Richmond compares to Phoenix which is good news for Kyle Busch

Richmond compares to Phoenix which is good news for Kyle Busch

April 25, 2017 3:02 AM


Last season five of the top-seven finishers in the spring Phoenix race finished in the top-seven in the spring Richmond race. It’s the type of trend often seen each season between the first two races at the similar flat tracks. And it’s the same type of trend to follow for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond.

Although Phoenix has a one-mile layout and Richmond’s is a 3/4-mile, the set-up requirements are almost identical, meaning it will serve your handicapping process well to scour over the data from the March 19 Phoenix race where Ryan Newman used some late pit strategy to grab his first win since 2013. We can also use the same process in July at New Hampshire’s flat one-mile layout. If a driver does well on one, they’ll likely do well on all three.

In 30 starts at Richmond, Newman has been very good with a 12.2 average finish, but his only win there came in 2003. He’s someone to consider for fantasy value or maybe try $10 on a long shot wager at 60-to-1 odds, but I’m looking beyond the Phoenix winner and who actually dominated the race, and that was Las Vegan Kyle Busch who led a race-high 114 laps finishing third.

With six laps to go, Busch was leading and cruising to victory when his chief rival Joey Logano wrecked and caused a caution. Busch chose pit under the yellow and got fresh tires, as did several others, but Newman chose to stay out and with fresh air in front of him, his tires held, no one could make the pass and Newman held on for the surprise win.

Other notables from the Phoenix race include Chase Elliott who finished 12th and led 106 laps. Logano led 82 laps with all of them coming in the first third of the race where he was dominant. Kyle Larson finished second, Brad Keselowski fifth, Kevin Harvick sixth and Denny Hamlin was 10th.

After reviewing Phoenix it’s time to look at recent Richmond history. Right at the top as one of the best all-time at Richmond is Kyle Busch with a 6.9 average finish in 23 starts, which includes 15 top-fives and four wins. No active driver has more Richmond wins than Busch. Last season after finishing fourth at Phoenix he was runner-up at Richmond leading 78 laps. His teammate Carl Edwards won, which was kind of foretold by him finishing second at Phoenix. Edwards is now retired.

Denny Hamlin, a native Virginian, grabbed his third Richmond win in the September race and his 10.1 average-finish is second-best among active drivers. Harvick also has three wins and is third with a 10.4 average. Next is Larson at 11.3 in six starts. He was second to Hamlin last fall, but he’s been the best overall driver this season.

Saturday’s final practices will be the final part of the equation to finding the winner, but you should have a nice head start this week based on Phoenix and past Richmond history.