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Statistics say that Hamlin is the best driver at Richmond when you use wins, finishes, top-15 finishes, average running position while on lead lap and four other criteria to draw your conclusion. But stats are just that: stats. In reality, Hamlin's 2014 record says something else: He is 15th in points with no wins, one pole and one top-five finish.
Still, Richmond is his home track, which may be why he’s got two wins, two poles and seven top-fives there on his resume. You have to believe that Hamlin’s Darian Grubb-led FedEx team has this race circled on the calendar as theirs to lose.
You almost have to consider Johnson a threat to win at every track the Sprint Cup Series visits. It wasn’t that way at Richmond until recently—2007, to be exact. Richmond was one of his worst tracks, in fact, with only one top-10 in 10 races from 2002-2007. Now it’s one of Johnson's best, as he has two poles, three wins and five top-fives.
The No. 48 team enters strange territory this weekend, as it comes to Richmond winless this far for the first time in two years. Expect crew chief Chad Knaus to have his team focused on turning that situation around from the moment the race car is rolled off the trailer and its wheels hit the ground at RIR.
"Even though we haven’t won, it's still a confidence booster that we are running well," said Johnson in a media release. "The off-weekend was great for everyone, especially my guys, to recharge their batteries so we will be ready to roll at Richmond."
Watch Jeff Gordon the next time he’s being interviewed on television. He’s not a particularly happy guy at the race track right now. That’s because while his race cars are fast and he’s driving better than ever, his team still hasn’t won a race.
The frustration may show on his face, but as a veteran, he knows how to use it to his advantage and drive away from Richmond Saturday night with the winner’s trophy.
The four-time Cup champion has six poles, two wins and a whopping 16 top-fives at Richmond.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior knows this place well, with three wins, one pole and nine top-fives.
“I’m excited to get to the track and in the car for practice and see where we are at,” he said in a pre-race release. “On Saturday, everybody's going to be hunting for the bottom line. The guys that get through the middle, can keep that left-front working that line, are going to have good runs. If you get off the bottom, it's just so slick, you can't really make any ground up there.”
Yeah, he knows this place well. If he’s got a good car Saturday, watch out.
Richmond is a special place for Stewart, who won there in his first full year as a Cup driver (1999). Ever since then, he’s rarely had a bad race at RIR.
Stewart says the key to winning here is to race the racetrack.
“It just seems like a place where if you can get the balance right it makes it an extremely fun day,” he said. “With the two ends of the track being different like they are, it seems like you’re always fighting something, but that’s what always makes the racing good, too.
“You never really get anybody who gets their car perfect. Even the guy that gets the lead still isn’t happy with his car.”
Stewart has three wins and 11 top-fives at the track.
Saving the best for last.
Four wins, one pole and 12 top-fives. Busch’s mastery of Richmond International Raceway dates back to the spring race of 2009.
He says the keys to a win here are brakes and handling.
“The consensus of Richmond is of course just trying to get your car to turn, but yet having really good forward bite,” said Busch in a pre-race release. “You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. You have to have good brakes as well, too, and be able to turn the center.”