Richmond Raceway, Richmond, VA — April 3, 2022
Coming off the first road course race of the year, the stars and cars of the NASCAR Cup Series run their first points-paying short track race of the year with 400 laps at Richmond Raceway. Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track.
Today, Richmond Raceway is a three-quarter mile D-shaped asphalt-paved oval that features the bump and run racing that NASCAR fans love. The 400 laps or 300 miles of competition is divided into stages of 70/160/170 laps.
There are nine drivers in the field today that have posted wins at Richmond.
|Rank||Active Race Winners||Wins||Season|
|1||Kyle Busch||6||2018 sweep, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009|
|2||Denny Hamlin||3||2016, 2010, 2009|
|3||Kevin Harvick||3||2013, 2011, 2006|
|4||Martin Truex Jr||3||2021, 2019 sweep|
|5||Brad Keselowski||2||2020, 2014|
|6||Joey Logano||2||2017, 2014|
|7||Kurt Busch||2||2015, 2005|
First Time Winners
But the question everyone is looking to have answered is; So far 2022 has produced first-time winners aplenty, who’s next?
Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain became the third first-time NASCAR Cup Series winner of the 2022 season (Austin Cindric, Daytona; Chase Briscoe, Phoenix) last weekend with his big victory at the Circuit of The Americas. The win makes 2022 the first time since 2001 the series has seen three first-time winners in the first six races of a season.
What are the chances a fourth new winner is sitting in Victory Lane on Sunday? If a first-time winner takes the checkered flag this weekend at Richmond, the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season would become the first season in the Modern Era (1972-Present) with four or more first-time winners in the first seven races of a season and just the third all-time; behind the series inaugural season in 1949 (six first-time winners) and its sophomore season in 1950 (five first-time winners).
The 1950 season holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most first-time winners in a single season with 12 different drivers getting their first win that year. The 2001, 2002, and 2011 seasons are tied for the series-most first-time winners in a single season in the Modern Era with five first-time winners each.
Richmond Raceway has been the home to five first-time winners in the NASCAR Cup Series with Kasey Kahne being the most recent to accomplish the feat in 2005. Others include Tony Stewart(1999), Kyle Petty(1986), Neil Bonnett (1977), and James Hylton(1970).
Looking at the field entered this weekend, there are 11 drivers looking for their first career Cup Series win – (alphabetical order by last name) Harrison Burton, Landon Cassill, Ty Dillon, Todd Gilliland, Corey Lajoie, Andy Lally, BJ McLeod, Tyler Reddick, Garrett Smithley, Daniel Suárez, and Cody Ware.
Six for Six
Through the first six races of 2022, we have seen six different drivers take the checkered flag. Will that trend continue at Richmond? Austin Cindric, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, William Byron, and Ross Chastain have all visited victory land this year in the Cup Series.
Favorites to break that trend are Joe Gibbs Racing(JGR) drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Christopher Bell. JGR has 17 wins at the track. Chase Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion is the only Hendrick Motorsports driver yet to win this year.
Ryan Blaney won the pole for today’s race, it is his third start from the top qualifying position this year, but he is still looking for his first victory.
Inspection troubles for the Next-Gen cars continue to plague teams. This week the crews of Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Justin Haley, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were hit with inspection infraction penalties, including the loss of their car chiefs for failing twice.
Justin Haley and Greg Biffle will have to serve a pit road pass-through penalty after taking the green flag for failing inspection three times. Bubba Wallace 23XI team, already suffering from the loss of their crew chief and two pit crew members for losing a tire last week at COTA, lost backup car chief Zach Marquardt.
Ryan Blaney(12) drove off into Turn One with the lead as William Byron(24), and Kyle Busch(18) fell in behind him. In just a few laps the top three built a small lead at the front of the pack.
Kurt Busch(45) brought out the first caution flag of the day on Lap 9 as his car lost power coming out of a turn. His crew asked him to recycle the ignition system but to no avail. Track crews responded and pushed him back to the pits to receive attention from his crew.
The early caution was a bonus for Justin Haley(31) who along with Greg Biffle(44) lost a lap serving their pit pass-through penalty on Lap one. Haley got the free pass, returning him to the lead lap.
Kyle Busch’s crew took his race car to the garage to address a concern with the fuel pickup system. Not many cars pitted during the caution as track position is a key to short-track racing.
Blaney continued to lead from the start and 40 laps in he began to lap cars. With clearly the fastest car on the track, he opened the interval between himself and Byron in second. In taking the Stage One win, Blaney lapped 10 of the 37 cars in the field during the first 70 laps.
