33-Bowyer, #83-Vickers, #77-Hornish Jr., #29-Harvick and #39-Newman.

Points leader #14-Stewart finished 17th. #17-Kenseth finished 25th and fell out of the top 12 and for the first time since The Chase started in 2004, Kenseth will not be in The Chase. #83-Vickers got in to the Chase, beating #18-Busch by 8 points. There were 10 cautions for 56 caution laps and there were 16 lead changes among 5 drivers.
Scheduled Race Re-Airs: ESPN2: Sunday, September 13 at 3:30am/et; ESPN Classic: Sunday, September 13 at 11:00am/et; SPEED, Wednesday, September 16 at 12:00pm/et.
For race results, awards and more, see my Richmond Race Results Page.(9-12-2009)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Richmond Practice: Montoya Fastest, Hamlin Looks Best

by M Roberts

Juan Pablo Montoya was the fastest in Friday’s final practice session for Saturday Night’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond. Montoya reeled out the quickest speed of 124.412 mph near the end of the session while in qualifying trim.

Prior to the changes set up for qualifying, Montoya still had solid times in the few laps he ran. During the first session, Montoya 13th quickest while running 47 laps in race trim.

All Montoya has to do is finish 18th or better Saturday and he’ll make his goal come to fruition by qualifying for the Chase to the Championship. If looking at his career average finish at Richmond of 27th, it may seem a bit dicey. However, he’s brought the same chassis he raced to a Richmond career best of 10th in May.

Richmond’s weekend schedule of events is similar to what Atlanta did last week with two practice sessions followed by qualifying all in one day. Because most drivers used the final session for the qualifying set-up, it can be treated like a normal race schedule first practice.

The most telling practice this week in regards to how they may run in race conditions was the first practice. There a few exceptions such as drivers that ran more than 30 laps during happy hour like Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, and Tony Stewart.

In the first practice almost everyone was in race trim and ran several laps. The fastest or those drivers was Greg Biffle followed by Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

Biffle brought a brand new chassis for this week and hopes to clinch a position in the Chase. He could take matters into his own hands by finishing 11th or better and make it regardless of what anyone else does.

Kyle Busch needs a lot more help, but has to feel confident coming to a track where he has the best average finish of anyone (6th) and where he claimed one of his four wins this season. Busch brought a chassis that finished 23rd at Michigan, kind of a perplexing move since he won in the spring at Richmond. Why not bring that car?

However, the last time they did something that appeared awkward like that and not bringing the winning chassis from the Spring, he won at Bristol a few weeks ago. He needs to gain 17 points on Vickers and 37 on Kenseth to make the Chase. It should be fun watching him try.

Clint Bowyer had the third best average times in the first practice among drivers that ran at least 35 laps. Bowyer’s may be a bit more impressive than first and second best times of Kevin Harvick and Mark just because he ran many more laps than they did with 62.

Bowyer won the spring Bristol race last year thanks to some hard racing in front of him while he was running third. In all, Bowyer has been brilliant at Richmond with an average finish of 10th. Bowyer brought his Chicagoland chassis that he finished ninth with.

Virginia native Denny Hamlin was as good as ever in both practices running a total of 109 laps between the two sessions. In the first practice he had the fifth best time then he ran a ton of laps in the final practice with top speeds and then put his qualifying trim on and was sixth quickest overall.

Hamlin has had at least two instances where he probably should have won on his home track, but has still had quality runs in just about every one of his seven starts. Only Kyle Busch has a better Richmond average finish than Hamlin’s at 9.6. Look for Hamlin to let it all hang out and go for the win to better his position in the Chase, but more importantly to him, get that elusive Richmond win.
Tony Stewart was the King of Richmond when he first arrived, winning as a rookie and then two other times giving him three wins in his first seven starts at the track. Since then, he hasn’t won any, but he has run very well getting second place in three of his last four races there.

Stewart ran the second most laps (76) in the first practice and was 12th quickest. During happy hour, Stewart ran 47 more laps and had the 11th best time while in qualifying trim. Stewart will be in the same race mode as Hamlin looking to move up the Chase ladder for start position by getting a win.

Jimmie Johnson has been hit or miss at Richmond. Despite winning there in three of the last five races, he has only one other top-10 finish there in his 15 career starts. Four top-10’s for Jimmie Johnson at any track would be considered struggling, as would his 18th average finish position.

