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Hi, everybody…this will be short simply because the race is tonight and I want to get my thoughts out before the race starts. Otherwise, you might think I wait until the race actually starts and they’ve run some laps to make up my mind as to who will win. (“It just ain’t so”… as the saying goes. Usually, I’ve made up my mind even before the qualifying is over. I just like to sit and think about it a while before I write it down.)
It is important to note that this weeks race at RIR takes Nascar all the way down from a 2.66 mile restrictor plate track to basically a 3/4 mile short track and has the feel of a Saturday night, local track race. With its “D” shaped oval it makes for challenges at every turn, (and I mean that literally.)
As is usual with qualifying this year, I won’t put too much stock in it but I will admit that qualifying does have its advantages at Richmond. If you qualify in the back of the pack, it means you’re already about a half a lap down.
I am impressed with the pole qualifying spot for Brian Vickers, and the outside front row start of Jeff Gordon. These two guys will have pretty good chances of being in the front for most of the race unless something unexpected happens. Frankly, I always put more stock in the end of the second practice session. It helps to know if someone has found something that is going to help them be more competitive in the race, rather than the qualifying. (The exception to this, of course, is the qualifying of the “go or go-homers”).
Well, Richmond is one of those where the drivers have to stay alert, focused and manage their brakes. It is important to take notice of the high straightaway speeds and heavy braking in the turns. The drivers will have to go as fast as they can and yet not over brake. If they lose their ability to slow down at will, it could prove disastrous.
In my opinion, the place that could have the most detrimental effect on any of the possible winners is the exit of turn 2. The back straight is totally different than the sweeping curve of the front straight. Exiting turn 2 can be treacherous if the driver loses focus and forgets where he is for just one turn of one lap. The transition is quite a bit tighter than the exit from 4 and that turn 2 wall will only allow them so much leeway.
Actually I have two areas that I think will make a big difference in the outcome of the race tonight. One is the previously mentioned exit from turn 2 and the other is going to be the pit stops. It is absolutely necessary for anyone that wants to win tonight to not beat themselves in the pits. Even though the drivers like this track and it is well known they can pass and drive pretty much any groove they like, with the way racing has gone this year, they cannot afford any mistakes on pit road.
So, let’s get right down to the possible winners for the Crown Royal / Russ Friedmann 400 for tonight.
This could be the night for the winner to be one of the drivers no one expects to win. I don’t think it will be one of the “never been to victory lane” crowd, but it is possible it could be one of the “hasn’t been there for quite a while” teams. I do think it will be one of the stronger, multi car teams rather than one of the single car teams. That doesn’t mean I don’t pull for those guys that are struggling to make it every week, but it does mean I think it is going to come from either Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs or Childers.
Judging from the final practice, on the speed charts there is one mile per hour separating the top 19 fastest. If we look at the qualifying speeds, there is less than a second separating the whole field of 43. That makes if awfully hard to draw any conclusions about who is going to pull off the victory or possibly even “dominate(?) the field”. That is why I put so much emphasis on who has the best strategy and is mistake free in the pits for tonight. Looking at those two facts makes it awfully tough to pick the winner, but that hasn’t stopped me in the past and it won’t stop me now.
It is a tough call, and I know there are several who are up to the challenge. I can think of about ten of them right off the top of my head, but I’m only going to pick one…
I think tonight’s winner is going to be … uh … well … um … Jimmy Johnson. There I’ve made my choice… and that’s my best guess.
Who do you think is going to win???
See ya next time…
© May 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A fan’s View and Rusty Norman