Parity has been the pattern recently at Richmond International Raceway. Eight different drivers have won the last eight races at the Northern Virginia short track – the second-longest streak at an active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series course (Darlington boasts a streak of 10).
The last eight winners are Matt Kenseth, 2015-2; Kurt Busch, 2015-1; Brad Keselowski, 2014-2; Joey Logano, 2014-1; Carl Edwards, 2013-2; Kevin Harvick, 2013-1; Clint Bowyer, 2012-2; Kyle Busch, 2012-1.
NASCAR fans will get to witness if there’s a ninth different Richmond winner in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400. Notable drivers who have not won at Richmond in the last eight races, but have visited Victory Lane there include: Jimmie Johnson (3 wins), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3), Denny Hamlin (2), Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman.
Edwards Notches First Win
Carl Edwards did his signature backflip in Victory Lane once again, after leading a race- and career-high 276 laps on the way to the checkered flag in the Food City 500 for his first win of the season.
The victory was the 26th of Edwards’ NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and his fourth at Bristol Motor Speedway.
He has led the most laps in the last two races.
On the season, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver ranks tied with Kevin Harvick for the NSCS lead in top-10 finishes with seven.
Edwards has posted strong loop data stats, including a 10.328 average running position (sixth in NSCS), 105.2 driver rating (fourth), 221 fastest laps run (221) and 475 laps led (17.9%, third).
Hamlin Eyes Another Victory
Denny Hamlin, of Hampton Roads, Virginia, is NASCAR’s all-time wins leader from the Cavalier State. His 27 career victories pace a group of Virginia drivers that includes NASCAR Hall of Famers Joe Weatherly (25 wins), Curtis Turner (17), Glen Wood (4) and Wendell Scott (1), as well as 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Ricky Rudd (23).
Hamlin, who also boasts the most wins by a Virginian in his home state with seven, will try to capture his third checkered flag at Richmond International Raceway in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400. In 19 starts at the .75-mile track, Hamlin also has seven top fives, 10 top 10s and two Coors Light Pole Awards. In addition, he boasts the second-best average running position (8.058) and third-best driver rating (108.8) among active drivers at Richmond.
Busch Hopes To Repeat ‘Monster’ Performance
Last April, Kurt Busch led 291-of-306 laps in the Richmond spring race on his way to a dominant victory.
The No. 41 Chevrolet driver will attempt to defend his victory on Sunday after finishing third last weekend at Bristol.
In 30 Richmond starts, Busch owns two wins, six top fives and 11 top 10s.
He enters Sunday’s contest riding a two-race top-10 streak.
Busch currently ranks ninth on the Chase Grid on the strength of two top-five and six top-10 finishes.
Junior Records Runner-Up
Dale Earnhardt Jr. must’ve heard fellow Nationwide endorser Peyton Manning yell "Omaha" from his pit box on Sunday afternoon at Bristol.
The No. 88 Chevrolet driver lost two laps when he accidentally shut down his engine at the start of the race by pushing his brake too hard. He pulled an audible, rallying back to the lead lap and his second consecutive runner-up finish.
This season, Earnhardt has three second-place, four top-five and five top-10 finishes. He sits eighth on the Chase Grid heading into Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway – a place where he has won three times, but not since spring of 2006.
Chase Elliott – Not Your Average Rookie
Chase Elliott has already joined some elite company.
The No. 24 Chevrolet driver’s five top-10 finishes this season are the most by a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender since Jimmie Johnson accomplished the feat in 2002.
Elliott leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings (21 points ahead of second-place Ryan Blaney) on the strength of his five top 10s and two top fives. He produced a career-best fourth-place finish on Sunday at Bristol, topping his previous-high result of fifth set at Texas one week earlier.
If the season ended today, Elliott would make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the 12 seed. The only rookie to ever make the Chase was Denny Hamlin (2006).
NASCAR Next Alum Logs Career-Best Finish
NASCAR Next alumnus Matt DiBenedetto was almost in tears following his sixth-place finish at Bristol – a career-high for the 24-year-old Californian as well as his BK Racing team.
"I’m sorry I’m so emotional," DiBenedetto said. "It’s just this is like a win for us. I’m so excited. I see my family back here – my wife, Taylor, my brother is in town from the military and I’m so glad he got to experience this. This is just… this is incredible. I’m so blessed to be here."
Prior to Bristol, the No. 83 Toyota driver’s best showing was an 18th-place finish at Talladega last spring. The previous-best result for BK Racing was an eighth-place finish by Travis Kvapil at Talladega in spring of 2012.
"Man, that’s unbelievable," said Bristol race winner Carl Edwards after hearing about the No. 83 BK Racing team’s finish. "That’s probably tougher than what we did. That’s a real testament to them…
"I was telling somebody on top, what makes these races so special, and I think I can speak for everybody up here, is that this competition is so tough. These guys are all so good, and on TV it might look like, ‘oh, those guys are struggling or oh, that’s a lap car,’ whatever. They’re only a half a tenth off or a tenth off. It’s just unreal how hard everybody goes."
Sunday’s race at Richmond International Raceway will be another special one for BK Racing. Team owner Ron Devine hails from Virginia’s capital.
Knoxville Native Notches First Top Five
Knoxville, Tennessee native, Trevor Bayne roared to a fifth-place finish at his home track (Bristol Motor Speedway) on Sunday – his first top-five performance since winning the 2011 Daytona 500.
Bayne has improved his average start by almost 11 positions so far this season compared to last year (17.0 now from 27.9 in 2015). His average finish has decreased from 25.8 last season to 19.6 through the first eight races of 2016.
Bowyer Back In Business
Clint Bowyer showed he might be ready to turn his season around by finishing a season-high ninth at Bristol.
The result marked Bowyer’s first top 10 of the year and only his third lead-lap finish.
The No. 15 HScott Motorsports driver will attempt to continue his momentum this weekend at arguably his top track – Richmond International Raceway.
In 20 starts at the Northern Virginia short track, Bowyer boasts two wins, four top fives and 12 top 10s. Among active drivers at Richmond, he ranks fourth in average finish (11.3), average running position (10.783) and driver rating (98.6).