By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Short track races have defined the last month of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule with two out of the last three being held on tracks less than a mile in length. This weekend, Richmond Raceway joins the short track party with Saturday night’s running of the Toyota Owners 400.
Often described as the perfectly designed race track 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.
Aside from the new aero package being run for the first time at Richmond, qualifying will also undergo some changes as the sanctioning body has trimmed all three rounds down to five minutes apiece in an effort to keep teams from sitting on pit road for extended periods of time before making their qualifying runs.
By the Numbers
What: Toyota Owners 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race No. 9 of 36
Where: Richmond Raceway – Richmond, Virginia (Opened: 1946, First Cup race: 1953)
When: Saturday, April 13
TV/Radio: FOX, 6:30 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 two stages – 100 laps each, Final stage – 200 laps
Aero Package: 750 horsepower, no aero ducts
April 2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – Started 32nd, 32 laps led
September 2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota– Started 11th, 92 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 Toyota – 110.2
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 110.0
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 107.9
- Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 97.8
- Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chevrolet – 95.3
- Clint Bowyer – No. 14 Ford – 93.1
- Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 92.6
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 90.2
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 89.6
- Ryan Newman – No. 6 Ford – 88.4
From the Driver’s Seat
“Richmond is an awesome track to race at,” said Aric Almirola. “It’s Saturday-night racing at its finest. Beating and banging, and the track has very little grip and the tires wear out, so it’s a really fun racetrack. You can see the sparks flying, and having the glow of the brake rotors and everything lit up is neat…It’s just a lot of fun to go there and race.
“I would say Richmond is one of the most challenging racetracks we go to for managing your tires throughout the run. The first 10, 15 or 20 laps of the run can make you feel like Superman roaring through the field, but you will pay a major penalty for that by lap 40. It makes it fun because, when we show up to Richmond, it really is about managing tire fall-off and making sure your car stays consistent throughout the run as the tires fall off.”
Last Time at Richmond
Though Martin Truex, Jr. dominated the first two stages at Richmond last fall, a pit road penalty opened the door for other contenders to battle for the victory.
Kyle Busch, who started shotgun on the field after issues in qualifying, had driven his way through the field and on lap 364 took the lead for good from Brad Keselowski, following an on-track duel that lasted more than 20 laps.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Busch, however, as Kevin Harvick had his sights set on taking the lead and the win away from him. Though Harvick made a valiant effort to try and catch Busch, he ran out of time to do so and Busch went on to score his seventh win of the year and a season sweep at Richmond.
“That was too close for my comfort,” said Busch. “I thought we were a little bit better than that on the long run. I know (Kevin) Harvick, that’s kind of his specialty, but we had a really, really good race car tonight. The M&M’s Camry was awesome. The guys did a great job coming back from a dismal qualifying effort and prepared a really good race car here for us tonight. And, being able to start dead last and come up through the field and win this thing, that’s right Rowdy nation. All for you baby.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, April 12
- MENCS Practice (11:05 am to 11:55 am – No TV, NASCAR.com stream)
- MENCS Final Practice (1:05 pm to 1:55 pm – No TV, NASCAR.com stream)
- MENCS Qualifying (5:40 pm – FOX Sports 1)
Saturday, April 13
- MENCS Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (7:30 pm – 400 laps, 300 miles – FOX)