The Cup Series will begin the short track portion of their schedule when they compete at Richmond Raceway. The track is a .75-mile, flat track, but it races like a intermediate track. The fast way around Richmond has been at the top, up against the wall. The racing has been exciting at this track and I expect the same this week. The Toyota Owners 400 can be seen Sunday at 3:30 pm ET on FS1.
STRATEGY FOR RICHMOND
Richmond Raceway is similar in size and length as Phoenix Raceway. Both tracks are D-shaped, flat tracks. Phoenix is .25-mile longer in length, but the drivers who ran up front in the desert, should be the drivers up front Sunday.
NASCAR is using the new short track aero package this week. It is the same package used at Phoenix earlier this season. Hendrick Motorsports knocked it out of the park when William Byron and Kyle Larson led 265 of 317 laps at Phoenix. Alex Bowman and Josh Berry also finished in the top-10 at Phoenix, so it is obvious that HMS has the advantage with this new aero package. I plan to have a lot of the HMS drivers in my lineup Sunday.
* I added directions for your league commissioners to add Josh Berry to Group C at the bottom of this article.
Here are the picks for the Toyota Owners 400 …
DRIVER GROUP GAME LINEUP
GROUP A DRIVERS
WILLIAM BYRON (8): How can you fade Willy-B right now? He has been the best driver in the Cup Series through the first six races. He dominated the races at Las Vegas and Phoenix and went to Victory Lane. Byron also dominated this race at Richmond last year. He led 122 laps, score nine Stage Points and finished third. He also qualified second, so he scored bonus points for qualifying too. There is a good chance that Byron scores win No. 3 Sunday, so I will have him in my lineup.
KYLE LARSON (7): The race Sunday should be a replay of what we saw at Las Vegas. William Byron and Larson were the top-two lap leaders in both races. While Byron won both races, Larson finished second (Las Vegas) and fourth (Phoenix). The No. 5 team nailed the setup in the new short track aero package. Larson won the pole, scored 19 Stage Points and led 201 laps at Phoenix. He also won the pole, scored 17 Stage Points and led 11 laps in the last race at Richmond. I will trust Hendrick Motorsports and play both of their drivers in Group A this week.
(CONTRARIAN PICK) CHRISTOPHER BELL (9): The fastest way around Richmond is at the top of the track, up against the wall. The drivers with a dirt track racing background typically excel in this type of racing. Bell has finished 2nd, 6th, 3rd and 4th in his last four races at Richmond. He also ran well at Phoenix in the new aero package. Bell qualified fifth, scored 11 Stage Points and finished sixth. The 2023 season is looking like a breakout season for Bell, so if you do not want to put all of your eggs in the Hendrick Motorsports basket, takes a chance with Bell.
GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Kyle Larson 2) William Byron 3) Christopher Bell 4) Christopher Bell 5) Ross Chastain 6) Denny Hamlin 7) Joey Logano
GROUP B DRIVERS
KEVIN HARVICK (7): There is a lot to like about Harvick this week. He finished second in this race last year and then he came back to Richmond in August and won the race. Harvick also had a great chance to win the race at Phoenix this year in the new aero package. Harvick started 15th, led 36 laps, scored 11 Stage Points, and finished fifth. He is the only driver who could make passes at the bottom of the track at Richmond last year. His “Harvicking” style of races makes the No. 4 car a serious threat to go to Victory Lane Sunday. This is a good race to use an allocation with Happy Harvick.
ALEX BOWMAN (9): This pick is more about the car than the driver. Hendrick Motorsports has a clear advantage with the new aero package. Bowman proved he can run well at Richmond when he has a fast car. Bowman won the race at Richmond two years ago. He has also finished five of his six races in the top-10 this year (his seventh-place average finishing position is the best in the Cup Series). I plan to play all of the HMS drivers this week, so Bowman gets a spot in my lineup.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. (8): I thought about loading my lineup with as many Chevy’s as possible, but it is tough to fade Truex at Richmond. He has finished 7th, 4th, 1st, 5th, 2nd, 1st, 1st and 3rd at Richmond since he joined Joe Gibbs Racing. That is an average finishing position of third. Truex did not look good at Phoenix, but he typically runs poorly in the spring at Phoenix and then contends for the win at Richmond. His stats are just too good to fade this week.
KYLE BUSCH (7): Busch was good, but not great at Phoenix. He started ninth and finished eighth. Rowdy should be good this week, because he always is in the spring at Richmond. Busch has a Cup Series high six wins at Richmond. Five of those wins came in the spring race. If qualifying is rained out Saturday morning, Busch will start on the front row.
(OTHER PICK) TYLER REDDICK (7): Remember when Kyle Larson broke out for 10 wins in 2021? We may be seeing the same type of breakout season from Reddick this year. I doubt he will get to 10 wins, but if he runs all of the road courses like he did last Sunday, 6-8 wins are within reach. Reddick look good at Phoenix in the new short track aero package. He scored 12 Stage Points and finished third in the race. I expect Reddick to have a great chance for another top-five finish Sunday, but I need to save his allocations for other tracks.
GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Kevin Harvick 2) Alex Bowman 3) Kyle Busch 4) Tyler Reddick 5) Martin Truex Jr. 6) Brad Keselowski 7) Chase Briscoe 8) Chris Buescher 9) Daniel Suarez 10) Bubba Wallace
GROUP C DRIVERS
JOSH BERRY (9): I added Berry to Group C in my leagues. You need to use him this week if he is available in your leagues and if he isn’t, ask your commissioner to add him using my directions below…. Hendrick Motorsports has the new short track aero package figured out. Berry started 17th and finished 10th at Phoenix. His No. 9 car should have speed again this week. Berry is a good pick for a top-15 finish Sunday.
TY GIBBS (8): Gibbs looked good in the last race at Richmond. He was running in the top-10 when Kyle Busch pushed him up the track. Gibbs drove right back to Rowdy’s bumper and pushed him out or the way. Gibbs eventually wrecked his car, but he still had a lot of speed. I expect the same speed from the No. 54 team Sunday.
(OTHER CHOICE) RYAN PREECE (9): Preece should be your driver in Group C if Josh Berry is not available in your league. Preece is a short track expert, and he has no problem leaning on Kevin Harvick for advice. Preece started 25th and finished 12th at Phoenix in the new aero package. I doubt he will qualify well Saturday, but Preece should race pretty good on Sunday.
GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Josh Berry 2) Ty Gibbs 3) AJ Allmendinger 4) Ryan Preece 5) Noah Gragson
* Be sure to check back Saturday after qualifying for my updated starting lineup.
* To add Josh Berry to your Group C lineups, tell your league commissioner to go to the “About” tab and then click on “League Rules”. Click on “Driver Groups” and then “Unassigned Drivers Link” under the first paragraph. Your league commish can then find Josh Berry on the list and place him into whichever Group he wants to.
TRUCK SERIES PICKS
XFINITY SERIES STARTING LINEUP
Good Luck This Weekend!
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