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Dustin Off the Next Race: Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond

Dustin ParksAnalyst IApril 30, 2010

RICHMOND, VA - MAY 02:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Combos Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane with his crew 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 Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Now that the scars and bruises have healed from Talladega, the focus now shifts to the exact opposite kind of racing.

Forget the restrictor plates, forget the drafting. When it comes to racing at Richmond, it's short tempers, intense action, and a shootout for the victory.

This race will be one of three night races in the month of May. There's no better way to kick off a month-long run of racing under the lights.

So let's dust off the statistics and let me give you my hot drivers for this year's running of the Crown Royal presents the Heath Calhoun 400.

FAVORITES

Kyle Busch

Obviously, last year's winner will be the one at the top of the list. Busch loves this style of racing and has been extremely good at Richmond.

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To go with his win, he has eight top-five and eight top-10 finishes. You cannot argue with a run like that.

This track has always been good to Joe Gibbs Racing, so I wouldn't be shocked if Rowdy breaks his winless streak on Saturday.


Denny Hamlin

Despite Busch winning this race last year, it was his teammate getting to spray the champagne in the fall race.

Hamlin has long said that Richmond is his favorite race track. It could be because it's his home track, but that is just a small reason why. However, he has relatively good statistics at the 0.75-mile d-shaped oval.

Coupled with his win he has four top-five and five top-10 finishes. That may seem like a low number, but remember Hamlin has experienced a lot of bad luck here. That luck has kept him out of victory lane, but has not kept him from leading laps.

The No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota is my pick for this race. Hamlin already has one win in Virginia, he very well could make it two.

Jeff Burton

While on the subject of Virginia-born drivers, I cannot count out South Boston's own Jeff Burton.

Here's another guy this season that has experienced hard luck and kept him from victory lane. Sure, teammate Kevin Harvick has been running well as has Clint Bowyer, but Burton has been the RCR driver that's been consistent each week.

His statistics at Richmond are relatively good, one win, eight top-fives and 14 top-10s in his career.

I wouldn't be shocked if the "mayor" of the garage is the one celebrating under the lights.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

This week I'm changing it up and doing four favorites with one sleeper. Why, simply because statistics show that this driver is a good choice to win.

Earnhardt Jr. admitted last week that he would've been up front contending for the win, but just chose the wrong line to go in. It could've happened to any driver, so it did not hurt his momentum on the season.

This track has been very kind to Junior. Three wins, eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes are nothing to shy away from. He is very good at Richmond, and I expect nothing less this year.

Junior is in a good groove right now with his team, and he will look to continue that Saturday. The National Guard/Amp Energy team will be hard to beat.

SLEEPER

Kasey Kahne

Here's a team that needs to find some consistency. Kahne has always been a driver we expect to be up front every week with the top names in NASCAR.

This year, he's had the kind of luck Earnhardt Jr. did last season. Had many great runs, but not the finishes to prove it. He only has two top-five and three top-10 finishes through the season's first nine races.

He needs to find that sweet spot to get going. Richmond is where Kahne got his first win back in 2005, but only has two other top-five finishes at the short track.

If he wants to leave RPM on a good note, he needs to start now. Otherwise it will be a long season for the No. 9 team.

Should hot tempers, bright lights, and short tracks be what you enjoy, Saturday night will be your kind of race. The Heath Calhoun 400 will go green shortly after 7:30 p.m. on FOX.

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