Stage One Results
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.||7|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Blaney won the race off pit road to maintain his lead as Ross Chastain(1), Chase Elliott(9), Christopher Bell(20), and Kyle Busch(18) followed. Elliott spun his tires on the restart and jumbled the field up just past the flag stand allowing Bell and Busch to each move up a position.
By Lap 100 Blaney had built almost a seven-second lead on Chastain in second. Without a caution flag, teams will likely look to break the Stage in half with green flag stops around the 150 lap mark.
Green flag pit stops began around Lap 125 as some teams opted to come in early for tires as lap times began to decline drastically. Blaney pitted on Lap 130 allowing Bell to take over as the race leader. Most of the field followed suit as only six cars remained on the track with everyone else falling at least a lap behind.
Bell pitted on Lap 155, as the pit cycle was finally completed it showed the importance of fresh tires. Martin Truex Jr.(19), who was the first to pit, was the leader when everyone had gotten four new Goodyear tires and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel. Blaney returned to the second spot but was over three seconds down to the lead car. Joey Logano(22), Elliott, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
On the next green flag stop, Chastain was the first to enter pit road at Lap 174 and everyone on the same strategy followed him in over the next two laps.
Bell, on the one-stop Stage strategy, moved back to the front. It will be interesting to see which thought process wins out at the end of the Stage. With 19 laps to go in the Stage, two-stopper Truex passed Bell and justified “the first driver to get fresh tires gets a big advantage” as he pulled away for the Stage win.
Bell and Denny Hamlin(11) were the only two drivers on the one-stop strategy to finish in the top 15. Bell in second and Hamlin in 14th.
Stage Two Results
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||10|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Will anyone employ the one-stop method in the Final Stage? If they take care of their tires early in the run and are near the front someone may be tempted to give it a try. The interval at the green/white checkered flag was only one second. Another consideration is that the Final Stage is 170 laps, 10 more than the 160 of Stage Two, and what about the potential for overtime?
Truex and Bell led the field back to the restart, Chastain and Logano followed in row two. As cars scrambled for positions, Erik Jones(43) got into the back of Cody Ware(51) sending him up the track. Ware collided with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) bringing out only the second caution for cause on the day.
Cautions Breed Cautions
Shortly after going back to green, more three-wide racing saw Ty Dillon(42), on the bottom of the track, get into Cole Custer(41) in the middle. Custer tagged Austin Cindric(2), racing around the top, causing Cindric to spin out and bring out the yellow flag again.
Most of the leaders except Byron and Daniel Suarez(99) used the caution period to come in for service and fresh tires. Byron stayed out front as Suarez dropped back into the pack. The position shuffle settled down as there were still 140 laps left to the checkered flag. Byron recorded laps as Truex kept him in sight running second.
With 100 laps to go the top five were Byron, Truex, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Blaney. Green flag pit stops began with 91 laps to go when Byron came in. Oddly after leading the early pit strategy in Stage Two, Truex chose to stay out during this cycle. He pitted 15 laps later with 76 laps to go.
With 50 laps left in the race, the top five were Byron, Hamlin, Kevin Harvick(4), Truex, and Bell. More green flag stops started with 45 laps to go and the field got scrambled again.
With 20 laps to go and all the pit stops complete the running order contained old tires versus fresher rubber. Byron led on the oldest set of Goodyears, three seconds up on Truex with 15 lap fresher tires. Larson, on the same sequence as Truex, ran third. Hamlin and Harvick on the freshest tires ran fourth and fifth, but laps were running out.
With 10 laps to go, Hamlin and Harvick passed Larson but were two seconds back. Hamlin and Harvick passed Truex with five laps to go, then passed Byron with only four laps left.
Two drivers, both hungry for a win. Hamlin broke up the party of young gun winners this year by getting his 47th Cup victory. However, he did add to the list of different winners in the Cup Series for 2022 becoming the seventh winner in seven races.
Short-track racing continues as the Cup Series stays in Virginia stopping at Martinsville Speedway next Saturday night for the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 and then on to Bristol for the Food City Dirt Race at night on Easter Sunday. The Lasco Press will be on-hand for live coverage from Bristol Motor Speedway.
Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott are tied for the points lead in the Cup Series standings despite neither driver scoring a win to date in 2022. Daniel Suarez sits on the bubble with a 13 point lead over Austin Dillon
|1||William Byron||218||In Win|
|2||Ross Chastain||214||In Win|
|3||Alex Bowman||212||In Win|
|4||Chase Briscoe*||192||In Win|
|5||Kyle Larson||183||In Win|
|6||Austin Cindric*||170||In Win|
|7||Denny Hamlin||148||In Win|
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||222||+64|
|NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of Cup Series Race Seven from Richmond Raceway
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.||3.261||400|
|28||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-4||396|