Friday is behind us and we only saw one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session to go along with three rounds of qualifying totaling 15 minutes. So, forgive most if they don’t know what all to expect out of Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 (7:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Here are the top five.
Everyone is going to be watching the skies on Saturday as the race has a potential to be rained out. Mother nature is forecasted to be a potential nuisance on Saturday which could impact the race itself.
If we do get started, whatever the time may be, the race to Lap 200 will be big. With weather looming, once we get to the end of Stage 2, the race is official. That’s Lap 200. So, will some teams elect to run a different pit strategy than others in hopes to be out front if and when the rain falls?
Can JGR And Penske Keep Streak Going?
Between Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, either Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske has won all eight races to start the 2019 Cup Series season off with. In fact, if you go back to the final two races of 2018 too, these two organizations have won 10 straight.
Will that streak push to 11 on Saturday?
So far, yes.
Kyle Busch just earned his third win of this season last weekend in Bristol to go along with a top 10 in all eight races. At Richmond, he’s won six times to go along with 20 top 10 finishes in 27 tries. He swept both races in his No. 18 Toyota a year ago. Also, Busch has four top two finishes in his last seven Richmond tries. He was fourth quickest in single lap runs in practice on Friday and fastest overall on the 10 lap average chart. He rolls off fifth in his No. 18 Toyota.
Denny Hamlin may only be starting 18th, but he was quick in practice in being second on single lap speed and sixth on the long run averages. Hamlin, has two wins on the season to go along with a top 11 finish in all eight races run too. He’s also scored a top six finish in six of his last seven Richmond starts to go along with a win in 2016. He has three overall wins in Richmond and was third in the spring race last year.
Erik Jones rolls off second in his No. 20 Toyota and was fourth fastest on long run speed. Martin Truex Jr. will start sixth in his No. 19 Toyota and has led at least 100 laps in four of his last five Richmond starts. Furthermore, he has four top 10 finishes in his last six starts on the 0.75-mile oval.
This is a strong group.
Don’t forget about Logano. He starts fourth and has three top four finishes in his No. 22 Ford in his last four Richmond starts. Furthermore, he’s scored nine top 10’s in his last 10 tries.
Keselowski, will roll off 12th in his No. 2 Ford and hasn’t finished worse than 11th at Richmond since the spring race in 2015. Since 2014, the Michigan native has scored seven top 10 finishes in 10 starts.
Between these six drivers, would you bet them or the field?
Stewart-Haas Racing Could Shine Too
The only other team that’s been close to these two is SHR. Kevin Harvick qualified on the pole for Saturday night’s race and was ninth on single lap speed in practice earlier on Friday and second on long run speed. He’s also finished in the top five in seven of his last 10 Martinsville starts.
Daniel Suarez is due and has been hot lately. Plus, he has three top 12 finishes in four Richmond starts. He will start ninth on Saturday after being sixth in single lap runs in practice earlier on Friday and 10th on the 10 lap averages.
Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer are searching for speed but they’ve been quick in Richmond lately as well.
Chip Ganassi Racing Finally Getting Over The Hump?
Kurt Busch enters this weekend with a top 10 finish in all but two races in 2019. Busch, also is a past winner of the spring race in Richmond as well as has five top 11 finishes in his last six tries. He qualified third in his No. 1 Chevrolet after being eighth in practice on Friday.
His teammate Kyle Larson hasn’t won a race since the fall race at Richmond in 2017 and is looking to end that drought on the same track where he last tasted victory in a Cup car. Larson, finished seventh in his No. 42 Chevrolet in both races last year and has four top seven finishes overall in his last five Richmond starts. He was quickest in practice on Friday and will start 14th.
Austin Dillon is also one to watch. He’s gaining speed in his No. 3 Chevrolet and had a top 15 finish in both races a year ago too, including a sixth place run in the fall race. He will start up front in eighth too.
Alex Bowman finished eighth in this race last year and 12th in the fall. He qualified 17th.
Ryan Newman may only be starting 31st but he does have six top 11 finishes in his last 11 Richmond starts. He finished in the top 11 in each of the last two weeks on the season as well.
Chris Buescher is the top sleeper. He was third quickest in single lap runs as well as long run speed earlier in practice and will start 11th on Saturday night.