NASCAR at Richmond from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

Denny Hamlin won the STP 400 in Kansas last weekend and, if you listened to many about this weekend at Richmond, they had already declared him or his team-mate Kyle Bush as the likely winners of tonight’s Cup race. The problem is, there are several other drivers that are making a strong case that that just might not happen. In fact, Mark Martin is sitting on the pole and Carl Edwards is sitting next to him on the front row and one of them would like nothing better than to put an end to the regularity of the Joe Gibbs teams success at RIR.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that there is more than one driver in the Cup Series that is hungry for a victory. So far, 2012 seems to be a year to expect the unexpected and, personally, this fan doesn’t expect the race tonight to be any different. Even during qualifying the unexpected happened. Many of the ones with the faster lap times in the first practice didn’t fair well when it came time to qualify. Even though the expectation is for the late qualifiers to run faster, it didn’t happen that way for several, (except of course, Mark Martin) and they will start in mid pack.

The real surprise so far this year, at least from this fan’s view, is the strength of the Michael Waltrip Racing teams. They have shown up every week with strong cars and have performed extremely well in this first part of the season. Martin Truex Jr’s second place finish from last week didn’t really tell the whole story. He led a bunch of laps and looked like he was going to pull off the victory until the last pit stop. That’s when his car fell off the pace just enough for Denny Hamlin to catch and pass him and stay out front.

Over the last four weeks in particular, Martin Truex Jr has finished in the top ten and always been in the hunt for the victory. He hasn’t won yet, but it is only a matter of time from this fan’s view. He and Mark Martin have been very impressive and either one of them could win tonight.

Now, Clint Bowyer is another story for MWR. He is kind of in the same boat as Jeff Gordon of Hendrick MotorSports when it comes to how he’s finished. Both he and Gordon have been competitive almost every week so far but have little or nothing to show for it. Both have experienced blown engines and both are outside the top ten in points, although Bowyer is just outside in eleventh. Both of them like this track and either one could end up in Victory Lane tonight, (but, I’m not picking any winners yet.)

The Jack Roush teams of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle continue to run consistently fast each week and could be up front at the end of tonight’s Capital City 400. Since I’ve been talking about expecting the unexpected, I don’t really think one of them is going to win tonight but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in there fighting for it. I mean, Biffle is still sitting at the top of the points and Kenseth is in third. If something disastrous doesn’t happen to them I expect they will make a good showing tonight.

The Hendrick Teams will be looking for that 200th win for their boss, Rick Hendrick tonight and once again, Dale Jr looks like a possible victor in this short rack race tonight. He has been running very consistent lately and he really does run well at RIR.

Jimmie Johnson just hasn’t looked confident in his car on the track this weekend but when it comes down to crunch-time, I expect the five time champ to be pressing toward the front and possibly be leading at, or near the end of the race. As for four time champ Jeff Gordon, well… it is definitely a possibility and I expect he and his crew chief, Allan Gustafson will be doing all they can to bring home number two hundred for Hendrick.

When it comes down to the end of the race, there are several I haven’t mentioned yet that I expect to be possible takers of the checkered flag. One would be AJ Allmendinger and a real shocker would be Marcos Ambrose. Of course I do think AJ has a better chance than Marcos, but then… we are talking about expecting the unexpected… aren’t we?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 28, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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