MENCS: Garage Talk Notes for Richmond

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The MENCS playoffs kicked off last week in the scorching sun in Las Vegas. It should be a lot more comfortable this week under the lights at Richmond Raceway. The MENCS competed at this track in mid-April and usually the results from that race translate into success in the September race. The July race at New Hampshire usually predicts who will be fast at Richmond because many of the teams who were locked into the playoffs in July practiced their Richmond setup in that race. It should be cool to see which teams figures this track out the best. The Federated Auto Parts 400 can be seen Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

 

Track Notes

The cars will have the 750 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and no aero ducts. This is the same package they have used in the past except with a larger spoiler on the rear of the car. The drivers who ran well at Richmond in the past should be fast Saturday night.

Goodyear brought the same tire compound to the track that was used in the April race at Richmond. This track is usually a high tire wear track but Goodyear said tire wear was down about 20% from what they had in 2018 because of the spoiler slowing down the cars. Teams will still need to manage their tires. We need to look at the 15-20 lap average speed to determine who has the fast cars.

* NASCAR will inspect the cars Saturday afternoon. Any drivers who fails once will have their qualifying time disallowed and will start from the back. They will be scored from the back in Fantasy NASCAR.

 

Stats from Short, Flat Tracks in 2019

Diver

Avg. Finish Laps Led

Driver Rating

1. Kyle Busch

5.0

396

124.4

2. Martin Truex Jr.

4.3

186

113.6

3. Kevin Harvick

5.0

71

126.7

4. Brad Keselowski

9.3

489

110.2

5. Denny Hamlin

4.3

120

106.4

6. Ryan Blaney

9.0

94

99.2

7. Joey Logano

10.0

58

97.2

8. Clint Bowyer

10.3

0

95.0

9. Aric Almirola

11.8

38

90.8

10. Kurt Busch

12.0

0

89.0

11. Chase Elliott

15.0

49

83.6

12. Jimmie Johnson

18.5

4

75.7

13. Paul Menard

13.8

0

74.4

14. Daniel Suarez

17.5

0

74.4

15. Ryan Newman

11.8

0

74.1

16. Erik Jones

19.0

4

73.5

17. Austin Dillon

17.5

0

73.5

18. Alex Bowman

20.0

0

69.8

19. William Byron

17.8

0

69.0

20. Kyle Larson

23.5

5

67.8

21. Matt DiBenedetto

19.3

0

65.7

22. Chris Buescher

16.5

0

65.4

23. Ty Dillon

16.3`

0

63.1

24. Ricky Stenhouse

16.3

2

59.7

25. Daniel Hemric

18.8

4

52.3

* Short, Flat Tracks Include: Phoenix, Richmond, New Hampshire and Martinsville

 

Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: The short, flat tracks have not been kind to Elliott this season. The No. 9 car finished 14th at Phoenix, 15th at Richmond and 29th at New Hampshire. His average finishing position in his 8 races at this track is 12.75. Elliott made some long runs and said, “The balance is good. It is better in 1 and 2 than it is in 3 and 4. Just too free on entry and exit at that end of the track.” He was P9 at the time. Elliott was running 12th in race-trim. The team put the qualifying trim in the car and he went to P2 on the speed chart.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has been pretty good at Richmond even when he was in a slump. Johnson has 3 wins at this track and he has a 7.9 average finishing position since 2013 at Richmond. Johnson made some long runs and said, “I need more stability at both ends. It is too tight for about 4-5 laps and then gets loose.” They made some changes and he said, “That is better.”

Alex Bowman: Most people think of Bowman as a good driver on the short, flat tracks because of his 6th place finish at Phoenix when he filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016. Actually he stinks at these tracks. Bowman finished 35th and 30th in his last two races at Phoenix and he has a 26th-place average finishing position at Richmond. Bowman was having problems getting his car to rotate through the center of the corner. He was too loose on the exit.

William Byron: Byron has 3 starts in the MENCS at Richmond and he finished 13th, 20th and 12th. Byron enters the race with some momentum after his 4th-place finish at Indianapolis and his 7th-place finish last week at Las Vegas. Byron unloaded with a good car. After his first run he said, “This car is a lot better than what we had here in the spring. He was P3 at the time. Byron got loose and slapped the wall in final practice. It was only cosmetic damage though.

