The NASCAR Cup Series regular season countdown clock has reached three, and Sunday’s 400-lap, 300-mile race at Richmond Raceway will be the final short event before the playoffs begin on Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway.
After Richmond, the remaining regular season races are at Watkins Glen Road Course on August 21st and Daytona International Speedway on August 27th.
Kevin Harvick added some drama to the remaining regular season schedule by winning Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, putting his name on the playoff grid. Fifteen race winners have earned spots, leaving Ryan Blaney as the only currently qualified points driver.
The race weekend in Richmond includes a playoff race Saturday at 8:00 PM ET for the Camping World Truck Series. Sunday’s Cup game (3 p.m., ET) will be televised by USA Network. The Xfinity Series is idle this week.
Elliott on the edge
Chase Elliott, the season’s dominant driver with four wins (no one else has more than two), can lock up the regular-season Cup title at Richmond.
Entering Sunday’s race, Elliott has a 119-point lead over second-place Ryan Blaney in the regular season standings. If he leaves Richmond with a 121-point lead over second, he will clinch the regular-season title with two races remaining.
Elliott has fallen off a bit the past two weeks after scoring six straight top-10s, including three wins. He finished 16th at Indianapolis and 11th Sunday at Michigan.
Blaney in the twilight zone
Ryan Blaney is sitting on the edge of the precipice.
With Kevin Harvick getting his 15th win of the season on Sunday, there is only one open spot on the playoff grid for a points-qualifying driver. Entering Richmond, Blaney sits in that position, just 19 points ahead of Martin Truex Jr., the first driver under the line.
Oddly enough, thanks to a generally consistent season, Blaney is second in the season points standings. If a winless driver scores a win in the next three races and claims the 16th playoff spot, Blaney could find himself in the unlikely position of finishing second in points but missing the playoffs -in.
Over the past four races, Blaney has lost 52 points to Truex, making the potential race for the final playoff spot very tight.
Looking at Blaney vs. Truex in the final three races of the regular season:
- Truex has four wins at the three tracks; Blaney has one.
- Truex has six wins at the track; Blaney has none.
- Truex has four road wins; Blaney has one.
- Blaney’s average batting average this year is 11.16. Truex is 11.31.
- Truex has won three of the last six races at Richmond.
- Blaney has an average finish of 21st at Richmond, making it one of his worst tracks.
- Truex has led 1,285 laps at Richmond, his best track in that category.
- Truex is the first driver with seven straight top-five finishes at Richmond since Rusty Wallace from 1992-95.
Kyle Busch’s struggles continue
Kyle Busch is known as one of the best wheelie drivers in the modern era of NASCAR, but his recent record is quite puzzling.
Busch’s finishes in the last eight races: 30, 21, 29, 20, 12, 36, 11, 36. A crash at Michigan on Sunday left him last there.
Busch hasn’t had a top-10 finish in that stretch, the longest such streak of his career.
Richmond Raceway may provide some relief. Busch is the track’s leader in wins (six) among active drivers, and he also has the best average finish (6.94) there among active drivers with at least three starts.
Busch has won eight times at Bristol Motor Speedway, the only track where he has had more success than Richmond.
Busch is eighth all-time on the Richmond lap leader list with 1,529. He has some distance to go to catch the all-time leader – Richard Petty with 5,128.
Thirty-six drivers are entered in Sunday’s Cup race. Among the non-regulars are JJ Yeley, Noah Gragson and Landon Cassill.
List of Richmond Cup entries
Forty-two drivers are entered for 36 spots in Saturday’s truck race. Included are Norm Benning, Chad Chastain, Rajah Carruth, Kaden Honeycutt and Layne Riggs.
Hailie Deegan will have a new crew chief this weekend. Jerry Baxter has moved from the Tanner Gray truck to Deegan’s team. Mike Hillman Jr. moves from Deegan to Gray within the David Gilliland Racing operation. Gray has two top fives and five top 10s this season. Deegan has a top 10. No driver has won a race.
List of Richmond truck entries
This weekend’s schedule and forecast
(All Eastern Time)
Saturday, August 13
Forecast: Sunny. High of 81.
- 3:05 – 3:35 pm — World Truck Series Practice (FS1)
- 3:35 – 4:30 pm — World Truck Series Qualifying (FS1)
- 5:05 a.m. – 5:50 p.m. – Cup Series Practice (USA Network)
- 5:50 – 7:00 p.m. — Cup Series Qualifying (USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 8 p.m. – World Camping Truck Race (250 laps, 187 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, August 14
Forecast: partly cloudy. High of 84.
- 3 p.m. – Cup Series Race (400 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)