The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Richmond Speedway this week. The race will be under the lights Saturday night so adjust your schedules. There were two practices Friday and then qualifying will take place Friday night. This will be an impound race so the teams will not be able to adjust the cars after qualifying so what they had in qualifying in what they will have in the race.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the practices at Richmond…
The weather is finally scheduled to be nice for once. The conditions in practice were sunny and 55 degrees and the race forecast for Saturday night is for 60 degrees. This is a very heat sensitive track so the track will change a lot during the race. The teams who can keep up with the track will be up front.
Starting position has factored into the finishing position in the last 4 races at Richmond. The drivers who start in the top 15 are the ones who finish in the top 10. Be sure to think about this when making your picks for Saturday night.
Single lap average speed matters less at this track than any other track on the schedule. It is all about the long run speed here because this track produces the fewest cautions and the track changes so much during the race. Make sure to look at the long run speed for your picks this week.
Each team only received 3 sets of tires for the two practice sessions (One less set then previous seasons). They also received 1 set of tires for qualifying and to start the race on. Each team will have 9 sets of tires for the race, which should be plenty this week. The tires are the same compound used at the track since the beginning of the 2016 season. Both the Xfinity Series and MENCS will be using the same tire this week.
Chase Elliott: Elliott is one of the best young drivers in the sport but for some reason he has struggled at Richmond. Elliott only has 1 finish in the top 10 in his 5 races at the track. His average finishing position is 16.2. Kenny Francis is once again on top the pit box. Elliott said, “It is a little tight on entry and a little free on the exit.” The brought the No. 9 car in to work on the balance. Elliott was fastest in the morning practice.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson will have some momentum after his 3rd-place finish at Bristol. The No. 48 car has finished 7 consecutive races at Richmond in the top 11. Johnson made some long runs and said, “Way too loose in 4. I almost lost it but I saved it. If you can fix turn 4 it will help a lot.” Chad Knaus brought him and to make some changes.
Alex Bowman: Bowman has 4 races at Richmond in the MENCS on his resume but all of them came in a BK Racing or Tommy Baldwin Racing car. He should have momentum after his top-5 finish at Bristol. Bowman said, “I am on the edge of being free… It is real good through 3 and 4 but I do not have a lot of overall grip.” The team really liked their long-run speed.
William Byron: Byron has never competed in a MENCS race at Richmond but he has 2 races in the Xfinity Series at the track on his resume. Byron crashed and finished 30th in his first race and finished 6th in his second race. The No. 24 car made some long runs. They wanted to get Byron as much practice as possible Friday. He said, “I need help rolling through the center. That is where we are losing our speed.”
Kyle Larson: Larson won the last race at Richmond and he has not finished worse than 2nd in the last two night races at the track. Larson has the 6th-best driver ranking and the 6th-best average finishing position are Richmond. The No. 42 team picked up where they left off at Bristol. Larson was fastest on single-lap runs and his car had good long runs speed as well. Larson was fastest in final practice.
Jamie McMurray: Richmond ranks as the 4th-best track for McMurray but the No. 1 team has had a hard time gaining any momentum this season. He only has one top-10 finish this year but the good news is that it occurred at Phoenix (a track similar to Richmond). The No. 1 car showed up with a lot of speed this weekend. McMurray ran consistently in the top 10 in the practice and seemed to like his car.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been very consistent this season and he has been consistent at Richmond. Harvick has finished half of the races this season in the top 2 and he has finished 4 of the last 5 races at Richmond in the top 5. Harvick has the same car he won at Phoenix this season. This car has been fast in every race it has been on the track in. Harvick told his team, “If we start the race on low air pressure like this we will get ate up at the beginning of the run. It just takes too long to gain speed. It is fast once the air pressure increase but I do not think we want to wait that long.” The No. 4 car was the best on the long runs.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer does not have the best stats at Richmond but he ranks 3rd in short track performance this season. He has a 7th-place average finishing position in the last 5 races. The No. 14 car was not good in the Friday morning practice. Bowyer said, “It will not turn through the corners.” He was 30th fastest at the time. They made major adjustments between the practice sessions. When asked about his car by MRN radio, Bowyer said, “I am not worried about it. SHR has the best minds in the business. They will give me a hotrod for Saturday night.”
Kurt Busch: Richmond ranks as the 2nd-best track for Busch. His average finishing position in the last 4 races at the track is 7.5. Kurt was happy with his car. He said, “When I get out of the throttle earlier and roll throw the center I can get back to the gas really quick. I can beat anyone off of 4 for sure.”
