The first night race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is here. The Cup stars will race under the lights for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 (6:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the Richmond Raceway. Over the last few years, certain drivers have stood out as the best around the .75-mile Virginia oval.
Here are five favorites and five sleepers.
Favorites Category –
It’s been a great start to the season for Logano. He has finished in the top 10 in every race with the exception of one in 2018. At Richmond, he has eight straight top 10 finishes, including a win in this race last year and second in the fall. Since joining Team Penske, Logano’s finishes at Richmond are third, 22nd, first, sixth, fifth, third, eighth, 10th, first and second respectively.
Watch out for his No. 22 Ford this weekend.
Hamlin is due. He has five straight top six finishes at Richmond. Like Logano, he’s been close in every race this year, but hasn’t had the overall speed to win. That changes on Saturday night. Hamlin, was third and fifth respectively in both races at Richmond a year ago. He was sixth and first respectively in 2016.
This is his home track. Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota will be strong.
How can you not go with Busch this weekend? He has six straight top three finishes on the season. He also has four Richmond wins in his career, all in the spring race. Since 2014, Busch has finished third, 14th, second, second, ninth, 16th and ninth respectively in his No. 18 Toyota at Richmond.
He’s due for another win at Richmond. His worst finish there since 2009 was a 19th place run in 2012. Over his last seven Richmond starts, he has five top five finishes in his No. 4 Ford. He’s among the best drivers this season and should make up for Bristol on Saturday night.
Kyle’s older brother is due for a win. That could come this weekend. Busch, has eight top 10 finishes over his last 10 Richmond starts, including eighth and fourth respectively last season. His No. 41 Ford will be strong on Saturday night.
Sleepers Category –
He’s due for a win anytime now. This could be the race. Jones, finished sixth in his last Cup start at Richmond last Fall. Plus, the No. 20 Toyota that he’s driving, started on the pole in both races last year with Matt Kenseth, where Kenseth led 164 laps in the spring and 89 more in the fall. He also led 352 of the 400 laps in his win in the Fall race in 2015 and has four top three starting spots in his final five Richmond starts.
Now, Jones is in that car.
You can’t talk about Jones and not have Suarez in this. He’s due and has a 12th place finish in this race last year and seventh in the fall. His average finishing position at Richmond is 9.50. Watch out for his No. 19 Toyota this weekend.
The SHR driver is going for the Virginia spring sweep this weekend. Bowyer, ended his 191 race winless drought at Martinsville last month. Now, he heads to one of his better tracks. Before driving for some underfunded teams, Bowyer had six top 10 finishes in eight starts prior to the 2016 season. He’s strong this year and should have his No. 14 Ford up front contending for the win on Saturday night.
Lets keep this SHR/JGR theme going here. Almirola has been strong this season and due to take the No. 10 Ford to victory lane. In his last seven Richmond starts, Almirola has three top 10 finishes. That’s with Richard Petty Motorsports. Imagine what he could do with SHR. He’s coming off of his season best finish last weekend of sixth at Bristol.
This could be a steal on Saturday night. Newman, finished in the top 10 in both races at Richmond last year and 10th last weekend at Bristol. He was seventh in this spring race and third in the fall. In fact, his average finishing position is 11.81 at Richmond. Since he joined RCR, he’s been quietly good at Richmond.