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Last Updated Saturday, Sep 19, 2009 2:28 am, EDT

Chevy Rock & Roll 400

Status: Final Richmond International Raceway

Race Capsule

Richmond International Raceway
  • What:

    Race 26 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, VA

  • When:

    September 12, 2009 7:43 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    400

  • Track Length:

    0.75 miles

  • Race Length:

    300.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,196,568

Drivers to Watch

Mark Martin Martin is hanging on to a 69-point edge over 13th place, but if he makes the Chase, he will leap to the head of the standings based on the bonus points he received from his four Cup victories this season. Martin has two consecutive top-five finishes and has finished in the top 10 in five of his last seven races; four of those finishes were in the top five. Martin has one Richmond win, but that came all the way back in February 1990. He has 16 top-five finishes, including the last three races, and 26 top-10s in 47 starts. He was fifth last September 2008 and again in May. "I like Richmond," Martin said. "I think a lot of the guys like to go race there. It's a great-sized race track, and it's got a lot of grooves to it -- bottom, middle, upper -- really good racing. There is room to race there even though it's a smaller race track. Fans are always great there. Richmond has always been the final race to decide the final cut for the Chase. It seems like that is fitting, it certainly does. It's a racy little short track with a lot of enthusiasm from the fans."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at Richmond, but he has led in the last two races at RIR. "We have qualified good there, but our luck in the race hasn't always been too good," said Truex. "We just need to finish where we qualify, like in the spring when we qualified fourth." He ended up 22nd after leading for 22 laps.
Denny Hamlin Hamlin clinched a position in the Chase on Sunday night and heads to his hometown track attempting to score another victory in the state of Virginia, which would be his first at Richmond. Hamlin has five straight top-10 finishes and has finished in the top 10 in nine of his last 11 starts. He has three top-five finishes and four top-10s in seven Richmond starts. He was third last September and 14th in May. "It is really nice to come back to Richmond for this race knowing that we are in and that we don't have to keep an eye on the points Saturday night," Hamlin said. "Last season we were just slightly to the good, and we knew that we had to maintain our position and keep track of the guys looking to catch us. For this race we know that we can focus only on winning, and that is a good feeling considering just how badly we want to win this race -- and how close we've come in the past. Going out there and running this as a one-off race isn't something we get to do too often, so you'll see us throwing out everything we have on Saturday night, and you'll see other guys who are locked in doing the same thing. Grabbing win bonus points to help us in the Chase wouldn't hurt, either."
Jimmie Johnson Johnson has clinched a Chase berth and will attempt to win a record fourth straight Cup Series championship, but he has been sputtering lately -- he has just one top-10 finish in his last five races. His last victory came at Indianapolis in July, and since then his eighth-place finish at Bristol is his best. Johnson is the defending winner at Richmond and has three wins, four top-five finishes and four top-10s in 15 starts there. The three wins came in his last five starts at Richmond, but he finished 36th in May. "When things really get tough, the experience will hopefully help us make the right decisions and manage the stress that comes with the Chase," Johnson said. "But I'm excited. It's always fun to race at Richmond. I think we'll have a good race there. But looking ahead, I've never felt this good about starting the Chase in the past. Our cars are spot on. Mentally and physically, I'm the best I've ever been. I feel that the team is the same and doing really well. The first few races we'll get a good sense of who is where and who is really going to be a contender in this thing, and hopefully we are one of those guys and we can start grinding it out and wearing these guys down."
Kasey Kahne Kahne jumped ahead in the standings and is in great shape to clinch a Chase berth at Richmond. He won there in May 2005 when he started on the pole. That is one of his two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 11 Richmond starts. He was 19th last September and 29th in May.
Brian Vickers Vickers won the pole for the spring race at Richmond but finished 15th after leading 21 laps. He has only one top-10 finish in 10 starts at RIR. "We were good on the short runs (in May), but we were bad on the long runs," said Vickers. "We think we know why that was. We think we know how to fix it. Hopefully if we can fix the long run part of our race package, then we should be really good because we had one of the fastest cars if not the fastest car earlier this year."
Jeff Gordon Gordon has clinched a spot in the Chase and heads to Richmond hoping to gain another 10 bonus points with a victory. He moved up a spot in the standings after teammate Jimmie Johnson's mechanical issue sent to him to the garage last week at Atlanta. Gordon, who has nine top-10 finishes in the last 12 races, is a two-time Richmond winner and has 12 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes in 33 starts there. He has finished in the top 10 in the last five races at Richmond, including eighth last September and eighth in May. "We're in a good position for this weekend's race since we've already locked up a Chase spot," the four-time Cup champion said. "We're not having to worry about where we are running versus our competitors and if that will get us in the Chase or not. We've been in that position before, and it's not fun. For us, it's about going after the win and the 10 bonus points that go along with it. Richmond is a great track, multiple grooves and a short track. For the drivers, the crews and the fans, it seems to be one of the best tracks and we always like going there. Racing under the lights, it seems to be a very competitive race and a few surprises, a lot of action, and then you throw in there the guys that are trying to make it in the Chase -- there's going to be a lot of exciting things to watch."
