Published On: Sun, Sep 10th, 2017

Three’s A Crowd: A New Winner At Richmond Would Shake Up The Playoff Picture

A New Winner At Richmond Would Shake Up The Playoff Picture The Playoffs are almost here as NASCAR concludes its regular season with Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Plenty of drama can unfold with the potential of a new winner making the Playoffs as just three points separate the trio of drivers currently holding on to the final postseason slots.

If there is no new winner, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray would all make the playoffs on points. But if there’s a fresh face in Victory Lane, all three are in danger of missing the postseason. Elliott sits 14th on the playoff grid, a mere two points ahead of Kenseth and three points ahead of McMurray.

Elliott has struggled at Richmond throughout his young career. In four starts, he has a high finish of 12th and an average showing of 17.8.

Kenseth claims two wins, six top fives, 16 top 10s and a 16.1 average finish in 35 career starts at Richmond. He won the September race in 2015.

In 29 starts at Richmond, McMurray has posted three top fives, eight top 10s and a 19.2 average finish. He has finished no lower than 16th in his last eight starts there. Included in that stretch are three fourth-place finishes and five top-seven showings.

Truex Captures Regular Season Title At Richmond
Following his performance at Darlington, where he won the first two stages and finished eighth, Martin Truex Jr. captured the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season championship. He’ll be formally crowned champion following Saturday’s race at Richmond.

Truex leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in points (107 more than second-place Kyle Busch), wins (4, Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson are second with 3), stage wins (17, Kyle Busch is second with 10) top 10s (17, Kevin Harvick is second with 16), playoff points 37 (Kyle Busch is second with 20), average running position (8.0, Kyle Busch is second with 8.7), driver rating (113.9, Kyle Busch is second with 107.3), fastest laps run (892, 15.6%; Busch is second with 727, 12.7%) and laps led (1,448, 20.7%; Busch is second with 1,311, 18.7%).

“It’s an honor to win the regular-season championship and a milestone for Martin and Furniture Row Racing,” said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “At the end of the day, though, our sights are set on the long term-goal which is winning the championship at Homestead. We’ll use this regular season championship, and the bad luck the 78 team had at the end of tonight’s race, as a springboard to take us to that goal.”
Logano A Favorite At Richmond?
Joey Logano’s lone win this season came at Richmond in April. The victory was encumbered after Logano failed inspection, so he must take the checkered flag in this weekend’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Northern Virginia track to make NASCAR’s Playoffs.

Logano has placed in the top 10 in his last eight races at Richmond. In 17 starts there, he claims two wins, six top fives, nine top 10s and a 12.5 average finish.

The No. 22 Ford driver has struggled since his April Richmond win. Since then, he’s registered only three top 10s in 16 starts.

The last driver to sweep Richmond was Jimmie Johnson in 2007.

Must-Win Race For Bowyer At Richmond
Clint Bowyer suffered an engine failure early in the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway that’s forced him out of Playoffs contention through points. He must win this weekend at Richmond to make the postseason.

Fortunately for Bowyer, Richmond is one of his top courses. In 23 starts at the .75-mile short track, he owns two wins, four top fives, 12 top 10s and a 12.9 average finish.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gets Last Chance To Make Playoffs In Final Season
For Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make the Playoffs in his final season, he’ll have to win Saturday Richmond – a feat he’s achieved three times in his career (2000, 2004 and 2006), Still, it’s been 11 years since he last won at the .75-mile short track.

In addition to his three wins, Earnhardt has 10 top fives, 14 top 10s and a 13.7 average finish at Richmond.

The No. 88 Chevrolet driver enjoys running at Richmond because it has a similar setup to Myrtle Beach Speedway where he raced often growing up.

Denny The Defender: Hamlin Goes For Back-To-Back Wins
On Saturday, Denny Hamlin will not only try for his second consecutive win after taking the checkered flag last weekend at Darlington, he’ll attempt to visit Victory Lane in consecutive September Richmond races.

A win on Saturday would give Hamlin an extra five playoff points heading into NASCAR’s postseason. Right now, he trails the following drivers in playoff points: Martin Truex Jr. (37), Kyle Busch (20), Kyle Larson (18), Jimmie Johnson (16) and Brad Keselowski (18).

The Chesterfield, Virginia, native claims three wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s and a 9.8 average finish at the .75-mile track. He has finished sixth or better in the last four races there. His 110.3 driver rating at Richmond ranks second among active drivers.

Hamlin has been one of the top-performing drivers in NASCAR this summer. Since the June Michigan race, he has finished fourth or better in eight of 11 races. Included in that stretch are two wins.

Jones Hits Groove, Will Try To Make Last-Ditch Playoff Push
Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Erik Jones has hit his groove recently. The 21-year-old Michigan native boasts five consecutive top-10 finishes and three straight top-five showings.

Jones will try to win his way into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Richmond where he finished 38th due to a wreck in April. In four NASCAR XFINITY Series starts at the Virginia track, he has two top fives, including a runner-up performance this spring.

On the season, Jones claims four top fives, 10 top 10s and a 16.3 average finish. He leads Daniel Suarez by 12 points in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Federated Auto Parts 400
The Place: Richmond Raceway
The Date: Saturday, Sept. 9
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 100),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 200), Final Stage (Ends on lap 400)

Source & Photo Credit: NASCAR

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