NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Richmond Track Trends, Race Preview, etc

TRACK: Richmond Raceway (.75 mile oval). DISTANCE: 400 Laps — STAGE 1: 70 Laps, STAGE 2: 160 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 170 Laps (300 Miles)

This will be the 131st race of the history of NASCAR and the Cup Series at Richmond but this year, both races will take place under day time conditions instead of night making both races one in the same but also differing than last year that raced under the lights.

  • The Toyota’s are the heavy favorites with them sweeping the action at Richmond in 2018 and 2019 to go along with eight trips to victory lane in the last 12 starts on the .75-mile D-Shaped Virginia oval. JGR went 1-2-3-4 across the finish line in Sept. 2019 as their top feat.
  • Starting position matters too with nine top five starters having won the last 13 Cup races on the .75-mile D-Shaped oval. Alex Bowman 24th last April but Martin Truex Jr. third last Fall.
  • 3 of the last 5 Richmond races saw the eventual winner finish in the top 2 of the second stage each time. Truex Jr. was third last Fall.
  • In 2018, Truex Jr. swept both stages in the playoff race but didn’t win. Same for Joey Logano in the spring race that year. Same for Denny Hamlin in April of last year. In 2017, the winner was 10th in both stages in the spring race and second and sixth respectively in the Fall. Kyle Busch’s Fall race win in 2018 was the only time that a driver won the race and didn’t finish in the points for any stage since the stage inception in 2017.

TRACK COMPARISONS

Flat like Phoenix. You can be aggressive with a 2 pit strategy in the final stage that might make it interesting as long as everyone doesn’t do the same thing. Day race though will be more abrasive on tires.


Favorites

Martin Truex Jr. 

He has to be the overall favorite, right? Truex, swept both Richmond races in 2019 and was runner-up in 2020. He also won the Fall race last year and was fifth in the spring. He has 3 top 8 finishes in his last 4 starts on the season.

Denny Hamlin

He was runner-up in both races last year including leading 207 laps in the spring and 197 in the Fall. Hamlin, has nine top six finishes in his last 11 Richmond starts.

Kyle Busch

He has seven straight top nine results including a top two in nearly half of his last 12 Richmond starts.

Joey Logano

A fifth last Fall following two straight third place finishes and a runner-up in the spring race of 2019 gives Logano three top threes in his last five Richmond starts including four of which being in the top five.

Ross Chastain

Was in the top 10 last Fall and enters not only having a win in his back pocket last weekend, but he has 4 straight top 3 results on the season too.

Sleepers

Christopher Bell

He was fourth and third respectively last year. Bell, enters having a third place result last Sunday.

Aric Almirola

He has three top eight finishes in his last six Richmond starts including an eighth place run in 2020 and sixth back in April of last year.

Austin Dillon

He surprised everyone in 2020 with a fourth place run at Richmond, but, he’s also had three top six results in his last six tries there overall too and was 10th in April of last year and 11th in the Fall.

Tyler Reddick

His teammate runs well in Richmond and here Reddick was with an 11th place result on this very race track in 2020. Reddick, also had three straight top 10 finishes in his NXS career at Richmond as well but was only 20th and 15th last year. I still have him as a sleeper due to him being in the top 7 in 3 of the last 4 weeks.

Chase Briscoe

Not much past stats to go off of but he won Phoenix so why not?


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – APRIL 18: Cole Custer, driver of the #41 HaasTooling.com Ford, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 18, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Who To Fade?

Kyle Larson

Weird saying this, but Richmond hasn’t been a kind track to Larson lately. For his odds this week, I’d fade him. He’s not had a top five finish in his last six Richmond starts including being 18th in April of last year and sixth in the playoff race. 4 of his 6 results this season have seen him finish 29th or worse.

Chase Elliott

Here’s another odd one. Three of Elliott’s last five Richmond starts have seen him finish 12th or worse. He has 1 top five all year and no oval wins since his last in Nov. 2020 at Phoenix.

William Byron

0 top 5’s and 0 laps led in his career at Richmond. For his odds, I’d avoid him this weekend.

Kevin Harvick

He was seventh in the Fall race of 2019, seventh in the lone race of 2020, 24th and eight respectively last year.

Ryan Blaney

Not one of his better tracks. He just scored his first top 10 last Fall in his 11th start.

