This was a pretty busy week for me. Fresh off the Darlington race, where I predicted a Joe Gibbs Racing driver would win, we finally were granted full NASCAR Media Credentials. And rolling forward, I hope to maintain very accurate predictions for each playoff race. The closer we get to the Championship 4, the harder it will be to pick the right winners.
Going over the stats from past winners at Richmond Raceway, I saw some pretty interesting stats. Joe Gibbs Racing has won seven of the last eleven races here. Kyle Busch won both races in 2018, and Martin Truex, Jr. won both races in 2019. There was only one race that ran at Richmond in 2020, and Brad Keselowski dominated the race. Alex Bowman won this year’s race, but it was dominated by Denny Hamlin and Truex, who combined to lead 314 of the 400 laps. So, I think it’s safe to say picking any of the Joe Gibbs drivers in your fantasy league is a safe bet. But you can’t pick all four, so hear me out on this one.
I would expect Hamlin to be a serious contender for the win. Coming off the Darlington win, he has momentum, which carries more weight than past year results. I wouldn’t shy away from also picking Truex, but that’s the only two JGR guys I would take. Kyle Larson is a past winner but ran slow in the April race, and picking Bowman to repeat and sweep is not a great bet. This, to me, seems like a Chase Elliott kind of track to push the envelope.
If I had to pick a driver that isn’t in the playoffs, I would go with Austin Dillon to run well. He’s had great success at Richmond in the past, and I would expect that to continue. I would also keep an eye on Chris Buescher, just a hunch, but he was running very well early in the season and fell off, but he had great speed at Darlington last weekend. I still stand behind my four-driver picks to not advance, being Harvick, Reddick, McDowell, and Almirola. I don’t think there is enough momentum for either of the Stewart-Haas guys to move on, McDowell crashed out of Darlington and was a long shot before then, and Reddick just lost his balance as the race progressed last weekend.