NASCAR: RACING FROM RICHMOND (7:30 PM ET, FOX)
With the carnage that was the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega still fresh on the minds of drivers, the NASCAR circuit moves on to Virginia this weekend for the first of its two season stops at Richmond International Raceway. The action at Saturday night’s running of the “Crown Royal presents the Russ Friedman 400” should be much tamer and according to sentiment ringing from Talladega, safer than last week’s proceedings.
It should also be a nice change for bettors, who were probably left wondering “what just happened” after Sunday’s crazy race. That is unless you had surprise winner Brad Keselowksi, who was a rewarding “Field” option on the to-win wagers. This week’s favorite is Kyle Busch, at 3-1. However, a total of six drivers are listed in single-digits, meaning this race should be very competitive, at least among a handful of drivers. Get the latest prices on the LIVE ODDS page.
Since the advent of the Chase, the spring race at Richmond has become a valuable tune-up, as the circuit returns here each September for the last race in the cutoff point for the Chase, the last regular season event if you will. The 400-laps in May around this ¾ mile track can prove to make the difference for drivers looking to make the Chase in race #26. In general, this facility brings out a mix of short track and flat track racing. Driver patience is key, and those teams whose cars are best handling and have the brakes to endure 400 laps of pounding usually find themselves in contention near the end. The track is tight, so you will see some beating and banging, and tempers have been known to flare here as well. In fact, there have seen some sizeable wrecks here in recent years, mostly coming off restarts.
A quick check of the Richmond stats finds three drivers going for their series leading 4th win at Richmond, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Tony Stewart. Johnson (4-1 this week) has been the hot driver of late, winning all three of his Checkered Flags here since ’06, including the race in September. Clint Bowyer is the defending champion of this race, picking up a gift-wrapped trip to Victory Lane only after late trouble took out Denny Hamlin, who led the race’s first 380+ laps. Hamlin figures to be a top contender again on Saturday, and he is accordingly priced at 5-1. Kyle Busch is the 3-1 favorite based on his series-leading 6.8 average Richmond finish. However, he has yet to win a race at RIR. Other drivers that figure to be top contenders on Saturday night include Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon. Harvick may be the best value at 18-1, as he has led 726 laps in his 16 prior starts here. Gordon has 1,065 laps led. However, recent struggles by both drivers suggest they will both be happy to just secure solid finishes.
On the opposite side of the Richmond success barometer are drivers like Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers and Juan Montoya. Between the four, there is a combined ONE Top 5 finish in the last three years. Edwards owns an uncharacteristically low 18.2 average finish, while Busch (19.1), Vickers (26.3), and Montoya (32.3) are all even higher. Matt Kenseth is also a driver who has struggled at Richmond. Even though his career stats indicate a win and nine Top 10 finishes in 18 starts, his last six starts have resulted in an average finish of just 24.5, without a Top 5 to show for it.
Any to-win or matchup wager on the five aforementioned drivers at this point has to be given serious thought.
The green flag for the Crown Royal presents the Russ Friedman 400 is scheduled to wave around 7:43 PM ET on Saturday.