Experts' picks: Chevy Rock & Roll 400

Experts' Picks: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: The final race of the regular season has always been something of a tone-setter for the Chase, and I think Busch will re-establish his dominance in the series. He came in second in Richmond in May.
Keep an eye on: Tony Stewart -- In his final season at Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart has been uncharacteristically quiet for the past few weeks. But Stewart is one of the best short track racers on the circuit, and Richmond is one of his favorite tracks. He finished fourth here in the fall.
Don't expect much from: Juan Pablo Montoya -- Montoya's second season in the Cup series has been a major disappointment. Winless and currently 21st in the points, Montoya won't do much at Richmond, where in three career starts his average finish is an underwhelming 33.0
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: Bonus points would be huge for the winless Stewart going into the Chase. Besides, he loves Richmond, having won three times at the track. He could be very dangerous in the Chase, so I'm expecting him to start revving up this week.
Keep an eye on: David Ragan -- The second-year driver is just 17 points out of the 12th and final spot in the Chase. It's now or never, so he'll definitely be going for it. One thing working in his favor: his average finish at Richmond is a very respectable 13.5.
Don't expect much from: Carl Edwards -- I'm not saying he won't be in the top 10, I'm just saying Richmond is not a likely place for him to pick up a win. He's got just three top-10 results there in eight starts, and a ho-hum driver rating of 79.7.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: Busch was in position to win at Richmond in May before contact with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sent the No. 88 car into the wall -- and forced Busch to take bodyguards with him to testing the next week. But while neither car ended up taking the checkers that night -- Clint Bowyer passed Busch -- it was clear the No. 18 was the car to beat in crunch time. Look for Busch to provide an answer to Carl Edwards' recent dominance before the playoffs.
Keep an eye on: David Ragan -- Last year at this race, Ragan pulled through with a career-best third-place finish. If he duplicates that Saturday night, the 22-year-old will earn the most surprising Chase bid in the five-year history of the playoff format.
Don't expect much from: Jeff Gordon -- Gordon hasn't won at Richmond since 2000, and went through a four-race stretch in 2005-06 in which he finished 39th, 40th, 30th and 31st. Gordon can't afford another one of those on Saturday night, otherwise he may be on the outside looking in when the Chase starts at Loudon.
  My Pick: Denny Hamlin
Why he'll win: He dominated this race in May only to have a flat-tire foil his bid at victory. Expect Hamlin's team to bring the same setup and make sure all of his tires are properly inflated and then expect Hamlin to dodge the debris on the track to keep the same fate from happening Saturday night. If he is successful, he may get to seal the deal with a victory on his home track. .
Keep an eye on: Kasey Kahne -- He's going to have to go all out to make the Chase so expect to see Kahne on the gas to get his car to the front. Otherwise, he'll be one of the drivers on the outside looking in when The Chase begins next weekend.
Don't expect much from: Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch -- It began as a great season for Penske Racing as these two drivers finished 1-2 at the Daytona 500. But since then it?s been a constant struggle.
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: His last hoorah with Joe Gibbs Racing begins next week in the Chase for the Championship. This week he'll signal he?s going to make it a wild ride by winning at Richmond, where he has won three times and is almost always competitive.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- It's been a relatively long time since the show has been all about the points-leader. He'll keep pressure on Stewart as Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Major Inconvenience Hanna bears in.
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- Too much pressure and bad mojo for the local product at Richmond. He likely lost a win this spring when a tire went down. Is it all getting in his head?
  My Pick: Denny Hamlin
Why he'll win: Hamlin led 381 laps in May at Richmond, one of the dominant performances of the season, before running over debris and a right-front tire went flat. His Toyota was so much stronger than any other car that it's doubtful anybody has been able to find something to surpass it. Hamlin also has a second, third and sixth in four other starts on his home track and is coming off thirds at Bristol and Fontana.
Keep an eye on: David Ragan -- He was a very long shot to make the Chase at the start of the season and he comes into the final regular season race 17 points behind Clint Bowyer and 31 in front of Kasey Kahne for the 12th spot. Ragan likely needs a top-five run; he was third in this race last year. Bowyer won in May and hasn?t finished out of the top 12 in four other starts at RIR.
Don't expect much from: Brian Vickers -- He has one top-10 in eight starts at Richmond and has been 24th or worse in the other seven, including 28th in May. Vickers has made great strides in his second season at Red Bull, but it would take a leap in performance to get him to the top-10.
  My Pick: Denny Hamlin
Why he'll win: Denny Hamlin loves Richmond and still hasn't qualified for the Chase, which makes him the best candidate to win this race. He's got three top-six finishes at the track in five career starts. He'll be smooth and hungry -- a good combination.
Keep an eye on: Kasey Kahne -- Kasey Kahne has struggled lately, but you can guarantee that he'll make a mad dash to earn a spot in the Chase. He might not win -- though he performs well at Richmond with five top-10 finishes in nine career starts -- but he will be hard-charging.
Don't expect much from: Carl Edwards -- Carl Edwards might be shining in 2008, but Richmond isn't his best track. He finished 42nd in this race last year. His average career finish is 18.9 in eight starts, the high number coming despite his finishing in the top-10 three times.
SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.