NASCAR heads to Richmond Virginia Sunday and race that was once a night time staple will be run in the sunshine. The races at Richmond have been run under the lights for several years, but last spring a rain out forced the Saturday night race to the daytime on Sunday. It was such an overwhelming hit that this season’s first race at Richmond will be during the day. In many ways the .75 mile oval is a short track, but it can race like a superspeedway, so it takes some skill to be fast here.
Here are our favorites for Sunday’s ninth race of the year for your betting or fantasy racing leagues. The odds are current as of Wednesday morning and the Driver Ratings (stats that are a combination of various stats used to determine the best drivers on a given track) are from NASCAR are based on the last 22 races at among active drivers at Richmond International Raceway (2005 – 2015).
Kyle Busch (9-2) had a terrible race at Bristol last week. He blew two tires and end the day in the garage. There is little doubt then that the reigning Sprint Cup champion will be looking for redemption Sunday. Richmond is a good place for Kyle to do just that. He leads all active drivers here with four wins and has the highest driver rating among the field, 110.4. He didn’t enter this race last year as he recovered from his injuries but was second here in the fall. Kyle might be the driver to beat Sunday.
Matt Kenseth (7-1) had his share of troubles last week at Bristol and is looking for a rebound. He has two wins here including a victory the last time the series was here in the fall. His driver rating, 89.0, is the series ninth best but with the strength of Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth could easily upstage his teammate Kyle Busch Sunday.
Kevin Harvick (6-1) can never, ever be counted out. He has run strong all year, won at Phoenix, and has been a threat to win nearly every single week. Harvick has three wins at Richmond and finished second here last year. He has the second best driver rating in the field, 110.1 and should be a threat Sunday.
Kurt Busch (18-1) was the only driver to finish ahead of Harvick in this race last year. Busch won the spring Richmond race his second Richmond win. He has driver rating of 94.2, fifth best. He was a contender for the win at Bristol last week and should be a contender Sunday once again.
Denny Hamlin (6-1) has two wins here and the third best driver rating in the field, 108.8. The Virginia native always holds Richmond in high esteem and always runs well here. With the strength the Joe Gibbs Racing stable has shown this season, don’t be surprised if Hamlin adds a third win to his Richmond resume Sunday.
Others: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20-1) is the longshot this week. But he has been agonizingly close to winning nearly every week. He has a driver rating of 87.2, 11th best, however with the way he’s been running this season, he could seal the deal Sunday. Chase Elliott (20-1) will be making his second Sprint Cup start at Richmond Sunday and has a low driver rating 76.9 (he finished 16th here in the fall). He won the Xfinity race in the fall here though and has shown steady improvement the last two weeks with hard fought top five finishes. This might be the week Elliott surprises the NASCAR world.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota Owners 400 will be run on Saturday April 23rd. Live coverage will be on Fox starting at 12:00 p.m. ET with the green flag coming at about 1:15 p.m. ET.