Print and Go Back 2007 [Print without images]

Monday, September 3, 2007
Updated: September 4, 12:58 PM ET
Driver Pick 'Em Preview: Richmond

By Christopher Harris

Here are my picks -- and the logic behind them -- for the 10 Driver Pick 'Em matchups for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, a race that will begin about 7:45 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Jimmie Johnson vs. Kevin Harvick
Suddenly, Harvick is hanging on to his Chase position by his fingernails; he's 12th in points, and though he's 128 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., disaster could still strike. If Happy crashes out early and Junior posts a top-5, the unthinkable could happen. Fortunately for the No. 29, this is a great track for Harvick. He won this event last fall and had the best car this spring before he crashed with David Ragan in the pits. Johnson won that Car of Tomorrow event, by the way. Still, this is a way better track for Harvick. Pick: Harvick.

Tony Stewart vs. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin probably wants to win here too much; it's his home venue, and he's been really close before, having finished second in spring of '05 and third this spring. Stewart hasn't won here since '02, but he's usually good for a top-10. This is a tough duel between teammates, but I'll give the hometown kid the slight nod. Pick: Hamlin.

Kyle Busch vs. Mark Martin
Martin's history at Richmond epitomizes his career: always a bridesmaid, rarely a bride. Martin has an incredible 23 top-10 finishes here in 43 career starts, but only one victory. He's back in the DEI No. 01 this weekend, and he'll be solid, but he's up against a kid who has finished second, second, fifth, fourth and fourth at this track. There's no way I can pick against the No. 5 here. Pick: Kyle Busch.

Jeff Gordon vs. Matt Kenseth
The series leader has flagged a bit lately, having failed to top 19th place in the past three races. His troubles date to Watkins Glen, where he led on the race's final lap before spinning himself out, and frankly, Richmond hasn't been a great track for him lately. Granted, he finished fourth here in the spring, but that was back when Hendrick had a ridiculous COT edge over the field; that's no longer the case, and Gordon was 31st, 40th, 30th and 39th the four Richmond races before May. Kenseth has been far more consistent here. Pick: Kenseth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. vs. Kurt Busch
Richmond is a really good track for Junior. He has three wins here, most recently in spring 2006, and he's also gotten much more solid in the COT. His average finish in non-roadie COT events is 10.4, fifth-best in the series. Busch is red-hot, though, having posted eight straight finishes of 11th or better, and he won here in fall '05. Still, Junior seems to drive very well when he's desperate for points, and he's desperate for points. Pick: Earnhardt.

Carl Edwards vs. Jeff Burton
Edwards is another guy insinuating himself into the Chase championship discussion, with four straight top-10s and finishes the past two weeks of first and second. He's not all that great at Richmond, with just two top-10s here in six tries. Burton isn't a lot better, though. He has just one top-10 here in his past seven races. Both guys are steady, but Edwards has been better in the COT, especially lately. Pick: Edwards.

Ryan Newman vs. Greg Biffle
Two disappointed dudes square off here; both were eliminated from the Chase at Fontana this past weekend. Newman used to be very good at Richmond, having posted a win and two second-places in his first four tries at this track. Since then, though, he's been much more up-and-down. Biffle was steady as could be at Richmond, posting five straight top-10s here, until this May, when he finished 19th. I like how Flyin' Ryan has looked in the COT lately. Pick: Newman.

Clint Bowyer vs. Martin Truex Jr.
Speaking of fingernails. … Each of these guys is still in the Chase, but either could fall out with a blown engine and a top-5 from Earnhardt. As such, you shouldn't expect to see either of these guys take a lot of risks Saturday night. I have to select Bowyer here. I know Truex won a COT race at Dover, and I know he's been more consistent lately. But Bowyer's career Richmond Cup finishes go like this: ninth, 12th, 10th. Truex's go like this: 28th, 40th, 41st. Pick: Bowyer.

Elliott Sadler vs. Kasey Kahne
Kahne has seen a sudden reversal of fortune. Sure, his second at Bristol was impressive, but it was much more interesting to see him hang in the top 10 at Fontana, where aerodynamics are so important. The Evernham Dodges have been disastrous all season in such circumstances, but Kahne might have started to reverse that. Richmond is much less aero-sensitive, and horsepower is king. These cars should have similar engine packages, but I have to ride the hot hand here. Pick: Kahne.

Bobby Labonte vs. Dave Blaney
Lightly heralded but talented veterans square off in this tilt. Labonte has worked his way up to 17th in points, which is sort of patronizingly impressive for a team you almost never hear mentioned on race day. Blaney gets far more camera time, mostly because every week he runs pretty well, then somehow encounters trouble and finishes 40th. I have to think Blaney will get some good luck rolling at some point. Maybe it'll be this week; Richmond's a very good track for him. Pick: Blaney.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for You can e-mail him here.