Fortunately for Johnson, he looks to be trending upward at Richmond even though he finished 36th there in the spring. Based on what he’s done on the similar set-ups required at Phoenix and New Hampshire since the COT was introduced, not many are better.

Johnson was second fastest in happy hour while in qualifying trim and 11th best in the first practice while running the most laps (79). Johnson brought the same chassis that he ran with at Richmond in the spring.

Brian Vickers needs to gain 21 points on Kenseth to get the final Chase position while attempting to hold off Busch. Tough task, especially when considering his average finish position of 27th throughout his career on the track. The good news for Vickers is that he had a solid 15th place finish in the spring, his best run there since he was a rookie with and 8th.

The bad news for Vickers, other than Busch, is that both his practice sessions went poorly in race trim and qualifying trim. It’s quite unusual for Vickers to struggle in qualifying trim, but he was only able to mange the 21st quickest lap in happy hour. In the first session, he was only 36th quickest running 69 laps.

Fortunately, the Red Bull team does have the luxury to tinker some more in the garage prior to the race, but they won’t be able to test it until the race.

Mike Bliss had two good practice sessions in the No. 71 despite running limited laps. Bliss only gets brought up just because of the fact that the car he’s driving this week was bought from the Richard Childress stable of cars. Richmond has been one of the better tracks for Childress in both the old car, and the COT.

The regular driver of the No. 71, David Gilliland, is filling in for Robby Gordon in the No. 7 while Gordon takes the NASCAR race weekend off so he can participate in the off-road event in Primm, Nevada.

First Richmond Practice - Top 5 Speeds:
1. Joe Nememchek 122.867 mph - AVG 12 laps @ 120.325
2. Greg Biffle 122.594 mph - AVG 60 laps @ 117.378
3. Kyle Busch 122.482 mph - AVG 48 laps @ 118.464
4. Clint Bowyer 122.410 mph - AVG 62 laps @ 118.533
5. Denny Hamlin 122.288 mph - AVG 53 laps @ 118.197

Best Average Speed among drivers running at least 35 laps: Kevin Harvick 39 Laps @ 118.699
Most laps run: 79 each by Ryan Newman (10th) and Jimmie Johnson (11th)

Final Richmond Practice (Happy Hour) - Top 5 Speeds:
1. Juan Pablo Montoya 124.412 mph - AVG 12 laps @ 121.414
2. Jimmie Johnson 124.390 mph - AVG 14 laps @ 121.301
3. Mark Martin 124.218 mph - AVG 11 laps @ 122.013
4. Jeff Gordon 124.836 mph - AVG 33 laps @ 117.536
5. Kasey Kahne 123.836 mph - AVG 58 laps @ 117.536
Best Average Speed among drivers running at least 30 laps: David Reutimann 34 Laps @ 119.119
Most laps run: 64 by Jeff Burton (22nd fastest)

Top 10 Rated drivers for Richmond based on First Practice session, some of Happy Hour, current state of team, and a mix of the three 2009 races at Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond.
1) Denny Hamlin
2) Tony Stewart
3) Clint Bowyer
4) Jimmie Johnson
5) Kyle Busch
6) Greg Biffle
7) Ryan Newman
8) Mark Martin
9) Jeff Gordon
10) Kevin Harvick

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chevy Rock & Roll 400 Richmond Preview

By Micah Roberts

This Saturday Night in Richmond, we got ourselves a good old fashioned Saturday Night Special.

For a few guys, they will be clawing their way to the front doing everything they can to make passes and get race themselves into NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship.

It’s the last race until the Chase starts with a few drivers very bunched pretty close together. It’s do or die time, the money race, and it’s the feature race just like at a local race track. It’ll have that old race track feel where driver’s dreams are on the line and the only way to make those dreams come true is race hard with reckless abandon.

It’s a shame it takes a one race shoot-out to bring out the very best, or worst, in the bubble drivers. But this is what makes this one race so great every year, because we all know what’s going to happen. This is the equivalent of football’s wild card; if a driver makes the final top 12 in points following Richmond, he’s still has to race himself to the top in what is essentially a ten week bracket culminating with the big game Miami on November 22.

Las Vegas’ very own Busch Brothers, Kyle and Kurt, are right in the mix of things coming into Richmond. Kurt Busch is essentially locked in sitting seventh in points and would need a crazy set of circumstances to not make it.

