Richmond is a short track… Richmond is a fast track… Richmond is a track that all the drivers love to race on, (well, at least most of them do), and taking all those things into account, that should make for one heck of a race tonight.
One thing I find interesting as a fan is how little we’ve actually heard about Kyle Bush this weekend and how much we’ve heard about Denny Hamlin. Although they both have wins over the last couple of seasons at this track and both usually are thought of as contenders every time NASCAR races at Richmond, Denny Hamlin has already won at RIR this weekend… twice.
Some of you may be asking why that is important and that is a very good question. From my view, usually when we come to a track with multiple series races on a weekend, the name we most often hear talked about for possibly sweeping the weekend is Kyle Bush. This weekend it is Denny Hamlin and he has actually had a very good weekend so far by winning the special late model race on Thursday night and the Nationwide race last night. Compared to the rest of the first part of this season, that is a very good start to the weekend for him.
One of the biggest reasons I bring this up is that he has had such a miserable year in 2011 after almost winning the Championship in 2010. Both he and Joey Logano have struggled in this first third of the season and it looks like the week off last week was good for both of them. It appears that Joe Gibbs Racing has shown up so far this weekend with a little momentum flowing in their direction, at least for Hamlin and Logano. Yeah, I know you can’t put a lot of stock in the performances outside of Cup, but at least in the Hamlin camp, they definitely seem to be encouraged by the events so far.
So now I guess you’re asking the question if I think Denny Hamlin is going to dominate the Cup race tonight the way he did the Nationwide race last night? Well that’s a good question and as fans we all know it is a possibility but we also know this is NASCAR and Cup races don’t always go the way the rest of the weekend does.
From this fan’s view, I see a lot of possibilities for the race tonight. Unless someone just shows up with the field covered since practice and qualifying, (which I admit is always a possibility), I’m expecting several drivers to make themselves contenders for the checkers by the end of the night. I just don’t see a race with one dominant car for the night. Although I could be proved wrong, the lap times are just too close and it appears the top teams have more than one driver with a chance for taking the victory tonight.
As far as the way the qualifying went, there are seven Chevys, three Toyotas, a Dodge and a Ford in the top twelve. Now this is just my view, but that says to me the Chevys in particular might have something to say about whether or not Denny Hamlin sweeps the weekend. It is my guess, Juan Montoya and Regan Smith would like to cash in on their qualifying performances along with Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon.
Two names that stand out in those six are Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin. They both usually end up near the front often at RIR and Jeff Gordon in particular has been running at, or near, the front more often than not at the end of the races in the last several trips to Richmond. In fact, he is often found at the front when it comes time to go for the checkered flag late in the race and I expect him to be a factor in tonight’s race.
There are those of the opinion, Dale Jr could end up in Victory Lane tonight and this fan thinks that is a definite possibility. My biggest problem with that happening is I just don’t see the confidence there when Jr is asked how he will do. Now don’t go off thinking that is a criticism because it isn’t, it’s just that I don’t think he has the confidence to overcome whatever comes at him to win over the adversities he may face in the race… at least, not yet. He is looking better all the time and it is obvious, Steve Letarte is having a positive influence on him. It is my opinion he is going to win soon, I just don’t know that it is going to be tonight.
One other thing that just jumps out at me from the qualifying speeds is there is only a little over a tenth of a second separating the top twelve spots and a little over two tenths separating the top twenty four qualifiers. If that doesn’t give some idea as to how the race could go tonight, well, I just don’t know… I guess that’s why they call it NASCAR Cup racing… you just never know.
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 30, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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