Kyle Larson: It is hard to find a driver who is running as well as Larson right now. He has finished 6 of the last 7 races in the top 8. Larson won at Richmond in 2017.Larson finished 37th in the April race at Richmond but he had an 8th-place running position before he got into the wall. He finished 7th, 7th and 1st in the 3 races before that. Larson liked the way his car unloaded. He said, “I’m a little free on entry and exit but it is a good free.  A little on the edge… but I do not want it to be too tight.”

Kurt Busch: Busch won at Richmond in 2015 but he has only been OK lately. He finished 11th, 18th and 11th in his last 3 races at the track. His average finishing position on the short, flat tracks this season in 12.0. Busch had a lot to say about his car. He said, “The front left is not in the track it all… It is dragging the splitter… Rotation in 1 and 2 is horrible and it has not initial speed.” They spent a lot of time working on their car. He was P17 at the time.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick was in a mini-slump until he won the last race on a short, flat track at New Hampshire. Now he is on fire. Harvick has finished 7 of the last 8 races in the top 7. That includes 3 wins (Loudon, Michigan and Indianapolis). Harvick has the second-best Driver Rating (112.5) and the second-best Average Finishing Position (6.2) in the last 5 races at Richmond. The issue for the No. 4 car was “forward drive”. The car got into the corners well and rotated through the center well, but Harvick could not get to the gas as fast as he wanted too.

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer ran really well in the last race at Richmond. He qualified 14th, finished both stages in 5th place and finished 3rd in the race. Richmond ranks as the 5th-best track for Bowyer so he should be good this week. Bowyer was working on his long-run speed. He felt the splitter was getting into the track and the team made an air-pressure adjustment to race it up. Bowyer said, “That help, but it probably ruined the speed. I would rather have the drivability though.” (He was on scuffed tires in final practice)

Daniel Suarez: Suarez has not been very good at the short, flat tracks this season. He finished 23rd at Phoenix 18th in the first race at Richmond and 19th at New Hampshire. Suarez has competed in 5 races in the MENCS at Richmond and his average finishing position is 12.8. Suarez liked his car a lot more in the 1st practice than he did in final practice. The team made some major changes and then spent time putting them back.

Aric Almirola: Almirola was not very good in the first race at Richmond. The No. 10 car qualified 31st and finished 23rd. He did finish 5th in this race last year so there is some hope for Almirola. He has absolutely no momentum though since he has not finished in the top 10 on an oval track since Charlotte in May. Almirola liked the changes the No. 10 team made between the practice sessions. He said, “The corners are really good now.”

Brad Keselowski: Keslowski continues to run well. He finished 3rd, 5th, 38th and 3rd. His 38th place finish was at Indianapolis when he was running upfront. Keselowski has not won at Richmond since 2014, but his average finishing position in his last 6 races at the track is 6.8. Paul Wolfe told Keselowski, “The No. 18 is running laps at 23.05. We are at 23.65, so I am going to make a big swing at it to help loosen it up.”

Joey Logano: Logano has a lot of momentum right now. He finished 2nd at Indianapolis and then dominated most of the race at Las Vegas. Logano has a series-best 4.6 average finishing position in the last 5 races at Richmond. Logano qualified 3rd, scored 17 Stage points, led 52 laps and finished 2nd in the last race at this track. The No. 22 team said they planned to start with the same setup they used at Richmond last year. Logano posted the 2nd fastest lap on his first run and said, “Good balance. Just need to tweak it a bit.” The No. 22 team told Joey, “The No. 4 car that just passed you is the best car in practice.”

Ryan Blaney: Richmond is the worst track for Blaney and it is not even close. He has competed in 7 races at the track and his average finishing position is 26.7. His best ever finish at the track is 18th in 2017. The No. 12 team started practice with the same setup they used last year and the same setup as the No. 22 car. Blaney said, “It is consistent. I felt like we were hurting the rear tires but the adjustments have it headed in the right direction.”

Paul Menard: Menard had a good race at Richmond in April. He qualified 9th and finished 10th. It was his only good finish at the track though. Menard finished 22nd, 24th, 28th, 25th, 40th, 22nd and 26th in his prior 7 races at the track. Menard made a long run and said, “I don’t know… I feel like it is too free on both ends but the lap times are real good. I hate to have adjustments that ruin our speed.” He was P10 at the time.

Kyle Busch: It is no secret Busch is not a fan of the 2019 aero package. He has not won since the first race at Pocono in June. The cars will be back to the old aero package so maybe that will cheer him up. Busch has a series-high 6 wins at Richmond, including 2 of the last 3 races. Busch made some long runs and as usual… he had a lot to say. Busch said, “The center is good but it fails to rotate on entry and exit. Way too tight off of four. It has the takeoff like we had at Loudon. Just need to keep the front down better.” He was P3 at the time so he was not too bd. (The No. 4 team told Kevin Harvick… The No. 18 car is setting the pace today. He is beating you at both ends.)

