NASCAR returns to Richmond this weekend. This time around, we have plenty of data points. We have the first Richmond race and a handful of races in the new 2023 short-track package. As always, trust the data but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out 400 at Richmond.
Take your pick, or take both. There’s the Richmond lap-by-lap data from the first race in the spring. There is also lap-by-lap data from the other short, flat track races in the new 2023 short-track package. Barring mayhem — and it’s not unlikely after an ugly Pocono race — the data points should be quite predictive of the second Richmond race.
Race Winner — Cook Out 400 at Richmond
Kyle Larson +500
What happens when narratives and data align? Larson was angry after Pocono. Larson’s team was furious. There’s a video online of the No. 5 Hendrick team standing still staring at the No. 11 car while Hamlin performs a burn out celebrating the win at Pocono. Do you think those guys are going to put in a little extra work this week? Someone tell their wives to not leave the light on, the crew is sleeping in the shop, if they’re sleeping at all. My apologies to their kids. There will be more tee ball games in the future, but this week is about Richmond. It’s about building the fastest hot rod the state of Virginia has ever seen. It’s about beating Hamlin at his home track — again!
Larson won the first Richmond race. He won $1 million at North Wilkesboro. He won at Martinsville. And Phoenix should have been a win. His average lap time in the short-track package is the fastest in NASCAR. The best driver has the fastest car, and now he and his team are mad. Denny Hamlin won the battle, but as has been the case during his career, it’s going to cause him to lose the war.
William Byron +900
His Richmond stats check out. Byron led the most laps in the first race (117) and his 365 laps inside the top 5 were the most. When it was all said and done, he finished 24th. Our old friend late-race caution showed up on lap 372 of 400. Byron entered pit road with the lead and exited in fourth. On the subsequent restart, he got dumped. Byron can’t complain. Kyle Larson dominated the Phoenix race, but after a late-race caution, Byron snatched the win. At Richmond, Byron dominated but Larson got the win. One final point, Byron ranks second in terms of average lap time in the short-track package this season.
Race Winner — Cook Out 400 at Richmond
Alex Bowman +4500
That’s right, three Hendrick cars. Chase Elliott (+1600) isn’t a bad pick either. Josh Berry caught a lucky break in the first Richmond race, but the No. 9 Hendrick Chevy was fast. The No. 48 was strong, too. Alex Bowman had the third-best average running position in the spring race. He won at Richmond in 2021, and the other short, flat track in Virginia later in that season at Martinsville. He’s not a favorite, but he never is when he wins, which makes the pay day quite nice.
Kevin Harvick +750
The NASCAR playoffs are overrated, but Harvick wants to qualify for the playoffs in his final season. His position is pretty safe, but a win at Richmond would make life a lot easier. Harvick won the second Richmond race last season. It was a long time coming. The Stewart-Haas Racing Fords had been running well at the short tracks for the last couple seasons. Aric Almirola (+4500) won at New Hampshire in 2021 and Chase Briscoe (+10,000) won at Phoenix in the spring of 2022. Harvick was one of the highest rated drivers at the short tracks in 2022. This season, his average lap time in the new 2023 short-track package ranks inside the top 5.
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