Brad Keselowski

At one point was hard to bet against him at Richmond. He won the lone race on the Virginia short track in 2020 and had seven top 10’s in his last 8 starts there entering last season. Then he was only 14th and 13th last year and is now with a new team.


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – APRIL 18: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 18, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Race Preview

This is what you’d call a get right race for Joe Gibbs Racing right? They’ve won 8 of the last 12 races in Richmond and need a result as badly as anyone else. They’re 0-for-6 to start 2022 off with and haven’t won at all in the last 12 races including just 3 wins in the last 24 in general.

But, can you just flip a switch that quickly?

I think so. Here’s why.

Christopher Bell was fourth and third respectively last year in Richmond. He enters off of a 3rd place finish last weekend and if not for a penalty in Atlanta on the last lap, would have had a top three that day as well. He crossed the finish line second that day.

Martin Truex Jr. has to be the overall favorite, right? Truex, swept both Richmond races in 2019 and was runner-up in 2020. He also won the Fall race last year and was fifth in the spring. He’s coming into the weekend with 3 top 8’s in the last 4 weeks. Also, 11 of his first 19 Cup wins were on intermediate tracks. It wasn’t until his 20th win that came via a short track. But, over his last 11 trips to victory lane, 8 have come on tracks 1-mile in length or shorter including each of his last six. In fact, 3 of those last 8 came at the Richmond Raceway.

Denny Hamlin has no top 10’s all season but was runner-up in both races last year including leading 207 laps in the spring and 197 in the Fall. Hamlin, has nine top six finishes in his last 11 Richmond starts.

Kyle Busch has seven straight top nine results including a top two in nearly half of his last 12 Richmond starts.

The thing is, you get them for all great odds at the moment. That could change after qualifying in the sense that Bell has 3 top 7 qualifying efforts in the last 4 weeks. Hamlin has 4 top 8’s in his last 5 qualifying tries with Busch having 5 of his 7 races see him come from the top 6 Rows and Truex Jr. the only one without a solid qualifying effort but also 9 of his last 10 in Richmond him starting in the top 4 rows at that. For Hamlin, he’s started in the top 4 rows in 7 of his last 8 at Richmond while Busch has a top 10 start in 4 of the last 5 and Bell in 2 of his 3.

Those odds could really drop on Saturday night for these four. However, Vegas doesn’t necessarily trust in them in the fact that they’re all behind the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Kyle Larson (9-1) and Chase Elliott (9-1) in odds.

Last year, Truex Jr. was listed as the favorite at 4-1. Hamlin was 6-1. They’re 10-1 and 12-1 respectively now.

Plus, do you really trust HMS? While they’ve been the most dominant team in NASCAR the last couple of years with 2 championships to go along with 3 wins in the last 5 weeks as well as 8 of the last 11 overall if you go back to last year, they’re 1-for-25 in the last 25 Richmond races though.

Alex Bowman won last spring but it was more of a fluke rather than on merit. The race that day was a JGR/Penske battle that saw a late caution swing the race in Bowman’s favor.

Chase Elliott did finish fifth last year and was second and fourth respectively in 2018, but he’s also been outside of the top 10 in seven of his other nine Richmond starts and has just 1 top five all year. He’s also not won on an oval since Phoenix (2020).

William Byron has never scored a top five or eve led a lap at Richmond before as the spring race was his first top 10 at that.

Kyle Larson has no top fives in his last six starts there.

Plus, when HMS hasn’t been contending for wins this season, they’ve not been on their games. Larson has 4 finishes of 29th or worse. Bowman has 2 top 5 and 2 results of 24th or worse too. Byron has 2 top fives but 3 finishes of 18th or worse including 2 outside the top 30 as well.

Of Note

Each of the last 12 winners in Cup competition have been under the age of 30.


Key Stat

Richmond has been a championship precursor lately. All 4 Championship 4 drivers were in the top 6 last Fall and half were in the top five last spring. In 2020, 3 of the 4 were in the top five in the Fall race (only race of 2020 at Richmond). For 2019, they went 1-2-3-7 in the Fall race and 1-4-5-8 in the spring. In 2018, they went 1-2-3-14 in the Fall race and 1-4-5-14 in the spring.

Translation? At least 2 of the top 5 in the spring race will make the Championship 4 and at least 3 of the top 5 in the Fall race will also race for the championship.

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