Erik Jones: Jones has been good but not great at Richmond. He finished 14th, 11th, 13th and 6th in his last 4 races at the track. Jones did finish in 3rd in the July race at New Hampshire so maybe that strong run will translate into success Saturday night. Jones made some long runs in final practice and he reported the car did not turn in the corners the way he needed it to. He was P16 after his 2nd long run. Their long-run speed was pretty good.

Denny Hamlin: There is a good chance Hamlin will finish 5th this week. He finished 5th at Phoenix, 5th at Martinsville and 5th at Richmond this season. He is one of the best drivers in the sport on the short, flat tracks. Hamlin has 3 wins at his home track. Hamlin was fighting a car that did not rotate the center of the corner the way he wanted it. The team made some changes between the practice sessions and Hamlin said, “Awesome guys. You nailed it.” He was P2 at the time.

Martin Truex Jr.: Turex will have momentum after his win last week at Las Vegas. He does not need it though. Truex has dominated 5 of the last 6 races at Richmond. Truex led 186 laps in April, 163 laps last September, 121 laps in April 2018, 198 laps in September 2017 and 193 laps in September of 2016. That is a lot of time spent leading the field. The No. 19 team was working on their setup that ran well at night. They started final practice in qualifying trim and went to P1 on the speed chart.

Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto has been one of the best drivers on the short tracks this summer. He finished 5th at New Hampshire and 2nd at Bristol. He said after the race last Sunday night that he was very excited to go back to Richmond because it is one of his favorite tracks. The No. 95 team said they were not worried about their lap speeds. They expect the track to be completely different at night from what it was during the day in practice. They worked with the No. 19 team for a good setup at night.

Daniel Hemric: Daniel Hemric has 2 career races at Richmond on his MENCS resume. He finished 32nd in his first race and 19th in April. Hemric only has a 25th-place average finishing position in his last 5 races this season so he is a hard driver to trust in Fantasy NASCAR this week. Hemric liked his car. He said, “Both ends are really hooked up. I can run the top better than the bottom. I need to be freed up a little so I can run the white line the way I like.” Hemric started final practice in qualifying trim and went P2 on the speed chart.

Austin Dillon: Richmond ranks as the 3rd-best track for Dillon. He has finished 6th in the last 2 races at this track. He is starting to build some momentum too after his horrible season. Dillon has finished 10th, 12th and 12th in his last 3 races this season. Dillon could be a sneaky sleeper pick in DFS Saturday night. Dillon made a qualifying run in final practice and went to P5 on the speed chart.

Ty Dillon: Dillon has been a lot better in cars using the 750 HP aero package. He finished 15th at Phoenix, 13th at Martinsville, 21st at Richmond, 15th at Bristol and 16th at New Hampshire. That is not bad for him.

Chris Buescher: Buescher has competed in 7 races at Richmond and his average finishing position is 26.4. Buescher qualified 7th and finished 22nd in the April race at the track. He did finish 16th at Phoenix and 15th at New Hampshire. Dillon said, “Balance is on the free side. Rotates well but loses lateral grip on exit.” Buescher started the first practice in qualifying trim and posted the fastest lap. Buescher said the car was too free in turns 1 and 2 in race-trim.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has not been very good at Richmond in his career. He has 13 career starts in the MENCS at the track and his average finishing position is 19.4. His average finishing position on the short, flat tracks this season is only 16.3. Stenhouse did not like his car in the first practice so the team tried to match their car up with the No. 6 (Ryan Newman). Stenhouse made a long run and went to P11 on the speed chart.

Ryan Newman: Newman is driving his butt off right now trying to stay in the playoffs. He has finished 4 of the last 5 races in the top 12. Newman qualified 2th and finished 9th in the April race at Richmond. He may not qualify well or score many Stage points, but Newman should finish in the top 10 Saturday night. Newman liked his car. He said, “Little on the tight side but it gets better after a few laps. If we start with some better tire pressures, it should be good.” After his final run Newman said, “Damn boys… good job. It is really, really, really good.”

 

 

Favorites to win Saturday night: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano

 

Good Sleeper Picks: Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr,  Matt DiBenedetto and Ty Dillon

 

 

MENCS Final Practice Speeds

 

Final Practice 10-Lap Average Speed

 

 

Click Here for First Practice Speeds

 

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