For drivers trying to get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, such as Kyle Busch (pictured), this weekend is critical. But it carries weight for all 43 drivers -- those locked into the Chase field, those trying to get there and those simply seeking a win. Richmond International Raceway is a tough short track where tempers flare and rubbing really is racing. So which drivers have a solid history of top Richmond finishes and should excel on this Virginia oval?
Edwards has nothing to lose this weekend -- so look for him to go all-out for the victory at Richmond. He's seeking his first win of the year after finishing as the series' runnerup in 2011. Is Richmond the place for him to step up? Edwards has 16 starts at the track, but has yet to win there. He has eight top-10 finishes, three of them top fives, for an average finish of 14.813. He has led 442 laps at Richmond and has started from the pole position once.
The four-time champ is in the unusual position of needing to break into the Chase field this weekend. He needs a win to most easily guarantee his spot, though there are a variety of other scenarios that could net him a wild-card berth. Gordon certainly has the history at Richmond to do just that. In 39 starts at the track, he has two wins. He has 24 top-10 finishes, 15 of them top fives, for an average finish of 14.692. He has led 1,413 laps at the track. He also has five pole positions.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr. is locked into the Chase as well. He's shown flashes of dominance at Richmond over the years, socan he do that once more? In 26 starts at the track, he has three victories. Earnhardt Jr. has 11 top-10 finishes at the track, nine of them top fives, with an average finish of 13.923. He has led 427 laps at Richmond.
Martin scored a 10th-place finish at Atlanta in the Michael Waltrip Racing entry he's sharing this season. And he could certainly be a threat at Richmond. Martin has amassed 53 starts at the track. He has one victory there, with 29 top-10 finishes, 17 of them top fives. He brings an average finish of 12.133 with 449 laps led at Richmond. He also has earned five pole positions at the track.
Newman is still in the battle for a wild-card berth at Richmond. If he wins, he'll have two victories and should secure the final slot in the field. How confident can he and his Stewart-Haas Racing team be? Newman has one victory in 21 starts at the track. He has 12 top-10 finishes, five of them top fives, with an average finish of 11.81. He has led 437 laps. Newman also has a Richmond pole to his credit.
Harvick is among those locked into the Chase field, but he's hungering for a win. He has yet to make it to Victory Lane in 2012. In 23 starts, Harvick has two wins at Richmond. He has 14 top-10 finishes, six of them top fives, and one pole position. He has an average finish of 11.783 with 942 laps led there.
Technically, Stewart is trying to lock into the Chase field at Richmond. But with three wins to his credit, he's assured at least a wild-card berth. However, he needs to remain in the top 10 to get the bonus points for those victories. Can he add to his win tally at Richmond? In 27 starts at the short track, Stewart has won three times. He has 18 top-10 finishes, 10 of them top fives, for an average finish of 10.593. He has led 935 laps at the track.
Bowyer is locked into the Chase heading into the race, but he'd certainly like a win there -- especially after dealing with some setbacks in recent races. In 13 starts at Richmond, he has one victory. He has seven top-10 finishes, one of them a top five, for an average finish of 10.231 at the track. He has led 75 laps at Richmond.
Hamlin is on a roll, winning the two most recent Sprint Cup races. Can he continue that streak at Richmond? Right now, Hamlin has four wins and at least a share of the lead once the Chase standings are reset with bonus points for wins this season. At Richmond, in 13 starts Hamlin has two wins. He has also picked up nine top-10 finishes, seven of them top fives, for an average finish of 7.308. He has led 1,188 laps at the track and also won two pole positions there.
Busch has a little more breathing room than some of his fellow wild-card contenders at Richmond. After all, he is ahead of all of the one-race winners heading into Richmond. Still, he's not locked in yet. How good is his chance to do so at Richmond? Excellent. In 15 starts at Richmond, Busch has four wins. He has 13 top-10 finishes, 12 of them top fives, for an average finish of 4.733. He also has a pole position to his credit and has led 891 laps at the track.