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NASCAR At Richmond 2012: Viewer's Guide For Tonight's Race

It's NASCAR race night in Richmond, and here are some storylines and drivers to watch heading into tonight's race:


A Kyle Busch Breakthrough?

Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing prior to the 2008 season, Kyle Busch has won 23 races. Yet this year, Busch is still winless as he and crew chief Dave Rogers have struggled to get their fleet of Toyotas handling to Busch's liking. As such, the 18 team has just one top-five on the year and sits 14th in points.

But with three victories, 11 top-fives and 12 top-10s in 14 career starts on the .75-mile oval, if there was a track for Busch to get healthy, Richmond would certainly be it.

Denny Hamlin rolls into Richmond

Following a win last Sunday at Kansas, not only does Virginia native Denny Hamlin roll into Richmond as the conquering hero, he has an excellent chance of winning his second consecutive race and his third of the season. And outside of maybe his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate mentioned above, Hamlin is as good as it gets on the short track.

Winless Drivers

We all know about Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak, which now stands at 137 races. But there are quite a few other notable drivers who would love to see their victory droughts come to an end tonight.

Among them is Martin Truex Jr., who hasn't won since June 2007 at Dover – a span of 175 races – but he is coming off a runner-up finish in Kansas which moved him up to second in points. Then there is pole-sitter Mark Martin, who is at 87 races and counting, along with outside pole-sitter Carl Edwards, who has seen 41 races go by since his last victory.

Practice in the daylight, race in the night

Because practice and qualifying take place when the sun is out and the race is under the evening stars, an issue all teams struggle with at Richmond is dialing their cars from practice to race conditions. Which is why it's not surprising to see a driver fall back early as they fight the handling on their car but battle back later once they figure out the proper adjustments to make.

Worth Noting

• Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the only three drivers to have completed every lap in 2012.

• Since opening its doors in 1953, Richmond has hosted 111 total races, of which 79 percent have been won by a driver starting somewhere in the top 10.

• Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson each have three victories at Richmond, most among active drivers.


1. Denny Hamlin

Considering they've won a combined five of the last six races held at Richmond, you can't go wrong with either Denny Hamlin or Kyle Busch. Hamlin gets the nod because he's won this year – twice, actually, including last week – whereas Busch hasn't.

2. Kyle Busch

Three wins and an average finish of fifth says all you need to know about how well Kyle Busch navigates his way around the D-shaped short track.

3. Kevin Harvick

By his standards, Kevin Harvick has had a relatively quiet 2012 season thus far – though I'm not certain five top-10s in eight starts can exactly be referred to as quiet. Regardless, Harvick should be up among the leaders tonight and in contention looking for his first victory since winning here last fall.


Is this the week Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally gets back to Victory Lane? Well, why not? After all, Earnhardt Jr. has won this race three times (2000, ‘04 and ‘06) and was the quickest in yesterday's final practice. Keep in mind though; he hasn't finished better than 16th in his last six Richmond starts.