Kyle Busch continues to own victory lane
April 12, 2019 3:00 AM
by Micah Roberts
Las Vegan Kyle Busch won at Bristol last week for his third win this season and eighth career at the half-mile layout and was followed his elder brother Kurt Busch for a sweet 1-2 exacta finish.
Now Kyle comes to Richmond International Raceway where he happens to be the active leader with six wins on the three-quarter mile flat layout and has produced an incredible 17 top-fives in 27 starts.
If looking for anyone else to win Saturday night in Richmond’s Toyota Owners 400, you’re going to find the list of candidates on a small list, and it’s not just because of his past excellence there, which also includes seven Xfinity Series win. The dealbreaker if thinking about betting against Busch is that he’s had the best car using the new 750 horsepower car with no aero-ducts. In three races this season using this package, he’s won twice and finished third in the other.
Over Kyle Busch’s Richmond career he’s averaged a 6.9 finish, the best among all active drivers. He swept both races last season. He’s got everything going for him to win Saturday night which is why he’s a huge 2-1 favorite to win at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
The dude had his bumper knocked off on the second lap at Bristol last week and it looked dire. But with such low speeds, the aerodynamics weren’t affected. And then he made a great decision not to pit late and he stayed out for the win. It’s luck, skills, and speed all mixed together that has afforded him to be put on this pedestal as the best driver in NASCAR.
But for all his accolades as being the best this season and with this package, can we find someone else to win Saturday night?
The search starts with Chesterfield, VA native Denny Hamlin, who grew up 24 miles from Richmond. He’s won three Cup races there, the last being in the fall of 2016. Busch has won twice since then, but Hamlin also hasn’t been as good the past two seasons. He’s got two wins this season and has pushed himself into the 2019 season as an elite driver. He has 11 top-fives in 25 starts for a 9.5 average finish at Richmond.
Last week, with the same package, Hamlin finished fifth, his third straight race using this package where he finished fifth. He’s one of three drivers to have finished in the top-five at Phoenix, Martinsville and Bristol. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch are the other two. Through eight races he’s finished on the lead lap of all eight and averaged a 5.6 finish. That’s championship stuff right there.
How about a little home cooking this weekend with a guy free-rolling? Hamlin is the next statistically best driver at Richmond after Busch with a 9.5 average finish. Hamlin leads all active drivers with 1,659 laps led.
Kevin Harvick has yet to crack the top-five in three races with this week’s package. But he’s always been good in Richmond, averaging a 10th-place finish. He’s won there three times, led 1,109 laps and has 14 top-fives in 36 starts.
Joey Logano is a two-time winner at Richmond, the last coming in this 2017 race. He was fourth in this race last season after winning the first two stages and leading 92 laps. Last week at Bristol he looked to have the best car on the track.
Brad Keselowski won at Richmond in 2014 and has finished 11th or better in his last seven starts there. He ran well last week at Bristol until getting a late penalty that neither he or I understood, but it’s his dominant Martinsville run using this package that makes him a strong candidate to beat Busch. He led 446 of the 500 laps.
Ryan Blaney has never finished better than 18th in his six Richmond starts, but I’m certain he’ll have his best finish there Saturday night. This package has been great for him: third at Phoenix, fourth at Martinsville and fourth at Bristol leading a race-high 158 laps.
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