The NASCAR Cup Series continues on today as it visits Richmond Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400. The 0.75 mile, d-shaped, short track was built in 1946 and has held NASCAR races yearly since 1953, making it one of the oldest stops on the Cup Series schedule. Last year’s edition was won by Virginia native Denny Hamlin, who passed William Byron for the lead late in the race, leading the final five laps on the way to his fourth career Richmond victory.
Driver to Fade:
Todd Gilliland started off the season slow, but has turned it on of late, with 2 straight top 15 finishes. Gilliland has definitely been outperforming his equipment, but that will change this week as he returns to Richmond, where he has finished 25th and 27th in his 2 previous Cup starts. Gilliland will start in 13th place today due to practice and qualifying being rained out yesterday, but we predict that he will slide back quickly and finish outside the top 20.
Making his 6th career Cup Series start today, Josh Berry is making gains, picking up his first top 10 finish at Phoenix Raceway a few weeks ago. Berry comes into NASCAR with a deep pedigree in short track racing, as he started off his career running late models races. Berry has made 4 prior starts at Richmond in the Xfinity Series, with 3 top 10’s in those 4 starts, highlighted by a 3rd place finish here yesterday, where he won Stage 2 and led 63 laps on the day. Berry is obviously racing in solid equipment, as he continues to fill in for Chase Elliott, but he still faces a learning curve as he adjusts to the Cup Series equipment. He may not go out and win the race today, but Berry can certainly put up another top 10 finish.
A native of Chesterfield, Virginia, Richmond Raceway is the home track race for Denny Hamlin and he has made the most of it in his career, with 4 wins, 17 top 5’s, 21 top 10’s, and 2,135 laps led in 32 career starts. Hamlin hasn’t been lighting up the leaderboard each week in 2023, with just 2 top 10 finishes so far on the young season, but he is seemingly always in contention at Richmond, finishing in the top 5 in 8 of his last 10 starts at the track, including picking up the win in this race last spring. Hamlin starts today’s race in 11th place and will definitely be in the mix to win today, but a top 10 finish is a lock.
Some tracks just fit certain drivers very well, with Richmond quickly becoming one of those tracks for Christopher Bell, as he has finished 15th, 4th, 3rd, 6th, and 2nd here in 5 career Cup starts. 2023 has been feast or famine for Bell so far, with 4 top 6 finishes and 2 finishes outside the top 30. Joe Gibbs Racing always seems to do well at Richmond, as evidenced by the success of Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Truex, just to name a few. JGR has won 8 of the last 13 spring races at Richmond Raceway and we predict that Christopher Bell will keep that streak alive by bringing home the victory today!