It may be a short turn around for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, but that’s okay for them. The weather looks much better for this weekend’s Toyota Owners 400 (6:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) than the last few weeks. At Martinsville, the race was snowed out until Monday. Then, they had to be at Texas three days later for what was another blistery cold race. Last weekend, it was to Bristol, for what saw the race snowed/rained out until Monday. Four days later, they will be on the track at the Richmond Raceway.
Here are five storylines for the race.
It seems to be a reoccurring issue this season. Teams aren’t happy with their NASCAR issued pit guns. Most are saying that they could one day cost someone a race win or even a championship. NASCAR, well they acknowledge that there is a potential problem with the pit equipment, but they’re not necessarily going to go changing anything anytime soon.
Will they become an issue again this weekend though? If so, like what happened at Bristol, it would take someone out of contention instantly. Denny Hamlin fell three laps down on Monday at Bristol as a result of a loose wheel, caused by a faulty pit gun. With Richmond being another short track, falling that far off the pace will likely happen again.
Since the fall race of 2014, we’ve seen a different winner in every race since. Will that happen again on Saturday night? Two of the drivers aren’t even racing anymore (Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth), so it’s a realistic option. Plus, Kyle Busch hasn’t won since 2012. So he could extend that streak.
Back To a Night Race
From 1953 to 1997, the spring Cup race at Richmond was run during the daytime hours. But, in 1998, the race was first moved to under the lights. It would remain on the schedule that way until 2016, when NASCAR and the track decided to move it back to a day race. See, in 2002, 2007 and 2015 the race was rained out until a Sunday race. With how much better the racing was during the day in those rain outs, fans lauded for a return to a day race.
Now though, both parties decided to move it back to a night time event for this season. That makes Saturday night’s race the first run under the lights in 2018.
Will Kyle Busch Win A 3rd Straight Race?
No one is as hot in any form of motorsports as Kyle Busch. Over his last six Cup starts on the season, his average finishing position is 1.8. He’s won the last two Cup races, can he make it a third on Saturday night? Busch, has won at Richmond four times during his career, all during the spring race. With how well his No. 18 Toyota is running, I can’t see him not being a factor this weekend.
Can Penske Sustain Success Leaving Richmond?
Last year, the then Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski left the Richmond Raceway in the spring race with a 1-2 finish. Logano, capitalized on a late caution to take his No. 22 Ford to victory lane. Keselowski, led 110 laps and finished runner-up in his No. 2 Ford. At that point, Logano had eight top six finishes through the first nine races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Keselowski, has seven top sixes in those same nine races.
But, after that race, Logano was hit with an encumberment. His win was taken away. The whole landscape of the entire 2017 season from that point forward changed for them.
So far, to start the 2018 season, both are seeing similar results in 2018 that they did to start 2017. Through the first eight races leading up to Richmond, Logano has six top seven finishes and has finished in the top nine in every race with the exception of one this year. He had eight last year. Keselowski, has four top 10’s himself.
At Richmond, Logano does have eight straight top 10 finishes, including a top two in both races in 2017 and four top fives in his last seven tries there. Keselowski, has seven top 11 finishes in his last eight Richmond starts too.
So, can either keep the recent strong runs going, just as they did last year, but not struggle after?