However, Kyle is the one that needs some help. He’s currently sitting 14th and 37 points out of the 12th and final spot. The good news for Busch is that he’s racing at Richmond, a track where he has had his most consistent performances among all tracks.

Kyle’s 6.1 average finish at Richmond is tops among all drivers. He won the spring race there in May and in nine career races he has seven Top-5 finishes. This is the driver that is going to make this year’s Race to the Chase finale the most exciting ever just because all the drama he brings with him.

Kyle Busch might be the most disliked, booed, and harassed driver on the circuit. For some reason his antics, showmanship, and success have rubbed racing fans across America the wrong way. He’s going into a Hornets nest in Richmond where they are famed for being the loudest, rudest, and most intoxicated crowd on tour.

Twice a year, these fans in the Capital of the Confederation pump themselves up all Saturday afternoon to get themselves in game condition for the race at night. It’s a party of all parties and Kyle Busch is public enemy number one, taking over that role a few years ago from Jeff Gordon.

The biggest feather in the cap for Kyle is that he has thrived so much in such a hostile environment. He has taken their heated energy towards him and fueled himself to a level of being totally unabashed by the surroundings.

His race this time around means more than it ever has. Not only does he have the pressure of trying to show the fans up again, but he’s got to win or come close in order to ensure he gets in.

It’ll be a tough task, but it‘ll definitely be worth the price of admission to watch what happens.

While all the hoopla surrounding Busch and his run to make the chase goes on, a few candidates are going to be also running as hard as possible to get that last win prior to the Chase which will elevate their position when the Chase starts.

Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Jimmie Johnson should all have terrific runs and race hard to get the bonus point for winning.

Stewart has finished second in three of the last four races, while Virginia native Hamlin has come close to winning, but has settled for three Top-3 runs in his seven starts.

Stewart had been the master of Richmond until Kyle Busch started with all his

Stewart career average at Richmond in 21 starts is 10.1. He’s had three wins on the track, but none since 2002. Since 2002, Stewart has finished second four times, including this years race. Of all the drivers cemented in the Chase, Stewart seems like the most logical driver to let it all hang out late ad battle for the win.

Johnson has the distinction of winning this race last year and three of the last five.

However, in the two he didn’t win, he finished poorly at 30th and then 36th this year in May.

In all, Johnson has raced at Richmond 17 times, but has finished in the top-10 only four times, including those three wins which has made his average finish position look like an also ran at 18.7 a clip. He’s totaled five finishes of 30th or worse.

Chances are we’ll see the newer version of Johnson who has taken a liking to these type of tracks that include Phoenix and New Hampshire as well.

On that note, it’s a good idea for match-up bettors to take a look at the last races run at Phoenix and New Hampshire as well. When looking at New Hampshire, since it was rain shortened, just look at the lap leaders prior to the rain, or when Joey Logano took the lead by not pitting.

That race was shaping up similar to the way Richmond and Phoenix did earlier in the year with Johnson, Martin, Stewart, and Kyle Busch running well. No reason to think this race will be much different as those tops teams are likely to bring the same chassis’ for this race.

The only difference for this race is a mindset of do or die for some and the freedom of going all out with no consequences for others.

TOP 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #14 Tony Stewart (7/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
3) #11 Denny Hamlin (8/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (7/1)
5) #5 Mark Martin (12/1)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chevy Rock & Roll 400 @ Richmond Facts

compiled by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

At Richmond International Raceway:
• Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond International Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a .5-mile dirt track.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on April 19, 1953.
• The spring 1964 race was run on a Tuesday night under temporary lighting.
• The track name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.
• The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between races in 1968.
• The track name changed to Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1969.
• Track was re-measured to .500 miles in April; then to .542 miles in September 1969.
• The first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond was Feb. 20, 1982.
• The track was rebuilt as a .750-mile D-shaped oval following the spring race on Feb. 21, 1988.
• The first race under permanent lights was held Sept. 7, 1991.
• The first season with both races as night races was 1999.

