Only five races remain in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season (Richmond, Michigan, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Daytona) to decide who will compete in the 16-driver Playoff field, and for the second time this year the NASCAR Cup Series will head to Richmond Raceway for some Sunday afternoon side-by-side short track action in the Cook Out 400 on July 30 at 3 p.m. ET on the USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
A little history about Richmond Raceway. … It was originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway was held on April 19, 1953 and was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty in a Petty Enterprises Dodge with an average speed of 45.535 mph.
The first 24 NASCAR Cup Series races held at Richmond Raceway were run on a dirt surface (1953-1968). NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson won the final Richmond race on dirt, driving a Holman-Moody Racing 1968 Ford to Victory Lane. The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between Cup Series races in 1968, with NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty winning the first NASCAR Cup Series race on the paved Richmond surface on September 8, 1968 driving a Petty Enterprises’ Plymouth. The track was then rebuilt as the three-quarters-mile D-shaped oval we know today in 1988. In total, Richmond Raceway has hosted the NASCAR Cup Series 133 times producing 57 different pole winners and 53 different race winners.
NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (1961, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 sweep, 1974, 1975) and Bobby Allison (1972 sweep, 1973 sweep, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1982) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Richmond with eight each. Eight of the 57 NASCAR Cup Series Richmond Raceway pole winners are active this weekend, led by Denny Hamlin (2006, 2008, 2016) and Kevin Harvick (2005, 2018, 2019) with three poles each.
|Active Pole Winners (8)||Poles||Seasons|
|Kevin Harvick||3||2019, 2018, 2005|
|Denny Hamlin||3||2016, 2008, 2006|
|Brad Keselowski||2||2019, 2014|
|Joey Logano||2||2015 sweep|
|Martin Truex Jr||1||2018|
NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Richmond Raceway with 13 victories (spring 1961, 1967 sweep, fall 1968, fall 1970, 1971 sweep, 1972 sweep, 1973 sweep, fall 1974 and spring 1975). Petty’s 13 Richmond wins are the third-most victories by a single driver at a single track in NASCAR Cup Series history, behind his 15 wins at Martinsville and 15 wins at North Wilkesboro.
This weekend, eight of the 53 NASCAR Cup Series Richmond Raceway winners are active, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch with six victories (spring 2009, spring 2010, spring 2011, spring 2012, 2018 sweep).
|Active Race Winners (8)||Wins||Season|
|Kyle Busch||6||2018 sweep, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009|
|Denny Hamlin||4||2022, 2016, 2010, 2009|
|Kevin Harvick||4||2022, 2013, 2011, 2006|
|Martin Truex Jr||3||2021, 2019 sweep|
|Kyle Larson||2||2023, 2017|
|Brad Keselowski||2||2020, 2014|
|Joey Logano||2||2017, 2014|
Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson is the most recent active NASCAR Cup Series winner at Richmond Raceway. The California native scored his second career Richmond win (2017, 2023) back in April. Larson returns this weekend looking to become the 12th different driver in the NASCAR Cup Series to post consecutive series wins at the 0.75-mile track; joining Joe Weatherly (1962-1963), David Pearson (1965, 1966 sweep), Richard Petty (1970, 1971 sweep, 1972 sweep, 1973 sweep), Cale Yarborough (1976-1977), Bobby Allison (1982, 1983 sweep), Dale Earnhardt (1987 sweep, 1990-1991), Rusty Wallace (1989 sweep), Terry Labonte (1994-1995), Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep), Kyle Busch (2018 sweep) and Martin Truex Jr. (2019 sweep). NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in consecutive wins at Richmond Raceway with seven consecutive victories from the September race of 1970 to the September race of 1973.
All the on-track NASCAR Cup Series action at Richmond Raceway begins on Saturday, July 29 with practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on the USA Network from 12:35 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET.
Regular Season Roundup: Who will add their name to the Playoffs?
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin snatched his second win of the 2023 season at Pocono Raceway, and his seventh victory at the 2.5-mile track – breaking a tie with Jeff Gordon for the series-most wins at Pocono. Now, with 11 drivers already earning their spot in the Playoffs by virtue of their wins this season, which leaves five positions still up for grabs heading into this Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway. The five drivers currently in position to earn a spot in the Playoffs on points are Kevin Harvick (+163 points), Brad Keselowski (+122), Chris Buescher (+111), Bubba Wallace (+27) and Michael McDowell (+17).
Harvick, Keselowski and Buescher, each have comfortable point cushions above the postseason cutoff, but 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace (up +27 points on the Playoff cutline) in 15th, and Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell (+17 points) in the 16th and final available transfer spot, are in precarious positions with five regular season races to go. If one or two of the drivers outside the Playoff cutline were to win over these next five races it could bounce McDowell and Wallace out of the postseason. Heading into this weekend at Richmond, there are seven different drivers that won last season that are looking for their first win of this year; including Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Austin Cindric, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe – of that group, Hendrick Motorsport’s Alex Bowman is the only one to formerly win at Richmond (2021).
|2023 NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 21 – Drivers Without Wins|
|Rank||Drivers||Points||Starts||Wins||Stages||Playoff Pts||Points From Cutoff|
|19||Ty Gibbs #||427||21||0||0||0||-28|
|33||Noah Gragson #||190||20||0||0||0||-265|
Just outside the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs cutoff is Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger in the 17th position, -17 points back from McDowell in the final Playoff transfer spot on points. Both McDowell and Allmendinger are looking to make the Playoffs for the second-time in their respective careers. McDowell made his postseason debut in 2021 and Allmendinger last made the Playoffs in 2014.
