We’re onto the short track part of the opening round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. After last weeks race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, we’re set up for what should be a Toyota show in Saturday night’s race at the Richmond Raceway.
They need it to be at least.
Heading into this weekend’s race on the .75-mile oval, Toyota drivers have won two of the last three Cup races in both the spring and fall at Richmond. They’re a combined 4-for-6.
Plus, they dominated the race back in April.
For two drivers, they absolutely need a win. Both Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones sit at the bottom of the playoff standings. With a ROVAL coming up next week, this is almost a must win.
Hamlin, finished third back in the spring at Richmond for his fourth straight top five finish on his home track and sixth straight top six there in his No. 11 Toyota. He also has 12 top 11 finishes in his last 17 starts at Richmond. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much speed in his car in practice on Friday.
The Virginia native was only 20th and 23rd respectively on single lap runs and just 18th and 17th respectively on 10 lap averages. That’s not going to cut it.
What about Jones?
He was as hot as it comes in terms of recent finishes with ending the regular season with nine top eight finishes over the last 11 races. He came home a disappointing 40th last weekend in Vegas but that was a byproduct of bad luck. At Richmond, Jones was 13th in the spring race but came home sixth in this very race last year. This is the same car too that Matt Kenseth led 352 of 400 laps in his Sept. 2015 win and led 164 laps in the spring race of 2017.
He had a better day in being third and 12th respectively on single lap speeds and 12th and fifth respectively on long run averages. He has a shot to win while Hamlin has some work to do.
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