Entering this weekend, I don’t think anyone really doubted that Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN) would be anything other than a Toyota dominated race. Since the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Kentucky Speedway back in July, Toyota drivers have combined to lead 1,603 of the last 2,061 laps. That equates out to 77.7-percent of the overall laps turned in those nine races.
The other two manufacturers, Chevrolet and Ford, have combined to lead just 458 total laps themselves.
With that being said, Toyota drivers were extremely quick in all the preliminary action on Friday at the Richmond Raceway, with Toyota having 1-2-3 in the first practice and five of the top eight speeds on the speed chart. Then, in final practice, they had three cars in the top five again.
Plus, Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last two September night races at the .75-mile Virginia short track, with Matt Kenseth winning in 2015 and Denny Hamlin in 2016. With that being said, I wouldn’t count out Kyle Busch to make it three-for-three on Saturday night.
Kenseth, was first this morning, with Busch and Hamlin being third and seventh respectively.
Busch, has an average finishing spot of 7.33 at Richmond. He has four wins to go along with 15 top fives and 17 top 10 finishes in 24 career starts there. He’s led over 1,000 laps for his career at Richmond and has had 10 top six finishes over his last 16 Richmond starts. He has 16 top 10’s overall in those 24 races too. He’s also finished in the top three in half of his last six starts at Richmond too.
Furthermore, Busch has finished in the top 10 in the last five races on the season too, including a clean sweep of the Bristol weekend three weeks ago.
If not Busch though, look out for Hamlin and his No. 11 Toyota. The Virginia native’s last four Richmond finishes are sixth, sixth, first and third respectively. His average finish at Richmond is 9.77. He has three total Richmond victories to go along with nine top five efforts and 13 top 10’s. He’s led 1,653 laps during his career there, so he knows his way around his hometown track as well.
He too has been on a hot streak with four top four finishes over his last five starts and eight of his last 11.
But, you also can’t count out Kenseth. He would love to just win and solidify his championship chances. Yes, he’s likely solidly in as a wildcard on points alone, but he’d also like those extra playoff points for a win. Kenseth, started on the pole in April and has two wins and 16 top 10’s in 35 career Richmond starts himself. He also has seven top 10’s over his last 10 Richmond starts. On the season, he’s had five top 10’s over his last seven Cup starts, four of which in the top five.
I also wouldn’t sleep on the Furniture Row Racing teammates either.
Martin Truex Jr. has nothing to lose and aiming at gaining more playoff points this weekend. He was second in his No. 78 Toyota in practice on Friday morning.
Erik Jones was eighth this morning in his No. 77 Toyota and has three straight top five finishes on the season including five straight 10’s to his credit. In fact, if you go back to the start of the second half of the Cup season at Daytona in July, Jones has just two finishes outside the top 10 in that time frame.
So, would you bet against Toyota this weekend?