First things first! Mark your calendars for Saturday night instead of Sunday. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series moves to the second race in Round One of the Championship Playoffs. And, it’s under the lights Saturday evening at Richmond Raceway. As you may have guessed, Kyle Busch is a heavy favorite. 

There’s a good reason why - besides the fact that he’s won so many races this season. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing has won big at Richmond over his career as a Cup Series driver. That’s why Busch sports a +230 heading into Saturday night for the running of the Federated Auto Parts 400.

Here are the numbers; Busch has twenty-six starts at the track and has led a lap in 16 of those races. He has five wins at Richmond Raceway with 15 top-five and 19 top-ten finishes. His average finish is an amazing 7.2! How does that compare with other drivers? Let’s look at Kevin Harvick, sitting at +400, who trails Busch on the favorites list.

Weekend preview: NASCAR Cup Series hits Richmond

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart – Haas Racing, has thirty-five Cup series starts at the track with three wins. However, none of those checkered flags have come with his current SHR team. Overall, he has an average finish of 10.3 at the track with 13 top-five and 22 top-ten finishes. The finishes in the top-ten are amazing and higher that Busch’s. But, Harvick has almost ten more starts at the track than Busch.

Here’s a look at the top-ten favored drivers heading into the race on Saturday night.

Kyle Busch+230
Kevin Harvick +400
Martin Truex Jr.  +500
Brad Keselowski +650
Denny Hamlin +800
Kyle Larson +800
Clint Bowyer+1000
Joey Logano+1100
Chase Elliott+1500
Aric Almirola+2500


The biggest jump up the list this week was Brad Keselowski, who has a +650 heading into the race. He was closer to the bottom of the top-ten last week. But, Keselowski has managed to string together three Cup Series wins in a row. The checkered last week cemented him into the next round of the playoffs so he does not have the sense of urgency to go for the gold that other Playoff drivers may have. 

Last 15 Richmond Winners

Here are the last fifteen drivers to win at Richmond for those who factor in defending race winners in your trends. You’ll notice Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson as the last two winners. Busch has won five times at the track but there was a long gap between win number four and his fifth Richmond checkered.

2011Kyle Busch
2011Kevin Harvick
2012Kyle Busch
2012Clint Bowyer
2013Kevin Harvick
2013Carl Edwards
2014Joey Logano
2014Brad Keselowski
2015Kurt Busch
2015Matt Kenseth
2016Carl Edwards
2016Denny Hamlin
2017Joey Logano
2017Kyle Larson
2018Kyle Busch


Busch is joined by other Cup Series Playoff drivers with wins at Richmond over the last fifteen years. Joey Logano, at +1100 for Saturday’s race, has two wins over that span as does Harvick. Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Denny Hamlin all have single wins at the track over the last fifteen visits to the track.

Aric Almirola may not be the biggest name to jump out at you when looking over the top-ten favored drivers heading into Richmond. But the driver has strung together several strong runs over the last part of the season and he is qualified for the Playoffs. 

Almirola would love to have a strong run this weekend to better his playoff numbers and it’s possible. The problem is that he has a habit of finishing 17th at the track! In 13 Cup Series starts he’s finished 17th four times. But he does have one top-five and 4 top-ten runs at Richmond. His best finish was in 2015 when he finished fourth during the fall race.

Denny Hamlin, +800 heading into the weekend, maybe the driver to watch at Richmond. Over 24 cup series starts he has three wins with the last coming in 2016. He has 11 top-five and 15 top-ten finishes with an average finish of 9.3 which is second only to Busch when it comes to Playoff drivers.

NASCAR Weekend Viewing Guide:

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off this weekend. Both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series are at Richmond. 

Friday, Sept. 21

•    8:30-9:15 a.m.: Xfinity Series first practice, NBC Sports App 
•    10:10-10:55 a.m.: Xfinity Series final practice, NBC Sports App 
•    11:35 a.m.-12:25 p.m.: Cup Series first practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App 
•    1:30-2:20 p.m.: Cup Series final practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App 
•    4:35 p.m.: Xfinity Series Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App 
•    6:05 p.m.: Cup Series Busch Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App 
•    7:30 p.m.: Xfinity Series GoBowling 250 (250 laps, 187.5 miles), NBCSN/NBC Sports App 

Saturday, Sept. 22

•    7:30 p.m.: Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 (400 laps, 300 miles), NBCSN/NBC Sports App

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