Aric Almirola: Almirola will be a sneaky good pick this week. He finished 9th in this race last season while driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola made some long runs and said, “Laps 1-10 are to snug, 10-20 are nearly perfect and then loose after laps 20.”
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski ranks 3rd in average finishing position, has the 3rd-best driver ranking and has led the 4th-most laps in the last 4 races at Richmond. Keselowski said, “It has very little forward bite and the exit has no speed.” Paul Wolfe made some major changes and sent Keselowski back out. He said, “Much better.”
Joey Logano: Logano won this race last year but the win was taken away. He backed it up with a 2nd-place finish at Richmond in August. Logano has a streak of 8 finishes in the top 10 going at the track. Logano really liked the balance in his car. The No. 22 made a lot of long runs and then worked on their pit road speed. They believe there will be a lot of speeding penalties this week and they want to nail that down. The No. 22 car was one of the fastest on the short runs but they needed to work on their longrun speed. Do not worry about Logano’s final practice speed. They were on scuff tires and making long runs.
Ryan Blaney: Richmond ranks as the worst track for Blaney but you cannot count him out at any track this season. Blaney told the FS1 tv reporter, “Our car has a lot of speed. I am pretty happy with it.” Blaney consistently ran in the top 12. It would surprise no one if he qualifies up front and finishes up front Saturday night.
Paul Menard: Menard has not finished inside the top 22 at Richmond since 2015. He should get a small boost this week since he is driving for the Wood Brothers and his alliance teammates (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano) are pretty good at the track. All of the Team Penske associated cars looked good in practice. Menard ran in the top 14 in the two practice sessions.
Kyle Busch: The No. 18 team is the best in the sport right now. Busch has a 1.8 average finishing position in the last 7 races. That is outstanding!! The No. 18 was working on dialing down their long run speed. They know what it takes to win here. They were one of the last teams to switch over to qualifying trim in practice. Busch said, “The balance could be a little better. The entry is good but I need more speed on the exit.” Busch always wants his car perfect so sometimes he complains even when his car is the fastest.
Erik Jones: Jones has 2 races in the MENCS at Richmond. He finished 38th (Crashed while running 11th) and 6th in his two races. Jones made some long runs and said, “If we can get it off the splitter it should be pretty good.” The team changed shocks between the practice session and the car was much better. In final practice Jones said, “The track is slick and that suits me well. The car is really good and I am looking forward to the race Saturday night.”
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been the most consistent driver at Richmond. The Virginia native has a series-best 3.75 average finishing position and the second-best driver rating (111.5) in the last 4 races at the track. Hamlin made some short runs and he was hitting the splitter on entry. Hamlin said, “It is plowing tight.” Hamlin told the FS1 report, “We have major, major issues with our car and we do not have time to fix it. We have to be in inspection line 15 minutes after practice so we will work with our teammates and hope we can find something.” At the end of practice Hamlin said, “I think we found something. He went to 5th on the speed chart.”
Daniel Suarez: Suarez has a broken thumb but it was not an issue at Bristol so it should not be an issue at Richmond. Suarez has finished 12th and 7th in his two MENCS races at the track. Suarez starts the morning practice with the same setup as the No. 11 car and Suarez had the same problem, plowing through the center. Suarez was running outside the top 20 in the practice sessions.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. has led the most laps (391) and has a series-best 112.8 driver ranking in the last 4 races at the track. Truex started practice and made some long runs. He really liked his car. He said, “The balance is close to last year. The throttle speed (How fast he gets into the gas off the corner) is really good.”
Ryan Newman: Newman ran really well at Richmond last year. He finished 7th in the first race and 3rd in the fall race. Newman also ran well last week at Bristol. Newman was not happy with his car. He said, “it is pushing into the car and snappy loose on the exit.” His crew chief told him, “We will make some adjustments but the track will be completely different tomorrow so do not panic.”
Austin Dillon: Dillon has run a lot better than where he has finished this season. His average finishing position is 15.8 but the team seemed to find some speed in the new ZL1 Camero last week. The No. 3 car was having problems with the brakes chattering in the morning practice. They changed the brakes between the practices and the car was a lot better. Dillon made a long run in final practice and he said, “We are making gains.”