• There have been 106 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Richmond since the track opened in 1953.
• The current 400-lap race length was established on the .542-mile measurement in March 1976.
• Buck Baker won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole in 1953.
• Lee Petty won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in April 1953.
• Davey Allison won the first .750-mile race at Richmond from the pole.
• There have been 46 different pole winners, led by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty (eight).
• Jeff Gordon (five) leads active drivers with five poles.
• 46 different drivers have posted victories at Richmond, led by Richard Petty (13).
• Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson (three) lead the active race winners.
• Petty Enterprises has won 15 races at Richmond, more than any other car owner.
• 60 of 106 races at Richmond have been won from the top five starting positions, including 21 from the pole.
• The last driver to win from the pole was Jimmie Johnson in September 2007.
• 11 of the past 13 races have been won from the top 10. Though, two of the last three race winners have started from outside the top 10, including this May’s winner, Kyle Busch.
• The furthest back in the field that a race winner started was 31st, by Clint Bowyer in 2008’s spring race.
• Kyle Petty became the first third-generation NASCAR race winner when he won his first race, at Richmond, on February 23, 1986. Richard Petty posted his first Richmond victory in 1961 and Lee won the very first Richmond race in 1953.
• Two active drivers have a finish inside the top 10: Kyle Busch (6.1) and Denny Hamlin (9.6).

NASCAR in Virginia
• There have been 264 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Virginia.
• 158 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Virginia.
• There have been 18 race winners from Virginia in NASCAR’s three national series:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chase Clinch Scenarios For Richmond

Eight spots remain in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup  and 11 drivers are mathematically in contention for securing one. Below are the clinch scenarios for Richmond, the final race before the Chase field is set:

#99-Carl Edwards is currently 105 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
24th or better
25th and leads at least one lap or
27th and leads most laps.

#9-Kasey Kahne is currently 96 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
21st or better
23rd and leads at least one lap or
24th and leads most laps.

#2-Kurt Busch is currently 95 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
20th or better
22nd and leads at least one lap or
24th and leads most laps.

#42-Juan Pablo Montoya is currently 88 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
18th or better
20th and leads at least one lap or
21st and leads the most laps.

#39-Ryan Newman is currently 81 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
16th or better
17th and leads at least one lap or
19th and leads the most laps.

#5-Mark Martin is currently 69 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
12th or better
14th and leads at least one lap or
15th and leads the most laps.

#16-Greg Biffle is currently 68 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
11th or better
13th and leads at least one lap or
15th and leads the most laps.

#17-Matt Kenseth is currently 20 points ahead of 13th place.
Regardless of any other driver's finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
Second and leads at least one lap.

#83-Brian Vickers currently sits 13th, 17 points ahead of #18-Kyle Busch. He would need to gain 21 points on Kenseth and stay ahead of Busch to clinch a Chase spot. Busch, 37 points behind 12th, needs to gain 17 points on Vickers and 37 points on Kenseth to clinch. #00-David Reutimann, 132 points behind Kenseth, has an outside shot at clinching. He would have to gain 133 points on Kenseth. A maximum of 161 points can be made up in a given race.(NASCAR Public Relations)(9-7-2009)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kahne wins at Atlanta: Helps Cause in Chase


Kahne wins at Atlanta:
#9-Kasey Kahne won the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his 2nd win of 2009 and 11th of his career. Kahne moves up to 6th in drivers points, up 5 spots. #29-Harvick finished 2nd followed by #42-Montoya, #00-Reutimann, #5-Martin, #11-Hamlin, #83-Vickers, #24-Gordon, #39-Newman and #16-Biffle.

Points leader #14-Stewart finished 11th, #48-Johnson has rear-end problems and finished 36th, #99-Edwards had debris go thru an oil cooler and lost many laps finishing 37th, #2-Busch wrecked and finished 38th.

Other Chase contenders: #17-Kenseth finished 12th and #18-Busch 13th. Vickers is now 13th, 20 points out of 12th and Kyle Busch is 14th, 37 points out of 12th. Pole sitter #1-Truex Jr. finished 26th down a lap after leading 68 laps early in the race. There were 9 cautions for 42 caution laps and there were 31 lead changes among 13 drivers.

Scheduled Race Re-Airs: ESPN2: Monday, September 7 at 2:30 am/et; ESPN Classic: Tuesday, September 8 at 11:00am/et; SPEED, Wednesday, September 9 at 12:00pm/et.(9-6-2009)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Truex Jr Wins Pole in Atlanta


Truex wins pole at Atlanta:
#1-Martin Truex Jr. won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap of 184.149 mph for his 2nd pole of the season and
3rd pole of his career. #9-Kahne was 2nd fastest followed by #48-Johnson, #24-Gordon, #18-Busch, #2-Busch, #5-Martin, #83-Vickers, #12-Stremme and #11-Hamlin. Points leader #14-Stewart will start 12th.