Kyle Busch Busch won the spring race at Richmond, and he knows he has to make it two in succession if he wants to have any shot at making the Chase. But Busch has the sort of record at Richmond -- seven top-five finishes in nine starts -- that makes you think he could pull it off. "We feel we can go back there and do well there," said Busch. "I've run well there about every time I've been there. It's going to be hard (to make the Chase). All we can do is do the best we can."
Carl Edwards Edwards has yet to clinch a position in the Chase but, barring any unusual circumstances, should get in Saturday night at Richmond. Edwards has finished out of the top 10 in his last two races (16th at Bristol, 37th at Atlanta) and Richmond is not one of his better tracks -- he has never finished in the top five there and has just three top-10 finishes in 10 starts. He was 13th last September and 26th in May. "Everything is riding on this Richmond race right now," Edwards said. "Last weekend showed me that anything can happen. We aren't guaranteed a spot in the Chase. We are going to Richmond to run as well as we can, and we are going to race hard. It should be an exciting race, and hopefully at the end of the night we are getting pictures taken for the right reasons and we are in the Chase."
Kurt Busch Busch enters the Richmond race just 95 points ahead of 13th place in the standings. That means he will have to stay out of trouble and finish in the top half of the field to clinch a spot in the Chase. In his last five starts, Busch has four top-10 finishes, but he has just one top-10 in his last three Richmond starts. He was 10th last September and 12th in May. Busch has won at Richmond, however -- he drove to victory in this race in 2005 -- and has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 17 Richmond starts. His goal for Saturday night is simple: "Clinch that spot, win the race, earn those extra points for doing so and be ready to really get after it during the 10 Chase races," said Busch, the 2004 series champ. "That sounds like a pretty long list, and rest assured it'll be long on demands in order to accomplish that goal. You'll have most all the teams out there -- all but a select group of teams -- who are in a full-blast, all-out mode, and, unfortunately, we're among that group who can't." Busch enters Richmond seventh in the points and is attempting to make the Chase for the fourth time in the last six seasons. "The overwhelming attitude for a lot of the teams will be to do whatever it takes to win there on Saturday night," he added. "We're still in that group looking to clinch a Chase spot, so we'll have to continuously be looking at the points situation throughout the race."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya is 88 points ahead of 13th place and figures to clinch a spot in the Chase if he stays out of trouble at Richmond. Montoya has two top-five finishes and three top-10s in his last five starts. At Richmond, though, Montoya has just one top-10 finish in five starts, and that came in May. He was 30th in this race last year. "I don't mind racing at Richmond," Montoya said. "The first race there this year we had a top-10. I think we have learned a lot for this Richmond race with the shaker rig and testing and stuff. I think our cars have improved a lot, so we should run pretty good there. The stress is pretty easy. I am not really thinking about it. It is what it is. As a team, everybody on our Target Chevy team just needs to keep doing what we have been doing every week and hopefully it is enough. You can't change things; you can't try to make up in two races what you haven't done in 24. I think we have done a good enough job, and we are going to keep doing the same thing. Our approach is the same, but having a good points race at Atlanta just makes life a little easier."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has three wins and 10 top-10 finishes in 20 starts at Richmond. "I have a lot of confidence going there," he said. "It's easier for me to tell my crew chief what the car is doing at that track than some others, and how to fix it and what we can do to help it. Richmond is a driver's track to where I feel like a driver can play a big role in making the car better."
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished 11th in his first Sprint Cup start at Richmond. "Richmond is a track I enjoy racing at because it is a short track that feels like a mile-and-a-half track," he said. "It's just really fast and smooth."
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger has never fared well at Richmond. In five starts at RIR, his best finish is 21st. "We were OK in the spring (when he finished 21st)," said Allmendinger. "But we know we need to get a lot better. Hopefully we can take what we learned in May and run a whole lot better this time around."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer has one win and three top-10 finishes in seven starts at Richmond. He finished 18th in the spring race. "We came there as a new team and we tried some new things that just didn't work out for us too well," said Bowyer. "We'll go back to what we know works there and we'll be better this time around."
