The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continues tonight with the 2021 Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders at Richmond Raceway. Read on below to see my prediction for who will win the race, as well as my top 10, dark horse, and driver to fade predictions.
Winner: Denny Hamlin- Hamlin finally found victory lane this season last week at Darlington and continues to have a stellar 2021 campaign, with 1 win, 14 top 5’s, and 967 laps led so far. Richmond is one of Hamlin’s best tracks, with 3 wins, 14 top 5’s, 18 top 10’s, and 1,911 laps led in 29 career starts. Hamlin has taken a back seat at times this season to Kyle Larson, but is heating up at the right time, with top 5 finishes in 3 of his last 5 starts. Hamlin will continue to build on the momentum generated by his victory at Darlington and I predict that he will make it back-to-back races with a victory tonight by winning at Richmond!
Top 10: Joey Logano- Logano has been pretty hot at Richmond, finishing in the top 4 in 6 of his last 8 starts here, including a win in the spring race in 2017. Logano hasn’t been racing super well lately, with his top 10 at Darlington last week snapping a stretch of 4 straight finishes outside the top 20. However, I believe that Logano will build on his solid showing last week and bring home a top 10 tonight.
Dark Horse: Austin Dillon- Dillon has put together some great runs of late at Richmond, finishing in the top 10 in 4 of his last 5 starts at the track. Although not typically thought of as a short track racer, Dillon has put together top 15 runs at Martinsville, Richmond, and Dover this season. A win is unlikely, but I predict that Austin will put together a solid top 15 run tonight.
Driver to Fade: Michael McDowell- Richmond has been unkind to McDowell in his career, with just 3 top 20 finishes in 20 career starts. With 8 straight finishes of 20th or worse this season, 14 straight races without a top 15 this season, and with a large points deficit to overcome, I expect McDowell to succumb to the pressure and finish outside the top 20 tonight.