Only three races remain until the playoffs and only one slot remains. Win and you’re in, and every driver outside looking in will do a little extra bumping and banging to get that first 2022 win with no fear of repercussions or hurting someone. Sunday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 has slower speeds on the 3/4-mile D-shaped oval at Richmond Raceway in Virginia than a bigger track, and it’s open season.
It’s checkers or wreckers time.
I’m looking for some heated action with a few of the drivers getting punted not being too happy about it and trying to reconcile their differences at the end of the race. After this race, it’s the Watkins Glen road course and then it’s the randomness of Daytona where anyone can win. For a lot of drivers, this is their best chance to win.
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 PICKS & PREDICTIONS
Here’s a list of the favorites to win Sunday with odds provided by BetMGM sportsbooks:
Martin Truex Jr. (6/1) Imagine being the favorite in a race after not winning any for the first two-thirds of a season. Now imagine being bumped from a playoff spot and sitting 21-points out. He has to make something happen if he wants the try and win another championship. The question is: why would he win now when he hasn’t all season? The first answer is desperation. Harvick won last week with a taste of desperation. The next answer is that he led a race-high 172 laps at the last flat track in New Hampshire on July 17. The next answer is that he’s won three of the last six races at Richmond and was fourth in the spring. The final reason is desperation.
Denny Hamlin (7/1) The Virginian gets home cooking when he races at his home track. In 31 Cup starts he has an 8.5 average finish with four wins and 16 top-fives. His 2,113 laps led are the most among active drivers. He won at Richmond after leading only five laps due to great pit strategy. But these flat tracks, his bread and butter throughout his racing career, haven’t been his best this season despite the win. He was sixth at New Hampshire. He’s way overpriced for this one.
Kyle Busch (7/1) He leads all active drivers with a 6.9 average finish at Richmond, as well as six wins and 18 top-fives. His best recent performance on a similar track was runner-up at St. Louis after leading 66 laps. But his only win remains on dirt at Bristol and his boss Joe Gibbs won’t commit to him past 2022. He talks about what it takes to be successful at Richmond.
“Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are,” Busch said. “The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race. It’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple of years. We’re hoping to get our M&M’S Camry another win there.”
Christopher Bell (8/1) Here’s your surprise championship contender. He’s a flat track guy and won on the last one on the schedule at New Hampshire. He might even be using the same exact car this week. And Richmond might be his best track. In four Cup starts, he has a seventh-place average finish with two top-fives. He won three of four Xfinity Series races from 2018-19. He probably should be the favorite to win based on current form and being a flat track specialist.
“I’m looking forward to carrying our speed into a great track for us,” Bell said. “We’ve got some momentum from the past couple weeks and our Toyota Camry TRD was really good last time we were at Richmond (6th).”
Chase Elliott (9/1) This is a good track for the points leader with four wins on the season. He has an 11.5 average finish in 13 Cup starts with four top-fives. And the reason you might bet him this week should be because of the roll he’s on which includes a runner-up at New Hampshire a few weeks ago.
“In the spring, I really felt like we had a better car than where we finished,” Elliott said. “Strategy didn’t quite work in our favor, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do when we return this weekend. Passing is going to be tough again, so I really feel like qualifying and getting good track position is going to be important.”
Kyle Larson (10/1) His last win was at Fontana in Week 2, but doesn’t have any others since then. Quite the change for the defending champ who won 10 times last season. But the light at the end of the tunnel might be getting closer for the 2017 Richmond winner. They are getting better on the short flat tracks as the season goes as explained by Larson’s crew chief Cliff Daniels.
“We’ve upgraded our short-track program a lot,” Daniels said. “Cars were okay at Richmond – we weren’t great. We certainly weren’t that good at Gateway. We really did a lot of work to get better for New Hampshire. We did not execute a good race at New Hampshire but we had a lot of car speed and the car had a lot of potential.”
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 BETTING RESOURCES
Date: Sunday, August 14, 2022
Venue: Richmond Raceway
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Distance: 300 miles
Network-Time: USA – 3:00 p.m. ET
Defending Champion: Martin Truex, Jr.
