Crown Royal Presents the Russ Friedman 400: Winners and Losers

Patti RodischAnalyst IMay 3, 2009

RICHMOND, VA - MAY 02:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Combos Toyota, celebrates in victory lane with his  girlfriend Samantha Sarcinella (L) after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Russ Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway on May 2, 2009 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Since the repaving of Bristol, Richmond has become one of the best races of the year. Drivers can run multiple grooves and the racing is the best we see all year. Check out who’s this week’s winners and losers at Richmond.

 

Winners

Kyle Busch

A Birthday and a weekend sweep at Richmond. Kyle Busch came so close last year to winning at Richmond.

This year he wasn’t very good early on he struggled on the long runs, but as always this team was able to improve as the night wore on and were able to pull out a victory.

Busch and team continued to improve their car and took advantage of the field when some went off sequence for track position, Busch battled his way to the lead and never lost it.

Happy Birthday!

When will the fans realize the more you boo the happier this kid is.

Points: Fifth

 

Jeff Burton

At one point this team had wrecked with Dale Earnhardt Jr., oddly the wreck made them better.

For them to pull off a top five finish is impressive. Had there been a few cautions in the last 25 laps this team might have been able to catch eventual winner Busch.

Burton might be the one to look out for the next couple weeks all at track where he has ran well.

He is the highest sitting RCR driver in the points.

Points: Seventh

 

Ryan Newman

It wasn’t just a few weeks ago when this team looked liked they wouldn't even break the top 20 let alone the top 12. Leaving Richmond in the top 12 is important and this team is in the top 12 and looking for more.

The US Army Chevy was one of the three best cars out there on Saturday, had they not hit Mark Martin and lost those positions he would have had a shot at the win.

Instead they had to battle back for a top five finish.

If you wondered if he questioned his move from Penske Racing to Stewart Haas Racing that big smile on his face after his top five finish should answer that question.

Points: 10th

 

Jeff Gordon

It wasn’t pretty; actually at times it was downright awful. Jeff Gordon was frustrated from the start. No matter what this team tried the car wouldn’t hook up.

So with track position key and the 24 crew unable to pass in traffic they stayed out on a late caution and never hit pit road again. Busch ended up passing him to take the lead for good, but the 24 on much older tires didn't have much of a shot to hold off Busch.

He ended up finishing eighth.This team needed this run to change momentum.

Their short track program needs work but overall this finish stopped the bleeding after a two race skid of finishes 20th or worse this finish should be welcomed.

After a stellar pit stop that took the team from a fifth place car to a second place car, Gordon asked, “How the hell did we get to second?” It was that kind of night.

Points: First

 

Losers

Kevin Harvick

Talladega aside Kevin Harvick has had a bad season. Since his win in the shootout this team has been on a downward spiral. There have not been many bright spots this season, they have switched crew chiefs with struggling Casey Mears and the struggles continued on Saturday.

They were in the top 10 for most of the day until he blew a tire and essentially ended their day. This team can’t afford to keep losing points.

Too many other drivers are having good years for Harvick to bounce back he needs to knock off some strong finishes and some collect some wins otherwise he will be on the outside looking in come this fall.

Harvick is probably wondering what it will take for this team to find some good luck.

Points: 23rd

 

Denny Hamlin

For the second year in a row this team led the most laps but couldn’t close the deal. Last year it was a flat tire, this year it was a pit road mistake. This mistake was costly; they were never able to recover and had to settle for another disappointing finish of 14th.

The pit road mistake cost them but the adjustment they made also sent them backwards while teammate Busch was moving forward.

Before the costly stop they were darn near impossible to catch.

How many more races will Hamlin dominate only to be unable to close the deal late?

Points: Fourth

 

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson worked so hard last week to avoid the big one and he ends up getting caught up in the second big one. Coming into Richmond he was one of the favorites.

Strong practice runs, and an okay qualifying this team was looking for a rebound. Well Richmond would not be the place.

They struggled all night long. They had a poor pit stop, then a penalty and the day went downhill from there. They had brake issues and  then got caught up in accident ending their day and sending them home with another finish outside the top 20 with a 36th place finish.

Darlington isn’t their best track but they must be licking their chops for Lowes a track he has owned.

Points: Sixth

 

Lucky Dog

There were a few drivers who should’ve and could’ve been on the winners list:

-Casey Mears, its only one race but this team fell off the lead lap and battled back for a top 10 finish. This was a strong run for a driver that has been struggling. Points: 20th

-Kurt Busch, he had a strong run going until they fell behind on adjustments and finished 12th. But this team is clearly a contender and will be a force to reckon with this season. Points: Second

-Marcos Ambrose, after he was involved in a accident this team rallied and pulled off top top 15 finish in 11th. Clearly this team is running well, if they can find some consistency then who knows where they could end up. Points: 19th

 

Final Lap…

So Richmond sort of lived up to its reputation, the racing was good but we have seen better at this track. I was impressed with the drivers that were able to bounce back after spinning out, or being involved in accidents.

Richmond is usually a signal of the chase nearly 80 percent of the drivers in the top 12 will make the chase come the checkered flag come Richmond in the fall.

If that is true there will be some big name drivers looking in. Drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin and few others.  This means it’s time to get on it.

Now on to Darlington and the lady in black, Kyle Busch won the race last year, and will be looking to make it two in a row.

Race Grade: B...coverage was okay, but this by far wasn’t the best race we have seen at Richmond.