By David Morgan, Associate Editor
For the second time this season, the NASCAR Cup Series heads off to Richmond Raceway, but this time with Playoff implication on the line when the green flag flies for Sunday’s running of the Federated Auto Parts 400.
After serving as a race in the first round of the Playoffs the last four years, Richmond Raceway was moved up nearly a month for the second race at the track in 2022, making it a crucial step in determining the 16-driver Playoff field.
Often described as the perfectly designed racetrack by drivers, the 0.75-mile track lends itself to not only short track characteristics of beating and banging, but also the characteristics of a larger track with the side-by-side racing that will take place throughout the event.
Through the first 23 races of the season, 15 drivers have made a trip to Victory Lane, leaving just one up for grabs with three races still to go in the regular season. Currently, Ryan Blaney holds the edge for the final spot by a mere 19 points, with Martin Truex Jr hot on his heels and a number of other drivers just chomping at the bit behind them waiting their turn to jump into the fray.
Truex seems to have the advantage at Richmond, winning three of the last six races at the track and scoring top-five finishes in the last seven races, but Blaney did lead 128 laps in the first race there this season. So, it’s still anyone’s game at this point.
By the Numbers
What: Federated Auto Parts 400, NASCAR Cup Series race No. 24 of 36
Where: Richmond Raceway – Richmond, Virginia (Opened: 1946, First Cup race: 1953)
When: Sunday, August 14
TV/Radio: USA Network, 3:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 0.75-mile oval
Banking: Turns: 14 degrees; Straights: 8 degrees (front), 2 degrees (back)
Race Length: 400 laps, 300 miles
Stage Lengths: First stage: 70 laps, Second stage: 160 laps, Final stage: 170 laps
April 2022 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – Started 13th, five laps led
September 2021 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Toyota – Started third, 80 laps led
Track Qualifying Record: Jeff Gordon – No. 24 Chevrolet – 20.674 seconds, 130.599 mph – 9/4/2013
Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Richmond Raceway:
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 109.9
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Ford – 109.3
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 108.8
- Christopher Bell – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 100.6
- Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 99.5
- Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 95.3
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 93.8
- Kurt Busch – No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota – 90.4
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 89.0
- Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 88.5
From the Driver’s Seat
“Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are,” said Kyle Busch. “The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them.
“That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race. It’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple of years.”
Last Time at Richmond
New tires made all the difference in the closing laps of the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond earlier this season.
William Byron held the edge as the race was inside 10 laps to go, but caught up in traffic, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were able to put their fresher Goodyears to work, snaking their way through the field and surpassing Byron with five laps remaining on the board.
From there, it was a battle between Hamlin and Harvick for the win, with Hamlin holding off the charge to capture another win at his home track.
“Just great strategy there,” Hamlin said. “Just drove as hard as I could. Just so proud of this whole FedEx Camry team, man, just never giving up.
“There was no doubt in my mind, maybe just a little, but they got this car right there towards the end. Wow, unbelievable.”
Following Hamlin and Harvick across the line was Byron, Truex, and Kyle Larson rounding out the top-five.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern
- Saturday, August 13
- NASCAR Cup Series Practice (5:05 pm – USA Network)
- NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (5:50 pm – USA Network)
- Sunday, August 14
- Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (3:00 pm – 400 laps/300 miles – USA Network)