Daniel Hemric: Hamric will be making his MENCS debut this week in the No. 8 car for Richard Childress Racing. The team chose this track because it has been the best track for Hemric in the Xfinity Series. He finished 3rd and 4th in his two races at the track. Hemric made a lot of long runs to gain some experience. He said, “I was expecting it to be more free than it is, but it is pretty good. It definitely has good balance.”
Ty Dillon: Dillon has not been very good this season. His average finishing position is 26.1. Dillon has never finished inside the top 22 at Richmond. This team needs to find some speed. Dillon made some long runs and he said, “Entry and Exit are good. I just need to roll through the center a little better.” Dillon looked a little better than normal today.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne could be a good sleeper pick this week. Richmond is one of his best tracks. Kahne has finished 3 of the last 4 races at the track in the top 12. Kahne made some long runs and said, “I can run the bottom really well but it is Skatey up at the top.” They brought him in to tighten him up.
AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has really struggled at Richmond in the last 5 races. His average finishing position is 26.4. Allmendinger made some long runs and Allmendinger said, “I am sideways all through the corner.” They brought him in many times for adjustments. At the end of practice Allmendinger said, “If snappy loose is the winning combination we will have the winning car.” Bubba Wallace got into the front of Allmendingers car in final practice and the N0. 47 team had some cosmetic damage to fix.
Chris Buescher: Buescher has 4 races in the MENCS at Richmond on his resume. He has only finished one of them inside the top 24. Buescher made some long runs and said, “The balance starts of good but gets freer and freer every 5 laps. After 20 laps it is hard to hold onto.”
Darrell Wallace Jr.: Bubba has been run well in the last two races but he has had a hard time keeping the car upfront at the end of the race. Bubba has never competed in a MENCS race at Richmond but he has 6 Xfinity Races at the track on his resume. He only finished one of them in the top 10. Bubba was too tight at the beginning of the run but he said it gets looser with every lap. Bubba said, “It just takes a long time to come to me. We need to make it better at the beginning of the run.”
Trevor Bayne: Bayne has been decent at Richmond in his career. His average finishing position at the track is 19th. The No. 6 car was good in qualifying trim but the car was way too tight in race trim. They made a lot of short runs in practice.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has a great race at Richmond last year. He qualified 4th and finished 4th. Stenhouse should have momentum after finishing 4th at Bristol last week. Stenhouse was pretty happy with his car. He ran inside the top 12 in final practice.
David Ragan: Front Row Motorsports signed a deal with Rosh Fenway Racing to have their cars and engines built by RFR. The two teams will also share information this season, so Ragan and Michael McDowell will now essentially be RFR drivers. Last week was the first race where the team received the new cars and the two drivers really picked up some speed. Ragan made some long runs and told his team, “I am going to run 10 laps at the bottom and then 10 laps at the top. Let me know where we get the most speed.” He team told him, “You picked up 5 spots on the chart and are now No. 11 when you ran the bottom.”
Michael McDowell: McDowell should be helped by the alliance with Roush Fenway Racing (See David Ragan above). McDowell made some short runs and said, “Way to loose, way, way too loose.” They brought him in for adjustments and sent him out for more short runs. They did a lot of work on this car. He was happier with the car at the end of practice.
Matt Dibenedetto: Dibendetto ran well last week at Bristol but do not expect the same performance this week. Dibendetto has an average finishing position of 33rd in his 6 races at the track. Dibendetto was not happy with his car. He said it was hitting the splitter on entry and causing him to be loose.
Cars that looked good in practice: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch
Good Sleeper Picks: Jamie McMurray, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and William Byron
Click here for Friday Morning Practice Speeds
Click here for Final Practice Speeds
Best 20-Lap Average Speed
- Kevin Harvick 22.95
- Kurt Busch 23.05
- Aric Almirola 23.05
- Kasey Kahne 23.06
- Kyle Busch 23.07
- Paul Menard 23.09
- Austin Dillon 23.10
- Martin Truex Jr. 23.11
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 23.12
- Chase Elliott 23.12
- Ryan Newman 23.14
- Joey Logano 23.14
- Brad Keselowski 23.15
- Erik Jones 23.15
- Ryan Blaney 23.17
- Alex Bowman 23.17
- Jamie McMurray 23.18
- Trevor Bayne 23.18
- Daniel Suarez 23.18
- William Byron 23.18
- Denny Hamlin 23.22
- Michael McDowell 23.25
- Daniel Hemric 23.25
- Bubba Wllace 23.27
- Ty Dillon 23.31
*Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson did not make a 20-lap run.
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