The non Top-35 drivers who made the race: #21-Gilliland, #71-BLabonte, #82-Speed, #87-Nemechek, #66-Blaney, #09-Bliss, #13-Papis and #08-TLabonte (using the past champions provisional).

The three drivers who failed to qualify: #78-Smith, #36-Carpentier and #37-Raines.
For qualifying results, order, pole progression and starting lineup see my Atlanta Starting Lineup/Qualifying page.(9-5-2009)

Atlanta Practice Review: Montoya Strong and Junior Shines

by M Roberts

This week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race goes under the lights in Atlanta Sunday for the second to last race until the Chase to Championship begins September 20 in New Hampshire.
This will be the second time the series has visited in Atlanta with the first coming in early March where Kurt Busch thoroughly dominated in what still is his only win of the season.

The practice sessions for the March’s Atlanta race were run in the traditional sense with a Friday practice, then qualifying, and two Saturday practices. This time around, there was no practice on Friday with all activity taking place on Saturday prior to Sunday night’s race in what Atlanta Motor Speedway is calling an experiment.

Saturday’s events began with an hour and half practice session with most teams running in race trim. In the Final practice session, teams mixed up the session with both race trim and qualifying trim for another hour and a half. In the unusual format, their qualifying session will be the final time in their car before the actual race.

The qualifying being so late, with no practice afterwards, could make things difficult early on in the race for the teams that had good practice runs because no matter how precise the notes were for a good set-up, it still takes some tinkering to get perfect from race trim to qualifying trim.

With no practice following qualifying, the tinkering will have to come during the race. Needless to say, there definitely is some added pressure on the crews this week.

Another major factor the crews have to deal with is the track’s temperature change from practice to race day conditions which will drastically change because the start time for Sunday’s race is just before 8 pm. The likely result will be more grip, which the drivers will like, but it’s still an unknown which means there will be a lot of guessing in the set-up early on.

At the very end of the final practice session, Juan Pablo Montoya reeled off the fastest lap of 180.105 mph while in qualifying trim driving his favorite car, the one that nearly won at Indy and finished second at Pocono. However, the lap didn't officially count because happy hour time had run out. Nearly every driver used the final moments of final practice to make their qualifying trim runs.

Prior to the late switch for qualifying trim, Ryan Newman had been fastest while in race trim and did so very early. As the heat slicked up the track, all the times for the final practice were much slower than the first session.

During the first session, Jimmie Johnson ran 41 laps with a top speed of 182.807 mph while in race trim using a brand new chassis made special for this race. Just about every team that matters used the first session somewhat in the same fashion like they normally use happy hour for. They ran lots of laps and used the cooler conditions as more of a simulator for what they may see on race day.

Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-5 fastest laps following Johnson in the first session.

Martin had some trouble the last time they visited Atlanta despite sitting on the pole, but was very fast during both sessions Saturday while in both race and qualifying trim. The car he’s using this week is the same one that won at Darlington and Chicagoland.

Kurt Busch had a real good morning session, but struggled in the afternoon practice saying his car had no grip. He’s bringing the same chassis that he won with in March’s Atlanta race and it’s likely the cooler conditions will get Busch’s car right on race day.

Jeff Gordon had a great first practice with the third fastest average speeds among all drivers to run at least 30 laps. The high banked 1.5-mile tracks have been his best all around combined runs this season capturing a second in Atlanta and a win at Texas.

The second fastest average times in the first practice belonged to Montoya, while the best average speed among those running at least 30 laps belonged to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Junior brought a brand new chassis and his average times finally make him look like he’s driving a Hendrick car. In the final session, he finished with the 11th fastest time.

Based on how good he looks lap after lap in the longer runs, Junior might have his best opportunity to win a race this season. Should he win, it might be the most fireworks Atlanta has seen since General Sherman marched through there 145 years ago.