Ross Chastain (12/1) He leads the series in top-fives with 10 and has two wins. He’s hungry for another. Other drivers are trying to teach him lessons about being aggressive which have taken his aggressiveness down a notch, but it’s go-time. Don’t let those veteran drivers take away what makes him good. They’re getting in his head. I see it weekly with him thinking three times before making a move. Just race, man. Just race! Be you Ross Chastain, it’s awesome for NASCAR.
Ryan Blaney (12/1) This is the perfect place for him to ruffle some feathers. He’s holding the 16th and final playoff spot just 21-points ahead of Truex who is now out thanks to Harvick’s win last week. Blaney is cutting it close. He needs to toughen up and give some payback. He gets bullied and then just takes it and goes to his trailer. Despite all the softness, the reason you might bet him this week is that he led the most laps at Phoenix (143) finishing fourth, and led the most laps at Richmond (128) finishing seventh. He was also fourth at St. Louis. He’ll have the car, will have the nerve to grab the checkers? I bet him, so I believe he’ll do what it takes to win.
Kevin Harvick (14/1) He ended a 65-race winless streak last week at Michigan and now he’s in the playoffs. His team has been getting faster along the way and I think we’ll see him fast this week in an upward progression. On similar tracks this season he was sixth at Phoenix and runner-up at Richmond. He’s a flat track guy, always has been. Richmond has seen him win three times in 42 Cup starts with 16 top-fives and 1,180 laps led. Harvick gets greedy, too. More wins add to his legacy of badassery.
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 CONTENDERS
Bubba Wallace (16/1) Toyota has their act together and it’s showing well for him and his quality trend for his 2022 starts in Atlanta with 14th, then he had a third at New Hampshire, eighth at Pocono, fifth in the Indy GP, and then runner-up off the pole last week at Michigan. If you like him this week, the best case to justify a bet is his New Hampshire performance.
Joey Logano (16/1) He’s my guy this week. He’s the driver I will win the most with if he wins. I’m growing to like his Lone Ranger attitude. He’s the only one that matters. Teammates don’t put dinner on the table, nor do his friends. Han Solo does it his way and it works as he’s third in the standings with two wins and the reason I bet him is because of where one of those two wins was on flat tracks. He won at St. Louis in June and also was runner-up at Martinsville in April. He’s a two-time winner at Richmond with 12 top-fives and a 10.5 average finish.
William Byron (18/1) This is the re-boot right? He had two wins through Week 8 and has none since. His Martinsville win was also his last top-five. But his Martinsville win might be why you support him this week. A flat half-miler. He was also third a week before Martinsville at Richmond after leading 122 laps. He has to experience some success and get into playoff mode, right?
“I don’t try to get into any sort of mode,” Byron said. “I just try to race. We try, at times, to simulate what a playoff race would be like or things like that, but it never seems to work too well. We’re going to try our best when the playoffs start and we’re trying our best this weekend. Hopefully, this weekend goes as we want it to. The only thing that races right now represent are the strengths or weaknesses at certain tracks. I feel like we’ve gotten the road courses pretty good, and we were really good at the short tracks earlier this year as well. Even though Richmond isn’t in the playoffs anymore, it’s a short track that will kind of represent a Phoenix-type track.”
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 BETTING ANALYSIS
Tyler Reddick (20/1) In four starts he has a 14.5 average finish at Richmond but the reason I like him this week beyond his odds is that he has seven top-fives this season on all types of tracks. One of those was a third-place at Phoenix. He can hang here because we see him hang around the front almost everywhere. He was 12th in the spring Richmond race. Both his wins this season came on road courses, but he’s a threat to win anywhere.
Alex Bowman (25/1) I figured after he won the Las Vegas race in Week 3 that it was back to old business for him and his Hendrick teammates, but here we sit in the 24th race of the season and he still has only one win. Only three top-fives all season. He won at Richmond last season so maybe that’s the boost he and his team need to turn things around before the playoffs.
“The No. 48 team has had success there which always helps our confidence,” Bowman said. “We ran well and took home a top 10 at Michigan so we all feel like there is no reason we can’t go to Virginia this Sunday and build some momentum for the playoffs. Greg (Ives, crew chief) is really good about keeping us focused one race at a time, which helps us take the pressure off and perform when the time comes. We will study hard, prepare as much as we can and go execute this weekend.”
