Here are five drivers to watch as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Richmond Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400.
The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Richmond Raceway for the second race in the first round of the NASCAR playoffs.
Three of the five drivers from the last edition of who to watch finished inside the top-10 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. All five of those drivers finished inside the top-20.
After an unpredictable first playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the focus now shifts to Richmond Raceway. This will be the first time Richmond will be in the NASCAR playoffs and is the second-to-last short track race of the season.
Can Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch rebound from Las Vegas? Will a driver outside the top-12 win and earn their spot in the next round? Can Brad Keselowski win four races in a row?
Here are five drivers to keep any eye on this weekend to see how they perform at Richmond Raceway.
In the last four races at Richmond Raceway, Denny Hamlin’s average finish is 3.0. That’s the best average finish among all active drivers.
During that stretch, Hamlin has one win and four top-five finishes. He is the only driver to finish each race inside the top-five in all four races. Hamlin has also led a total of 254 laps, which is second best.
Hamlin has not won this season needs a win now to advance to the next round of the playoffs and Richmond gives him a great opportunity to do just that. Hamlin will start from the second position in the Federated Auto Parts 400.
Joey Logano has become a fixture at Richmond Raceway. In the last three races, Logano has finished inside the top-five in all three.
Behind Hamlin, Logano has the second best average finish, 4.2, in the last four races at the 3/4-mile short track. Logano has combined to led just 117 laps during that stretch.
However, the lack of laps led shouldn’t be a concern. In Logano’s 19 career victories, he’s only led more than 51 laps nine times.
Martin Truex Jr.
On paper, Truex’s finishes at Richmond Raceway in the last four races look average at best for what’s typical of the No. 78 team. Three finishes of tenth or worse and a third place finish.
But the number that should be focused on is 512. That’s the total number of laps Truex has led in the last four races at Richmond. In fact, Truex has led 100 or more laps in three of those races at Richmond.
“We could have four wins in the last five or six Richmond races and we have zero,” Truex said in a team release.
“We led a ton of laps in the spring race this year and were in position to win and finished 14th. Last fall, led the most laps and again in position to win. But a questionable caution with three to go ruined what was turning out to be a great race for us.”
Kevin Harvick enters the second playoff race at Richmond Raceway after a disappointing finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Harvick has an average finish of 7.5 in the last four races at Richmond. Three top-five finishes and a 15th place finish give Harvick the fifth best average finish.
During that span, Harvick has only led 19 laps. Which is low for a driver we have grown accustomed to tallying large laps led totals at various race tracks.
Heading to another short track, Harvick knows the action on the track could cause conflicts between drivers.
“Being a short track, it’s just one of those places where sometimes you have to move somebody out of the way and sometimes that doesn’t go over well,” said Harvick in his team release.
“Any time you have short-track racing, there are going to be things that happen and that should be interesting in the second week of the playoffs.”
It would be a mistake to not include Brad Keselowski on this list. After all, he’s won the previous three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this season.
Keselowski quest for four wins a row comes at Richmond Raceway. He has the fourth best average finish, 6.2 and has led 119 laps total in his last four races at Richmond.
His last top-five finish at Richmond was in the 2017 spring race, but that shouldn’t stop a driver and team with tons of momentum.
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.