Nascar Racing

Cup Teams Night Racing On Easter At Richmond   

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

Richmond Raceway is one of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR circuit and, though it has gone through a lot of changes over the last seventy plus years, it is still one of the most challenging short tracks the Cup Teams face. Add to that they face it twice a year and one of those times is in the playoffs. This spring race is on Easter and it is at night, under the lights.

This Toyota Owners 400 is already starting off in an interesting way and different than it has been for the last couple of weeks anyway. There are four Chevys starting in the top four and three of them are Hendrick Motorsports teams. The fourth is TrackHouse Racing’s Ross Chastain. I suppose you’ve already noticed that Kyle Larson won the pole and right beside him is Chase Elliott and they were only thousandths of a second apart in qualifying.

In fact, if you were paying attention to those qualifying times, there isn’t a lot of separation in the qualifying times of the field. Of course, I’ve told you numerous times what I think qualifying has to do with how the race will go. Yeah, that’s right, not much more than how the pit selections will go and the faster qualifying times get the better choices. That means Kyle Larson will be taking the first pit stall and the others will take what they think will help them be more competitive as the race progresses and pit stops take place.

The Toyota Owners 400 is four hundred laps and 300 miles. At a track like Richmond Raceway, there is a lot that can happen between that first lap and the last one. This track eats tires pretty quickly and according to many, the drivers will want four tires every chance they get.

So, what does that mean? Well, like we saw a couple of weeks ago at Bristol, tire management will be key and the ones that can do the best job will have a definite advantage, especially late in a green flag run. From this fan’s view, that could be more of a key to which of the drivers will win tonight as opposed to some other things. It will also likely affect the strategy the teams employ as the race progresses.

I can’t help but wonder if the Toyotas are struggling this weekend or if it only appears that way. In past weeks on the shorter tracks, they have managed to be the ones to noticeably be better on the long runs and, whether they have won or not, they have pressed the leader to the final flag. Sure, I know Christopher Bell was pressing William Byron right down to the end of last weeks race but that wasn’t as much of a tire management race as the short tracks before.

The Fords just haven’t shown they have a total grip on their new body style yet and it shows from the way they have finished even when they have qualified on the front row. Ryan Blaney has been the only real bright spot in the Ford camps so far and yet even he seems to be struggling lately. Joey Logano has been fast in qualifying but that hasn’t translated into a win either. In fact, he is having one of his worst years ever so far. I’m not just saying that myself. He has said it in interviews and, honestly, from this fan’s view it has been a bad year for him so far. Of course, some of his poor finishes have had nothing at all to do with him or the Fords not having speed but, he has been a victim of circumstances beyond his control. (In other words and to simplify, bad racing luck…)

What will happen in tonight’s race? Well, that’s a question that this fan can’t answer. I suspect there is a good possibility the Chevys could have a very good night. They certainly look to have the speed but then they have had that look before only to finish as also rans. Of course, Kyle Larson won last year’s spring race at Richmond and he did dominate at Las Vegas just a few weeks ago. I suppose he should be considered as one that could do the same thing again.

Of course, I know anything can happen tonight and it could be someone totally unexpected that walks away with the win. The only thing is there are those pesky Toyotas that have been showing a lot of speed especially on these shorter tracks. In particular, I’m talking about the JGR Toyotas of Ty Gibbs, Martin Truex Jr, and Denny Hamlin. At Bristol, Hamlin proved he knew how to manage tire wear and he got the win. Bubba Wallace in his 23XI Toyota qualified fifth and could lead the way to the checkered flag when all is said and done.

Unfortunately, and I don’t say this lightly; there are a lot of possible winners in the field tonight. Which of them will end up on top is anybody’s guess and I’m not willing to offer mine. I’m just going to watch and wait and see…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 31, 2024 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.