Daniel Suarez (28/1) He has a 15th-place average finish in 10 Cup starts at Richmond and the reason you might bet him this week is that he was ninth at Phoenix and eighth at New Hampshire. He’ll be fast this week!
Kurt Busch (28/1) He’s a two-time winner at Richmond, but I don’t know if he’ll be out again with concussion-like symptoms lingering. I wish him well in recovery. But Ty Gibbs has done a good job filling in and just know that Gibbs won the Xfinity Series race at Richmond in April. I’ll be looking for the best price on Gibbs to win if he does start after a 10th last week at Michigan.
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 LONG SHOTS
Aric Almirola (40/1) The reason you bet him this week is because of his fifth-place finish at St. Louis. Harvick won last week, why not his teammate in clutch fashion like seems to happen every year for him at SHR making the playoffs. What’s up with that?
“Never giving up,” Almirola said. “Always overcoming adversity and going to each weekend with a short-term memory from the weekend before. In this sport, most guys only win one race a year, which means you’re technically losing every other race that season, so you have to be positive or the mental side of things will eat you up.”
Chase Briscoe (40/1) This isn’t his favorite track but he was a respectable 11th in the spring race a month after winning his first Cup race at Phoenix after leading 101 laps. Phoenix is why you would make a bet on him this week. He talks about his last Richmond start.
“I just felt like we unloaded pretty close to what we needed, where in the past we were so off and I didn’t really know what I needed on a short track,” Briscoe said about his Richmond past. “But that was kind of what we saw at Phoenix, too. This car has changed a lot of things and it’s hard to really pinpoint what the change is. I think a lot of it is how the NextGen car drives, and it just seems to suit what we do on short tracks.”
Austin Dillon (50/1) In 16 Cup starts at Richmond he has a top-five and five top-10s with a 16.2 average finish. He was 10th in the spring race but with the urgency of his situation being outside the playoffs, he may try some different pit strategy to simply do it for the sake of being different. He’ll also wreck anyone if victory is in sight and you gotta love him for that if betting him. Let’s try him at Daytona in two weeks.
Austin Cindric (66/1) He led 26 laps at St. Louis and finished 11th but that’s about the only positive he has on the flat tracks. He was also 11th at Martinsville. The only reason to bet him this week is because of having Penske equipment. I may bet him next week at Watkins Glen. He’s already in the playoffs due to winning the Daytona 500.
Erik Jones (66/1) He’d love to win as well to make the playoffs and this is a good track for him despite his 20th-place average finish in 10 Cup starts. I loved the way he raced at St. Louis finishing seventh and if his team can set his car up similarly this week he can win.
Brad Keselowski (80/1) He’s a two-time winner at Richmond with a 12.3 average finish and 1,177 laps led, but he doesn’t have any top-fives anywhere this season and has just three top-10s. That’s the difference between driving for Penske and driving for RFK Racing this season. In the spring race, he fought hard and finished 13th.
“We had a decent run at Richmond in the spring and just missed out on a top-10,” Keselowski said. “Our short-track program has definitely come a long way in a short time, and I think our results have shown that. For me Richmond has historically been a really good track so I’m looking to repeat some of that same success and put our Roush Performance Ford in a great position Sunday afternoon.”
Chris Buescher (100/1) He’s 23rd in points and has to shake things up to make the playoffs. One top-five and six top-10s this season. No bets for me on him this week, but I will definitely have one next week on him at Watkins Glen. He was 15th in the spring Richmond race.
“Brad’s been a huge help for me at certain race tracks with Richmond being one of the bigger ones,” Buescher said. “It hasn’t historically been my place but it went pretty decent last time there, much better than in the past. It says something that we have speed at different types of race tracks, and been in the top-10, just have to put the pieces together and get the end result.”
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION
1. #22 Joey Logano (16/1)
2. #19 Martin Truex Jr. (6/1)
3. #1 Ross Chastain (12/1)
4. #12 Ryan Blaney (12/1)
5. #4 Kevin Harvick (14/1)
NASCAR CUP SERIES