Now that practice and qualifying are over, who wins Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN)? My picks

RICHMOND, VA — Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series action is in the books. Practice as well as qualifying are done. Now, who wins Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN)?

Starting position matters in a way 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.

The thing is, among the top five starters, four of them combine for 3 top 10’s, 0 top 5’s in 29 Richmond starts together. Do you trust one of them to win?

Neither do I.

The Toyota’s to me 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.

They’ll start P3-P6-P9-P13. The race can be won from there.

Kyle Busch was fastest in practice and qualified third. He has 8 straight top 10’s on this track including 11 in the last 12 starts overall. This was also his 4th top 3 row starting position in Richmond in the last 6 starts too.

Busch, has made 32 Richmond starts by himself with more wins (6) than their top 10’s. In fact, his wins double their combined top 10’s.

Does this set up for a Busch win Sunday?

Martin Truex Jr. rolls off sixth. It’s the 10th time of his last 11 at Richmond that he’s started in the top 4 rows. He’s also 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.

In his Richmond wins, he started 5th (spring 2019), 8th (Fall 2019) and 3rd (Fall 2021). Being sixth is within that striking distance.

Christopher Bell now has 4 top 10’s in his last 5 qualifying tries and was in the top 10 for 3 of his 4 Richmond starts. He finished 4th and 3rd respectively last year.

Denny Hamlin was the most off in 18th (practice) and 13th (qualifying) but 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.

In saying that, Hendrick Motorsports had the best odds entering the weekend. 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. He’ll start 28th.

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). He was 20th in practice and qualified 15th.

Byron is on the front row but his stats aren’t great even with starting towards the front while Kyle Larson has no top fives in his last six starts and rolls off just 21st.

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.

Top 5 Finishers

  1. 18 KyBusch – Too obvious here. Would be 9th straight top 10 including 4 of which in the top 2.
  2. 19 Truex Jr. – Would be 7th straight top 5 including 5 of the last 6 in the top 2.
  3. 1 Chastain – He’s on a hot streak so why not? He was 9th in practice and qualified 8th. He enters with 4 straight top 3 finishes at that.
  4. 4 Harvick – Restarted on the front row late in Phoenix but finished 6th. He has 6 top 8 finishes in his last 7 Richmond starts.
  5. 20 Bell – 4th and 3rd in both races last year.

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