By Kelsey Tucker – The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Richmond International Raceway (RIR) twice a year, once in the spring then again in the fall. When the drivers show up for the fall race, there is a lot more at stake than just capturing the checkered flag. During the upcoming September 7th race drivers will be competing for their spot in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
This ¾ mile track is a “D” shape oval with 14 degree banking in the turns. There are over 85,000 seats inside RIR where fans witness some exciting racing action. In 2003, safer barriers were added to the venue to provide added safety for drivers in the event of a crash.
Since 2003, three drivers have won two races each – Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Jimmie Johnson won the fall races in both 2007 and 2008, while Denny Hamlin won consecutive fall races in 2010 and 2011.
With the Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders becoming official at the end of this 300 mile race, which drivers can we expect to be battling it out for those final positions? Six drivers already are locked into the Chase after this past weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the final six drivers are still to-be-determined. I believe that we will see the wildcard contenders battling it out for another win, which will help them clench that spot and make it into the Chase.
Jimmie Johnson has already clenched his spot and still holds the point lead after Sunday’s race in Atlanta. The past few races Johnson and the No. 48 team have had their fair share of issues on track. The five-time Sprint Cup champion currently has three wins at Richmond International Raceway. Can he make it four victories this weekend and pad his points lead?
Denny Hamlin has the highest driver rating at RIR at 117.8 with an average finish of 8.1. With two wins and 1390 laps lead, statistically he has a great shot at winning Saturday night’s race. Even with a rocky start to this season and the reality that he will not make the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, don’t think for one second that Hamlin will not be fighting for the win. Drivers who already know they are not going to make the Chase, are still fighting for wins and the owner’s championship.
With two wins this season, Kevin Harvick is no slouch when it comes to Richmond. He has three victories and is the defending winner at this track. On April 27th, he won the Toyota Owners 400. Harvick is already locked into the 2013 Chase and will be looking to add another win to his resume.
Johnson, Hamlin and Harvick are three drivers that have great track records at Richmond International Raceway. Does that make them the three drivers to watch? I believe that it does and you should keep an eye on each of them during the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday night. Who are you watching? Share your thoughts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
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