Eight races are in the books and the next stop takes us to Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night for some more thrilling short track racing.
Richmond’s flat, 3/4-mile D-shaped layout provides the best of all worlds in NASCAR racing with a little bumping and banging between drivers mixed in with speeds fast enough to satisfy every fans’ need for speed.
This will be the third short track race of the season, the first two coming at Martinsville last month and Bristol last week. However, I like to put Richmond into another category with the one-mile flat tracks of Phoenix and New Hampshire. I noticed a long time ago crew chiefs were using the same chassis on all three tracks during the season if having success, and when I asked a few of them about it they said the set-ups for Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire were almost identical.
If looking at the results of the two races a season on all three tracks, you’ll notice a lot of the same names in the top-five in all of them, with drivers winning multiple times on them during a season. Whether it’s Davey Allison, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano or Kevin Harvick, we’ve seen history repeat itself several times on these tracks during a season. If a driver does well on one of the tracks, he’s likely to be good on all three of them.
So the handicapping strategy, to begin with, takes us to the March 11 results at Phoenix where Martin Truex Jr. won the pole (136.945 mph), Kyle Busch led a race-high 128 of the 312 laps and Kevin Harvick ended up winning for a track record ninth time. Yes, nine times, and that’s why he’s the huge favorite to win this week.
Harvick is a three-time winner at Richmond and in 2006 he won four of the six races between Richmond, Phoenix and New Hampshire. He’s been at his best on these types and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s using the same chassis he won with at Phoenix.
Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with four wins at Richmond, the last coming in 2012. He won at least once at Richmond for four straight seasons. He leads all drivers with a 7.4 average finish in 25 starts, which includes 15 top-five finishes. He’s on an epic run right now and he’ll go toe-to-toe with Harvick, the best of any driver. He finished second to Harvick at Phoenix.
Denny Hamlin has three wins on his home track, the last coming in the fall of 2016. He’s been racing on this track his whole life and leads all active drivers with 1,653 laps led. He was fourth at Phoenix in March.
Kyle Larson was strong last week at Bristol and he won at Richmond the last time the series raced there in September. Joey Logano won the spring race last season but got busted for cheating and forfeited the automatic playoff berth that came with it as a penalty. He also won at Richmond in 2014.
Clint Bowyer was sixth at Phoenix and these type of tracks have proven to be his favorite over his career. Of his nine career wins, two came at Richmond and two came at New Hampshire. He’s got lots of value this week.