Kevin Harvick Harvick has eight top-10 finishes in the last nine races at Richmond, including a win in the 2006 fall race. Harvick hopes to keep the momentum from his sterling run at Atlanta going this weekend. "Obviously, you want to go out and win, but from where we've been this year, I think Atlanta feels like a win," said Harvick, who ended up second. "We'll just take this momentum and hopefully keep it going."
Ryan Newman Newman is 81 points ahead of 13th place heading to Richmond and can advance into the Chase with a clean race. Newman has two consecutive top-10 finishes, but that broke a streak of four races in which he finished out of the top 10. Newman won in this race in 2003 and has five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 15 Richmond starts. He was 33rd last September and fourth in May. "I'm confident with our team and I'm confident with our abilities, but I just don't know racing-wise if something crazy is going to happen in front of us or whatever," Newman said. "I'm fully capable of running out of talent. I've done it before. I think that we're fully capable of making the Chase, and I really look forward to Richmond. We were really strong there in the spring. Having a different group of drivers trying to make the Chase this year doesn't change anything. You're still racing 42 other guys on a given weekend to try to get those points. No matter who is in the Chase, you're still racing those other guys, and that to me makes more of a difference than who's the other group of 11 that you're competing against."
Jeff Burton Burton finished third in the spring race at Richmond for his second consecutive top-six finish there. Overall, he has one win and 14 top-10 finishes in 30 starts at RIR. "Certainly, Richmond has been a good race track for me," said Burton. "It's a place where we haven't been great, but we've been good. We'll build on what we learned from the spring race, and hopefully we can produce another strong finish."
David Reutimann A year ago, Reutimann finished ninth for his only top-10 finish in five starts at Richmond. He led 104 laps. But in the spring, Reutimann finished 28th. "We know the odds are stacked against us," said Reutimann when asked about making the Chase. "But we are going to try to win the race and see what happens. That is all we can do." Reutimann has to gain 133 points on Matt Kenseth to have any shot at being in the top 12 when the checkered flag falls Saturday night.
Greg Biffle After five straight top-10 finishes at Richmond, Biffle has gone five races with his best finish being a 14th. He finished 17th in the spring. "We've got to run well there, and we didn't run well there in the spring," said Biffle, who needs to finish 11th or better to clinch a spot in the Chase. "We know we just have to execute good and get our car right for this race and do the best we can." Biffle is 68 points ahead of 13th place.
Jamie McMurray McMurray finished a career-best seventh in the spring race at Richmond for his third top-10 finish in 13 starts at the track. McMurray believes one of the keys to having success at Richmond is "making sure you make the most on the restarts. The inside line is the preferred groove to run on."
Joey Logano In his Sprint Cup debut at Richmond, Logano finished 19th. He will be driving a new car. "Our goal this weekend is the same it has been all year -- we want to run better the second time around than we did in the first race," said Logano. "Greg (Zipadelli, the crew chief) believes this car will be lot better than the one we had there in the spring."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth has one win and nine top-10 finishes in 19 starts at Richmond. He finished 13th in the spring. Kenseth knows "we've got to beat all the guys we're around to get in (the Chase). There about five or six guys that are really close in the points (98 points separate ninth from 14th) and whoever outperforms the rest of them will make it in, so we've just got to go out and run as hard as we can and hope our results will be good enough." Kenseth is only 20 points ahead of 13th-place Brian Vickers.
Tony Stewart Stewart was the first to clinch a spot in the Chase and arrives at Richmond looking to regain the momentum he held through most of the season. Since winning at Watkins Glen in August, Stewart has finished out of the top 10 in three straight races -- 17th at Michigan, 33rd at Bristol and 11th at Atlanta. Things could turn around at Richmond, where Stewart is a three-time winner, including his first career Cup win in this race in 1999. He also won there in May 2001 and May 2002. Those are three of his nine top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 21 Richmond starts. Stewart has four straight top-five finishes at Richmond, including second place in his last two starts and three of his last four. Since May 2004, Stewart has eight top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts at Richmond. "I am racing 100 percent pressure free because we have absolutely nothing to lose," Stewart said. "We can't be bumped out of the Chase. We can finish 43rd and it's a non-event. Our goal is to try to do what we can to win and get those 10 extra bonus points. That's our focus -- it's an all-or-nothing for us. We're not going to throw away a car trying to make a stupid mistake to try to get those 10 points, but our goal each weekend is to go out and try to win the race."
Casey Mears Mears finished ninth in the spring race at Richmond for his first top-10 finish in 13 starts at the track. That race was the first one after car owner Richard Childress swapped the crews of the 29 and 07 cars. "For everything we went through that week with the crew changes, it was a pretty good result," said Mears. "Obviously, we're looking forward to going back to Richmond."