First Practice - Top 5 Speeds (more relevant practice)
1. Jimmie Johnson 182.807 mph - AVG 41 laps @ 173.00
2. Mark Martin 182.507 mph - AVG 55 laps @ 172.319
3. Denny Hamlin 181.729 mph - AVG 40 laps @ 172.707
4. Tony Stewart 181.699 mph - AVG 50 laps @ 170.780
5. Kurt Busch 181.639 mph - AVG 39 laps @ 171.954

Final Practice - Top 5 Speeds
1. Ryan Newman 179.866 mph - AVG 25 laps @ 173.041
2. Mark Martin 179.802 mph - AVG 7 laps @ 178.513
3. Brian Vickers 179.330 mph - AVG 41 laps @ 171.983
4. Clint Bowyer 179.278 mph - AVG 12 laps @ 175.955
5. Jeff Gordon 179.272 mph - AVG 20 laps @ 173.010

Top 10 Rated drivers for Sunday night’s Atlanta race heavily based on Saturday’s first practice session, mixed in with the final session, chassis selections, current state of team, and 1.5-mile performances in 2009.
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Mark Martin
3. Kurt Busch
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Juan Pablo Montoya
6. Carl Edwards
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr
9. Brian Vickers
10. Ryan Newman

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pep Boys Auto 500 Atlanta Preview

by Micah Roberts

Only two races remain in the Race to the Chase before the 12 driver field will be set for the final 10 races of the season in NASCAR’s version a playoff. Only 162 points separate the driver currently in seventh, Ryan Newman, from the driver in 15th, Clint Bowyer.

The next two races are in the deep South of Atlanta and then the Capital of the Confederacy, in Richmond. Both tracks are a fitting finale for what is essentially a wild card chase to advance.

The last time we visited Atlanta was in early March for the fourth race of the season. Kurt Busch dominated the race for it’s entirety. With the way his car performed that day on the 1.5-mile high banked fast track, it was thought that Busch might be able to duplicate that kind of success later on the sister tracks of Texas and Charlotte, but it didn’t happen.

Busch’s win that day remains his only win of the season, but he has been consistent enough throughout the season to be firmly entrenched in the Chase, currently sitting sixth. Over his career, Busch has an average finish of 18th in Atlanta with two wins in 17 starts.

Jeff Gordon has had one of he better combined runs on these type of tracks this season which also includes Las Vegas. Gordon finished second in Atlanta, then came back to win at Texas. He also ran very well in Charlotte, but the finish doesn’t reflect it because it was rain shortened.

His Texas win remains his only win of the season. Knowing how good his car has been on these tracks, his team has to be elated to be getting back on it since they haven’t raced on one since Charlotte in late May.

Atlanta is where it all started for Gordon. He started his first career Cup race there. 34 races later, Gordon has four career wins and 22 top-10 finishes. Look for Gordon to contend for the win a be a force in the playoffs where two of the 10 races are at Texas and Charlotte.

Kyle Busch is 34 points from the 12th and final position. He’s only got two races to make it, but his chances look pretty good based on his record in Atlanta and Richmond.

Since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing last season, Busch has been one of the best in Atlanta that includes a win and a top-5 finish last season there. On like-tracks, Busch claims a win in Las Vegas and lead the most laps at Charlotte before the rain came out.

Busch looks to have had an attitude adjustment over the last two weeks and no one from the Gibbs organization is taking claim to any kind of pep talk. Busch may have done his own soul searching and figured out that in order to be consistent each week, he’s got to be a little better mentally prepared.

Immediately following his change in demeanor, Busch captured his fourth win of the season by sweeping Bristol.

Jimmie Johnson is the favorite to win this week on the basis of his continued domination of these type of tracks. In Atlanta, Johnson has a track best average finish of ninth with three wins in 16 career races. What makes Johnson extremely tough to bet against this week is that he’s going flat out for wins. He’s got enough points, what he needs now is wins to get him tied with Mark Martin with four which would give him the lead to start the Chase.

Brian Vickers is only 39 points out of the 12th and final position in the Chase. He finished 5th in Atlanta and Charlotte this season and looks to build off his momentum from his big Michigan win three weeks ago. Vickers has to run well this week and duplicate, or better, what he did in March’s Atlanta race because relying on a great Richmond finish will be a tall task.

Carl Edwards is still looking for that elusive first win of 2009 after winning the most in 2008 with nine. Atlanta has always been good to Edwards, a place he claims three wins at. In March he ran very well with a third, but after that, Edwards couldn’t duplicate the Roush-Fenway success they traditionally had on the fast 1.5-mile tracks.

This race will ultimately be split up into several categories with those who in going for wins and those who are one of the nine on the brink looking to score positive points, stay out of trouble, and get a top-5 or top-10 finish.

