In the words of Elton John, “Saturday night’s alright for driving.” Normally we get our NASCAR races on Sunday, but Richmond Raceway hosts all of its events in the evening, so today we get the first nighttime race of the year. Given that one of the nicknames for Richmond Raceway is “Action Track,” you know this race is going to be good to us.
Here are the main metrics I’m looking at this weekend:
- Projected finishing position
- Starting position
- Short- and long-run practice times
- Year-to-date performance
- Short flat-track history
- Track-specific history
Richmond is a 0.75-mile D-shaped asphalt track with minimal banking. As a short flat track, it presents a few challenges. Because it’s short, drivers (especially those starting near the back) are at risk of being lapped early in the race. Additionally, because the track is flat — or at least flatter than most tracks on the circuit — it’s hard for cars to maintain speed as they turn through the corners, which ultimately means that it’s harder for cars to pass one another. As a result, track position (starting position and running position) is at a premium at Richmond.
Denny Hamlin (+163) over Kyle Busch (-200)
Anything can happen in NASCAR, but this prop is massively off. Busch has the superior track history — no one over the last eight Richmond races has a superior driver rating (109.3), average running position (6.0), and quality pass percentage (80.3) — but starting position is important at Richmond, and today Busch starts at 32, whereas in his previous races he started on average at 7.2. Hamlin starts at 4, and he was faster in final practice in both his single-lap and 10-lap runs (8 vs. 14; 2 vs. 4). And it’s not as if Hamlin is bad at Richmond: Over the last eight races there, he has had better finishing position than Busch (7.2 vs. 7.6). In the RotoViz model, Hamlin has a slate-best projected finish of 7.25; Busch, 13.25.
Joey Logano (+120) over Chase Elliott (-150)
Logano and Elliott have similar marks when it comes to starting position (2 vs. 3), single-lap speed (21 vs. 25), and 10-lap speed (6 vs. 7), but Logano has the vastly superior track history. Over the last eight Richmond races, no driver has an average finish higher than Logano at 4.8, and Elliott’s finishing mark of 16.2 isn’t close. At Richmond, Logano has the better driver rating (104.3 vs. 77.3), average running position (9.7 vs. 16.6), and quality pass percentage (62.1 vs. 38.1). Considering that Logano has the edge in literally every metric, there’s no way he should be the underdog in this matchup. Logano has a projected finish of 8.21 in the RotoViz model; Elliott, 11.71.
Ryan Newman (+115) over Alex Bowman (-145)
Bowman has a slight edge in starting position (11 vs. 14) and single-lap speed (7 vs. 17), but Newman has been so much better at Richmond over the past eight races, besting Bowman in finishing position (14.5 vs. 34.5), driver rating (80.0 vs. 37.9), running position (15.2 vs. 35.0), and quality pass percentage (46.6 vs. 0.0). Yep, 0.0%. Bowman clearly has better equipment now as a member of Hendrick Motorsports than he had early in his career with BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing, but even so this year Newman and Bowman have been neck and neck at short flat tracks with running positions of 15.0, and Newman easily has the superior quality pass percentage (62.7 vs. 38.0). Newman in the RotoViz model has a projected finish of 13.62; Bowman, 16.69.
Pictured above: Denny Hamlin