We go from one short track to another in NASCAR, as the drivers make the short trip from Bristol, Tennessee to Richmond, Virginia for the second race in the State for Lovers on the young season. This is the Toyota Owners 400 and Ford has been the only manufacturer with a chance to own Toyota this season, as the Camry has five wins and the Mustang has three.
We’ll see if anything goes differently on the short track here at Richmond, which comes in at .75 miles. That means that the drivers will run 400 laps on the .75-mile track for 300 miles and they’ll actually do so on Saturday this week, so we’ll be running a day earlier than most races.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be idle next week for the Easter holiday and will reconvene at Talladega in two weeks.
Odds for this week come from 5Dimes Sportsbook on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and below the comment box for mobile viewers.
Let’s take a look at how things have gone as we head into the ninth race of the season. Kyle Busch’s third win of the season came last week at Bristol and he now leads by 24 points over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. Joey Logano is third with 326 points. Kevin Harvick is fourth with 301 points, even though he hasn’t finished higher than fourth yet this season. Brad Keselowski is a distant fifth with 271 points.
Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, and Chase Elliott round out the top 10. Only four drivers have punched a ticket to the playoffs thus far. Busch, Hamlin, Logano, and Keselowski have taken checkered flags. Everybody else has not made it to the winner’s circle.
There will be fewer spectators this year at Richmond, as capacity has been lowered from 59,000 to 51,000, but America’s Premier Short Track still boasts some of the best racing of the small loops. Low-banked turns and a really flat backstretch give drivers the opportunity to run hard. Even though this is only three quarters of a mile, speeds here regularly average in the upper 90s and we’ve even cracked an average of 100 in the last 14 years.
This race dates back to 1953 as the Richmond 200. The September race dates back to 1958 when the appropriately named Speedy Thompson won the first of two installments of that race. That late-summer race made up for the missed spring race. Racing has been held twice a year here since 1959.
How Sweep It Is
Kyle Busch won the spring race last year for the first time since 2012. For good measure, he won the September race for the first time ever. It is a hard claim to make that there is a better short track racer right now than Kyle. If he picks up his sixth win in this event this weekend, he’ll tie Richard Petty for the record. He has a long way to go to get to Petty’s 13 career wins at Richmond.
We’ve had five different winners in the last six years since Busch’s 2012 win. Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano twice, Kurt Busch, and Carl Edwards have been the victors. It is not a surprise to see Busch at the top of the odds board once again this week, but it is also not a surprise to see Logano also up there given his recent history. He’s got two wins and three additional top-five finishes in his last six April races at Richmond. For what it’s worth, he also runs extremely well at Talladega, so keep an eye on him early next week.
We’ve had eight different winners in the last eight years in the September race. That’s one of the reasons why some of the other prices are pretty spread out. Denny Hamlin hasn’t won this race, but he’s won the September race three times. At +1200, his price seems to be a touch too high.
The Best of the Rest
Like always, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are sniffing around the top of the odds board. Harvick did finish 13th last week at Bristol and was sixth at Martinsville, so he’s off to a slow start on the short tracks. Keselowski swept everything at Martinsville, so he’s likely to get a little bit of love this week.
Ryan Blaney should get some attention as well. Blaney was fourth and led the most laps last week. He was also a solid fourth at Martinsville. His finishes at Richmond have not been good at all, but he’s been a different driver the last two years since joining Team Penske, who has deeper pockets than the Wood Brothers Racing team. It didn’t necessarily help last year, but he’s been evolving as a driver and has four top-five finishes in his last five starts.
This has been a good track for Chase Elliott. Elliott had two top-five finishes here last year and owns an Xfinity Series win at Richmond. He likes tight racing more than most, as evidenced by his win at Dover last year and his second top-five in three years in the first Martinsville race. His price at +1400 might be worth looking up.
You have to have Kyle Busch on your card here and, quite frankly, just about every week right now. The price on Logano is depressed a little bit and I’d be more inclined to take him in two weeks at Talladega. Blaney makes a lot of sense this week, especially because it’s been Ford vs. Toyota all season and Penske guys tend to run very well on these short tracks.