Friday, September 9, 2016

Final Richmond Driver Ratings: 2016 Federated Auto Parts 400

Native Virginian Denny Hamlin is on the pole.
Micah Roberts' Sprint Cup Driver Ratings
Federated Auto Parts 400
Richmond International Raceway

Saturday, September 10, 2016 - 4:43 pm PT

RATING  DRIVER    ODDS                     RICHMOND*     PRACTICE 1         PRACTICE 2             QUALIFIED
 1. Kyle Busch 6/1                     2nd                 1st                  17th              5th
Four-time winner, 15 top-fives in 22 starts (6.5 avg.). Best 10-consecutive lap average in practice 1.
 2. Carl Edwards 8/1                   1st                  8th                 20th             13th
Two-time winner, including spring race, 13.4 average. Best 10-consecutive lap average in practice 2.
 3. Matt Kenseth 8/1                   7th                  5th                 26th              3rd
Two-time winner, including last fall. Second-best 10-consecutive lap average in practice 2.
 4. Denny Hamlin 8/1                  6th                  3rd                   7th              1st
Two-time winner for the native Virginian. His 1,405 laps led are most among full-time active drivers.
 5. Kevin Harvick 5/1                   5th                 13th                 21st             19th
Three-time winner with 8.8 average finish over past 20 starts; using April Richmond chassis.
 6. Martin Truex Jr. 12/1              9th                  2nd                  3rd               6th
Only one top-five finish in 21 starts, but the Gibbs equipment make him instant contender.
 7. Brad Keselowski 6/1             11th                20th                 11th              17th
2014 fall winner. No 2016 top-10 finishes between Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire.
 8. Jimmie Johnson 12/1              3rd                11th                   8th              10th
Three-time winner, but nine since 2008. Slumping with only one top-five in last 12 on season.
 9. Kurt Busch 20/1                    10th               17th                   9th               5th
Two-time winner, the last in spring of 2015; using chassis that finished sixth at Phoenix in March. 
10. Joey Logano 8/1                    8th                  7th                 10th              12th
2014 winner which started a run of five straight finishes eighth or better; third last fall.

* Results from the April 25, 2016 race at Richmond that featured 23 lead changes among eight drivers.

Note: In addition to referencing the first Richmond race as a handicapping tool, results from the flat 1-mile layouts at Phoenix and New Hamsphire this season are also applicable.

Odds courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1994. Follow on Twitter @MicahRoberts7

LAS VEGAS -- In Friday's final practice session the five drivers associated with Gibbs posted the five best 10-consecutive lap averages, which means they're all going to be the fastest on long runs and most probable to win. In the early session Las Vegan Kyle Busch had the fastest individual lap and the best 10-consecutive lap average. Martin Truex Jr., who won last week at Darlington, was second best and Edwards was third.

These guys are good, and the Gibbs brigade has a lot of past history supporting them beginning with Busch who has a career average finish of 6.8 in 22 starts. He's finished up the last two starts and has four win to his credit. He's the driver to beat Saturday.

The last four races at Richmond have been won from a start position of fourth or better which kind of mirrors what's been going on there in the 120 races since 1953. Over time, the pole winner has won 37 times (30.8 percent) and the 94 winners (78.3 percent). Only 13 winners (10.8 percent) have started from outside the top-20. The furthest back a winner has started from was 31st by Clint Bowyer in 2008.

Denny Hamlin has the best average start position in the series at 6.1 and he had gone 23 straight races starting in the top-10, but hadn't won pole. That is until Friday at Richmond where he posted the top speed at 122.334 mph. It was his third career pole at his home track.

Nine different manufacturers have won at Richmond with Chevrolet leading the way with 37 and Ford next at 31, but Toyota has dominated there since 2009 when Kyle Busch started a string of five straight wins as he and Hamlin alternated wins. The brand has won nine of the last 15 overall, including the last two. Joe Gibbs Racing has claimed eight of those wins. Gibbs also won three straight years with a Pontiac driven by Tony Stewart (1999-2001) and their 11 total wins at the track is second only to Richard Petty Racing's 15 wins.

Jimmie Johnson was the last driver to sweep Richmond in 2007. No other active driver has done it, but because of the Gibbs power, Edwards is a quality candidate. In the April race, Edwards bumped teammate Kyle Busch out of the way on the last lap for the win.

There are 13 qualified drivers eligible for the Chase with three spots remaining that will be decided at Richmond. Chris Buescher's miracle rain dance at Pocono gave him a win to qualify, but he has to stay within the top-30 in points and he's only nine points ahead of 31st-place David Ragan. Four drivers are within 39-points of each other. And there are 17 other drivers that can qualify by winning the race. The top candidate to do so would be Kasey Kahne, who won at Richmond in 2005. Kahne raced himself into the Chase in 2014 with a win at Atlanta and might be a decent choice at 40-to-1 odds. He only has two top-fives on the season, but he posted the fourth fastest lap in Friday's early practice session.

While Ryan Newman (40/1), Jamie McMurray (100/1), Austin Dillon (80/1) and Chase Elliott (20/1) all would love to win their first race of the season, but with them playing the points game and getting the positions each relayed to them while the race is going, a win is most unlikely.

Chances are slim of Jeff Gordon winning and 20-to-1 doesn't sound like a price worth taking. In 46 career starts, he's only had two wins, the last coming in 2000. However, he's been runner-up eight times and has led 1,637 laps. This is a track he knows well. He'll start 11th and had the sixth fastest lap (120.827 mph) in the first practice session Friday. His average finish position in five races since coming out of retirement to drive Dale Earnhardt Jr's No. 88 has been 15.8.


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