The Richmond International Raceway is going to end the regular season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. There have been many twists, shake-ups, surprises, and outrageous moments through 25 races.
But now, one race will decide how the remainder of the season will go.
Last week, Tony Stewart would dominate at Atlanta, putting the No. 14 Chevrolet in victory lane for the first time this season. At the same time, eight more drivers locked themselves into the 2010 Chase for the Cup.
That leaves the 11th and 12th spot up for grabs at a track that has been named "Racing Perfection."
Stewart's win last week was good enough to give one of our creatures another 10 bonus points heading into the Chase. Now, it comes down to one final race, and the regular season champion will be crowned. But then, the standings get shuffled and business gets serious.
Everyone is vying for another 10 bonus points when New Hampshire comes around next weekend. Our creatures know what's at stake, and are hoping the driver they chose will get the job done.
Here are the creature picks for Saturday night's Air Guard 400:
Misan Ayuka: Tony Stewart
My stick with Smoke worked as Tony found his way to victory lane dominating leading 176 laps. Tony has several times in his career won back to back races in a season, and with momentum expect them to be strong at Richmond.
Stewart has three wins, nine top-five's, 15 top-10's , 817 laps led and an average finish of 10th. Smoke is a legitimate championship contender so look for him to pick up another 10 bonus points heading into the chase trying to pick up his 3rd championship.
Kyle Brandt: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
James Broomhead: Denny Hamlin
Hamlin is NASCAR's master of the flat track. Although his season has fallen from the heights of the spring, a return to Richmond, where he has several wins across the various series, is the perfect place for Hamlin to regain some momentum before the chase.
Billy Fellin: Kyle Busch
In the last race before the chase, I'm going with the No. 18 car. Even though he's going to be driving a car straight out of a 5-year-old girl's toy box, he's been very good at Richmond in the past.
Christopher Leone: Kyle Busch
Not picking him at Richmond is to bet on the snowball in hell. True, he only has two wins in 11 starts, but nine top five finishes? Zero finishes off the lead lap? Over 10 percent of a possible 4,410 laps spent in front?
Kara Martin: Denny Hamlin
While Kyle Busch may be the man to beat since his statistics at RIR are ridiculous, I am looking for a repeat performance this year by Hamlin.
The Virginia native is an obvious fan favorite to win in Richmond and with both drivers already locked into the Chase, it will be a battle of who wants it the most.
Dustin Parks: Denny Hamlin
You cannot look at just one race and say, "This man can't get it done." That is not the case with Hamlin. Atlanta was a race where he didn't know the engine was going sour until that cloud of smoke came from under the hood.
I still feel that Hamlin can get the momentum he needs to get a championship run going. What better place than his own back yard in Richmond. Hamlin is the defending race winner at this track. Add in four top-fives and four more top-10's, he is bound to see the front of the field at some point.
This race is all about momentum heading into the Chase. A victory at the hometown track will give Hamlin an unlimited amount of confidence.
Patti Rodisch: Kyle Busch
It’s hard to pick against Busch any week to be honest. He is always a threat to win any race. This weekend will be no exception. Busch has owned Richmond International Raceway in recent years.
He got the better of Jeff Gordon in May and will be looking for the season sweep at RIR. His numbers there back up my pick. Busch has two wins, nine top-fives and nine top-10 finishes. His average finish is a stout 5.5, and has led 624 laps at RIR.
Busch will be in victory lane on Saturday night.
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
The circuit returns to one of the venues in which the No. 24 team came oh so close to winning a race, only to be bested at the end on a late race restart. This time, crew chief Steve Letarte and driver Jeff Gordon get it together and validate their place as a Chase contender with a victory on Saturday night at Richmond.
Just 10 years back, when the team was in dire need of an important win, Gordon took the checkered flag over the late great Dale Earnhardt in what was a triumph that defined the team for the rest of the 2000 season and their title the following year.
Look for much of the same, without controversy, in this classic late summer harbinger.
Alan Wade: Kyle Busch
Kyle flat out dominated the spring race. I was there and it looked like the rest of the field really never even had a chance.
I think this weekend might just be a repeat performance for the No. 18 team.
Kara Martin (3,502) Carl Edwards finished second (2)
Christopher Leone (3,499) Carl Edwards finished second (4)
Billy Fellin (3,445) Kurt Busch finished sixth (3)
James Broomhead (3,385) Carl Edwards finished second (3)
Dustin Parks (3,383) Kurt Busch finished sixth (3)
Misan Akuya (3,293) Tony Stewart won (2)
Rob Tiongson (3,280) Kurt Busch finished sixth (1)
Patti Rodisch (2,790) Kurt Busch finished sixth (0)
Alan Wade (1,722) Kurt Busch finished sixth (1)
Kyle Brandt (927) NO PICK SENT (2)
This race has so much meaning to every driver, crew member, and fan that it is expected to be one of the wildest races of the year. Anything can happen and there is no shortage of headlines to look out for.
It will be on the wheel, aggressive driving when the green flag flies. At the end of 400 miles, there will be many people celebrating, while many others will wonder what they could have done differently.
Hold on tight, cause 7:30 p.m. will come quicker than anyone expects on Saturday. It is going to be one wild ride.
Summary of Picks:
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