After both the Xfinity and Cup races got rained out on Friday and Saturday night respectively, we got an unexpected doubleheader on Sunday. After a bevy of crashes, Martin Truex Jr. found himself in victory lane as the first repeat winner of the season. A handful of contenders crashed out of the race in the final stage after the backstretch turned into a parking lot. Ryan Blaney, who appeared to have the best car all day, had a late pit road penalty and ultimately finished 11th.
Now we head to Richmond Raceway which is a unique, asphalt, D-shaped, 0.75 mile short track. This short track package has been known to produce some good racing. It’s not the traditional 550 HP package that they run on 1.5 mile tracks. This weekend (and all tracks shorter than 1 mile) they will use the 750 HP, low downforce package. As a fairly new NASCAR fan, I’ll admit I don’t know much about this track. I rewatched the 2020 race, but that’s the only race I’ve seen here. As usual, I’ll rely on past results to tell us all who is good at the “Action Track” and who is not. This track is a bit notorious for having a lack of cautions. There are many grooves to run so contact is typically kept to a minimum. Last years race here had ZERO cautions for cause. This brought into play the 1 stop vs 2 stop stage strategy. Should be interesting again this year especially if we get an unexpected caution.
1) (Last week 1, Avg Finish 4.5) Denny Hamlin – Surprise, surprise, Denny Hamlin had another Top 5 last Sunday. He now has a Top 5 in every race except for Homestead where he finished a very “disappointing” 11th. Denny also has six Top 5s in his last eight races at Richmond, so he will likely secure another Top 5 this weekend.
2) (5, 9.5) Martin Truex Jr. – Truex made a late pass on his teammate, Denny Hamlin, to win (again) at Martinsville. He’s had an incredible run there lately winning three of the last four Cup races. This is even more impressive considering he was pretty terrible at “The Paperclip” to start his career. More good new lies ahead for the #19 team. They have two wins in their last five races here, as well as securing the most laps led (579) and the highest driver rating (125.9) over that span.
3) (2, 11.8) William Byron – Willy B continues to stay hot with his sixth consecutive Top 10. He holds the second best average finish over the last three races, only trailing Hamlin. His streak may come to an end this weekend as he’s never finished better than 12th at the “Action Track.”
4) (3, 9.0) Joey Logano – Last year at Richmond, Logano was battling for the lead all day before ultimately finishing third. He has finished Top 5 in five of his last seven races here. Joey also hasn’t finished worse than 14th since 2013. The #22 team has the second best average finish this year, trailing Hamlin by 4.5 places.
5) (6, 13.1) Chase Elliott – Chase has had a very impressive season when you look at his incident-free races. If you remove Daytona RC and Atlanta, he has the second best average finish (7.7) in the Cup Series. He has three Top 5s in his last five races at Richmond, so look for his good season to continue.
6)(7, 9.4) Kevin Harvick – Rodney Childers and the #4 team had some bold pit strategy last year at Richmond. They pitted twice in stage 2 to get fresh tires but Harvick drove himself into a pit road speeding penalty and it cost him. He ultimately finished 7th, but had a good enough car to win. He’s finished Top 5 here in six of his last nine (nice) races. He also has a Top 10 in eight of his last nine at Richmond.
7) (8, 11.0) Kyle Larson – Larson has been Top 7 in five of his last six races. The only outlier was Bristol Dirt where he had an early crash. He has also finished Top 7 in four of his last five races at the “Action Track,” including a win. He seems to have found a home in a Hendrick car and will likely contend for the win this weekend.
8) (4, 14.0) Brad Keselowski – The #2 car dominated last year at Richmond. He drove his way to victory lane while leading 192 laps and had a near perfect 139.9 driver rating. This should be a good bounce-back spot after his incredible Top 10 streak at Martinsville came to an end last Sunday.
9) (10, 12.6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse finished 15th at Martinsville, which keeps his Top 18 streak alive. He still has not finished worse than 18th this entire season, which is truly impressive. Ricky has also finished 18th or better in his last four races at Richmond, but only has two Top 10s in 15 career races here.
10) (11, 14.4) Christopher Bell – Bell has been “Checkers or Wreckers” this season. He has four Top 10s, but also has finished outside the Top 15 four times, including a 34th place at Bristol Dirt. Bell dominated at Richmond in his final Xfinity race here, leading 238/250 laps with a perfect 150 driver rating. He was decent last year in the #95 Cup car, finishing 15th. He should be a contender in a much improved JGR ride this time around.
11) (9, 13.6) Ryan Blaney – Ryan (Rantz, not Blaney) made a great point on twitter earlier this week. Ryan (Blaney, not Rantz) has been abysmal at Richmond. He has an average finish of 24.8 in nine races at this track and has never finished better than 17th. He’s never even finished Top 10 in a stage! He may be looking ahead to Talladega next week where he’s had much better results.
12) (Not Ranked, 14.9) Kyle Busch – After a rough season last year (by his standards at least,) Kyle hasn’t had a great start to 2021 either. However, he has four Top 10s in his last six races. He also absolutely owns Richmond Raceway. Rowdy has finished Top 10 in his last six races here and has won twice. He could lock in his playoff spot Sunday with his first win since 2019.