A three-race short-track portion of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule begins Sunday with the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
There have been five different winners in the last five Richmond races, and six different drivers took the checkered flag at the six short-track races last year.Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, who both won on the 0.75-mile oval at Richmond in 2022, are still in search of their first victories this year.
"Richmond will be a good gauge of where you stack up -- slow, a bunch of mechanical grip, tire conservation, so I'm optimistic for sure," said Ryan Blaney, who is ranked eighth in the driver standings.
TOYOTA OWNERS 400
The Place: Richmond (Va.) Raceway
The Date: Sunday, April 2, 3:30 p.m. ET
Defending Champion: Denny Hamlin
Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 400 miles
BEST BETS - SIX PACK
Kevin Harvick (600)
Veteran experience is key in the high intensity short-track racing brings to the table, and Harvick used it to his advantage to win one of the two Richmond races last year. His best finish of 2023 so far was fifth in California and at Phoenix, but Harvick is a four-time winner at Richmond.
William Byron (600)
Byron was second among all drivers with an average finish of 7.2 on short tracks last season and second with a combined 334 laps led. He hasn't won at Richmond, but did run a close third in this race last year while leading 122 laps and is the only multiple-race winner so far in 2023.
Christopher Bell (800)
Bell led the Series with an average finish of 6.6 in short-track events last year, and also recorded the most laps led at 356. That said, he has never won at Richmond. Bell does have 10 top-10 finishes in his past 16 races, second only to Denny Hamlin during that span. Which brings us to ...
Denny Hamlin (900)
Hamlin led only the final five laps last year to beat Harvick to the checkered flag by 0.552 seconds. He hasn't finished better than sixth so far this year, which happened in California and at Atlanta. Hamlin also has four career wins at Richmond and leads the way at BetMGM with 20.9 percent of the money backing him to win. That makes him the sportsbook's biggest liability this week.
Martin Truex (900)
Truex has also been a popular choice by the public ahead of the race, drawing 6.1 percent of the total bets and 15.0 percent of the handle to be the third-biggest liability as of Friday. Truex swept the Richmond races in 2019 and added another win on the track the following fall.
Kyle Busch (1000)
Busch leads all active drivers with six career victories at Richmond and sports a 7.0 average finish in 34 career starts. Not coincidentally, he also leads the sportsbook with 12.9 percent of the total winning bets and is third with 13.6 percent of the money, making Busch the second-biggest liability. He posted a pair of ninth-place finishes at Richmond last year.
Alex Bowman (1800)
It's hard to consider the points leader a long shot, but Bowman had only the 10th-shortest odds at BetMGM as of Friday -- even with Ross Chastain and last week's winner Tyler Reddick. Chastain trails Bowman by 15 points in the standings.
--Field Level Media