Clint Bowyer may likely not finish in the top-5 for this race or have a chance to win, but if playing matchups, Bowyer should be golden because he has proven to one of the best drivers in the race to the chase down the stretch. It’s a good bet that Bowyer lets the others in front of him in points race themselves out of the chase while he does his thing and shoots for a top-10 finish.

A driver on the opposite end of the end, and who Bowyer is hoping self-destructs as in the past, is Kasey Kahne. Kahne has been in this situation before and has failed miserably each time.

Despite everything there for the taking, Kahne feels like a sitting duck once again and may pressure himself too much. He is a very good bet against in driver matchups this week vs. just about anyone who finishes races on a weekly basis.

Matt Kenseth is the cool veteran who just may stay where he is and let everyone else around him battle. He doesn’t have the equipment to go for a win, or compete for a top-5, but he’s savvy enough to play the game like Bowyer. He’s never missed a Chase yet.

For the upper-echelon of drivers who are basically set, it’s a freebie. No more points racing, it’s time for bonus points and placement setting when the Chase starts. Expect to see drivers like Gordon, Johnson, Stewart, and Biffle be as aggressive as ever this week and willing to take chances on fuel and tires down the stretch.

As crazy and reckless as it may seem, I would expect Kyle Busch to be mixing it up with them minus the risky pit strategies. He may have given the perception that he’s changed his attitude a bit, but when the green flag drops, he’ll likely be going all out despite his points situation.

If making matchup wagers, you can go one way or another on that strategy. Bet against Kyle and go with his 13 race losing history prior to his Bristol win which is pretty sound and logical, or go against all that a believe Kyle will make things happen en route to making the Chase.

If you are one of many who had future wagering on Kyle winning the 2009 NASCAR Cup title, this may a time to start hedging those wagers with bet-against’s in match-ups to retrieve some of that money invested with hopes Busch does poorly.

I may be blinded a bit since I’m a Las Vegan and always root for the best for the Busch brothers, but I like his chances to do well this week.

TOP 5 Finish Predicton:
1) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (5/1)
4) #2 Kurt Busch (12/1)
5) #99 Carl Edwards (8/1)

Pep Boys Auto 500 Atlanta Facts

compiled by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media services

At Atlanta Motor Speedway:

• Originally called Atlanta International Raceway, the track was then a 1.5-mile paved speedway.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta was on July 31, 1960, won by Fireball Roberts from the pole.
• Jeff Gordon won the first NASCAR Nationwide race at Atlanta held March 14, 1992.
• The first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta was held March 13, 2004, won by Bobby Hamilton.
• The track was re-measured to 1.522 miles in the spring of 1970.
• It was renamed Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990.
• The track layout was reversed and the track was re-configured to 1.54 miles between the two races in 1997.

• There have been 100 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Speedway, two races per year except 1961, which had three.
• Fireball Roberts won the pole and race for the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 1960.
• 43 drivers have won a pole, led by Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman, each with seven.
• Six of Newman’s seven poles came in back-to-back races between March 2003 and October 2005.
• 42 drivers have won a race at Atlanta; 21 have won more than once, including Kurt Busch, who won his second Atlanta race earlier this season. In that event, Busch scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0.
• Dale Earnhardt scored nine victories, more than any other driver. Cale Yarborough is second with seven.
• Bobby Labonte has six victories, most among active drivers. Labonte is tied with Richard Petty for third on the all-time win list.
• The Wood Brothers are the most productive car owners with 12 victories. They last won there in 1993 with Morgan Shepherd.
• 14 races have been won from the pole. The last to do so was Kasey Kahne in 2006.
• 57 races at Atlanta have been won from the first five starting positions.
• Bobby Labonte won the 2001 fall race from the 39th starting position, the deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Atlanta.
• There have been seven season sweeps, most recently by Jimmie Johnson in 2007.
• Kurt Busch’s perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 in March was the eighth perfect rating since the inception of the Loop Data statistic in 2005. There has been one more since then: Jimmie Johnson at Dover International Speedway.
• Jimmie Johnson is the only active driver to average a top-10 finish (9.1).

NASCAR in Georgia
• There have been 159 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Georgia.
• 169 NASCAR national series drivers all-time have their home state recorded as Georgia.
• There have been 14 race winners from Georgia in NASCAR’s three national series: