After last weekend’s wild race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars are back in action this weekend at the Richmond Raceway. This will be the lone scheduled night race for the playoffs as I fully expect sparks to fly under the lights on Saturday.
With how the playoff standings ended up and how a ROVAL is up next as the opening round cutoff race, we’re sure to see another wild show in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Here are some trends to watch out for.
Winner Will Be A Playoff Driver
Don’t expect anyone not in the top 16 of the playoff standings to win Saturday night. No non playoff driver has ever won the second playoff race since the formats inception in 2004.
Winner May Not Win Championship In Homestead
Here’s an odd stat for you, just three times has the eventual Cup champion won the second playoff race. When Dover hosted the second playoff race, only twice did a driver win that event and go on to win the series title that season too. Jimmie Johnson did it in 2009 and again in 2010.
When New Hampshire moved over to the second race of the playoffs, just once did a driver win there and the championship in the same season. Tony Stewart did it in 2011.
In terms of the second date at Richmond, Jimmie Johnson was the last driver to win this race and the title in the same season as that happened in 2006 and 2007. Prior to him, Dale Earnhardt was the last in 1991.
The odds aren’t in favor a Saturday night’s winning going on to win this year’s Cup Series championship.
Toyota Driver Will Likely Win
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez are all viable options to win on Saturday. Toyota drivers have won four of the last six Cup races on the .75-mile Virginia oval. With Hamlin and Jones needing a win, they’re the ones to watch.
Starting Spot Matters
Want to win Saturday’s race, you better earn a top 10 starting position. While Kyle Busch charged through the field in the spring race, don’t expect something like that to happen again. 78-percent of all Richmond Cup Series races have been won from a driver coming from the top 10. 85-percent came from the top 15.
The odds aren’t in your favor if you don’t make it to the final round of qualifying.
Expect A Late Yellow
Just five Richmond races have resulted in a NASCAR overtime finish. But, three of those were in the last three years. Among those three, two of them were in the fall race. The 2016 race went seven overtime laps and last year’s four. With a ROVAL coming up, expect some wild crashes at the end of Saturday night’s race.
We’ve seen late cautions in each of the last three races, I have a feeling that will happen again.