Also chasing McDowell and within striking distance are Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez and Joe Gibbs Racing’s rookie Ty Gibbs. Suarez is ranked 18th, -23 points behind McDowell and Gibbs is ranked 19th, -28 points back. Of the five drivers from 15th to 19th in the Playoff outlook standings, Suárez (16.1) has the best average finish at Richmond Raceway, followed by Allmendinger (22.1), Gibbs (22.5), Wallace (23.6) and McDowell (30.4).
Additionally, two drivers outside the postseason cutoff with the biggest Playoff streaks in jeopardy this season are Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. Elliott, the 2020 series champion, has earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs the last seven consecutive seasons (2016-2022), and Bowman has appeared in the Playoffs the last five consecutive seasons (2018-2022). Currently Bowman is ranked 20th in the Playoff outlook standings, -46 points behind McDowell in 16th, and Elliott is ranked 21st, -56 points back.
Short Track Kings: Drivers to watch this weekend
Of the five remaining tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule, this weekend’s Richmond Raceway is the last short track, begging the question, ‘Who has been the best on the short tracks this season and should be the ones he watch this weekend?’
The NASCAR Cup Series has competed on six short tracks this season – Martinsville, Bristol Dirt, Phoenix, Dover, New Hampshire and Richmond, and two organizations have dominated the six events winning three each, Hendrick Motorsports won at Martinsville, Phoenix and Richmond and Joe Gibbs Racing grabbed wins at Bristol Dirt, Dover and New Hampshire.
Two drivers this season have won multiple times on the short tracks, including the current NASCAR Cup Series points leader Martin Truex Jr (Dover, New Hampshire) and Richmond Raceway’s most recent winner Kyle Larson (Richmond, Martinsville). The other two short track races were won by Christopher Bell (Bristol Dirt) and William Byron (Phoenix).
The driver with the best average starting position at the six previous short track races this season is Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron with a 6.5, followed by Tyler Reddick with a 7.0, Kyle Busch with a 7.3, Christopher Bell with a 9.2 and Kyle Larson with a 10.5.
The driver with the best average finishing position at the six previous short track races this season is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. with a 6.6, followed by Tyler Reddick with a 9.3, Christopher Bell with a 10.3, Kevin Harvick with a 10.3 and Chase Briscoe with a 11.5. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of this event at Richmond.
A total of 21 different drivers have led laps at the six previous short track races this season, led by Kyle Larson with 405 laps led, followed by William Byron with 383 and Martin Truex Jr. with 378.
Lucky No. 7: Richmond has produced six different winners in last six races
Long shots and streaks of different winners are nothing new at the famous Richmond Raceway, and this weekend the 0.75-mile track is riding a streak of six different NASCAR Cup Series winners in the last six races – 2020 Brad Keselowski, 2021 Alex Bowman, 2021 Martin Truex Jr., 2022 Denny Hamlin, 2022 Kevin Harvick and 2023 Kyle Larson. So, who will continue to the streak of different winners this weekend?
A total of 25 different drivers entered this weekend are looking for their first win of the 2023 season and nine are looking for their first career win in the series – AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Chris Buescher, Harrison Burton*, Austin Cindric, Ty Dillon*, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Ty Gibbs*, Todd Gilliland*, Noah Gragson*, Justin Haley, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Corey LaJoie*, Michael McDowell, BJ McLeod*, Ryan Newman, Ryan Preece*, Daniel Suárez, Bubba Wallace, JJ Yeley* – Note: Drivers with a (*) symbol indicates they are looking for their first career NASCAR Cup Series win.
Five drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Richmond Raceway (all-time) – Kasey Kahne (2005), Tony Stewart (1999), Kyle Petty (1986), Neil Bonnett (1977) and James Hylton (1970).
Plus, keep in mind it’s anybody’s race until the checkered flag waves, especially at Richmond Raceway where 12 of the 133 NASCAR Cup Series races (9%) have been won by drivers starting outside the top-20, which is the second-most in the series behind Daytona International Speedway with 14. The deepest in the field that a NASCAR Cup Series race winner has started at Richmond Raceway is 32nd, by Kyle Busch in the April race of 2018.
Defending winner Kevin Harvick’s last ride at Richmond
Stewart-Haas Racing veteran Kevin Harvick announced at the beginning of the season this would be his last year competing fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series, making this weekend’s Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway his last run at the famed three-quarters mile track.
“Richmond falls into that flat-track category, and we’ve always been really good at the flat-track stuff,” said Harvick. “As I’ve gone through the years, Richmond has just been one of those places that’s been really good. I know it’s not Rodney’s (Childers, crew chief) favorite racetrack to go to, but it’s one of my favorites to go to, and I’m glad we finally got to victory lane because we’ve had some good nights and some good cars there, and to be able to pull that off last year was good for everybody. Richmond is just a good short track.”
Harvick has made 44 series starts at Richmond posting four wins, 18 top fives and 30 top 10s. Harvick is currently the highest ranked driver in the standings without a win this season.
Win & You’re In: Who has previous wins at these last five tracks of the regular season
The easiest way to earn a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is to win a race, and with just five chances left to do just that in the regular season, here is a look at the drivers that have formerly visited Victory Lane in the NASCAR Cup Series at these next five upcoming tracks.
Of the 22 drivers that are currently winless this season and running fulltime for a championship, 11 of them have won at one of the five remaining tracks on the regular season schedule – Richmond, Michigan, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Daytona.
At Richmond Raceway, the three active drivers without wins this season that have formerly won at the 0.75-mile track are Kevin Harvick (four wins), Brad Keselowski (two wins) and Alex Bowman (one win).
At Michigan International Speedway, only one driver without wins this season has formerly won at the 2-mile track and it is Kevin Harvick with six Cup victories (series-most).
At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, only one driver without wins this season has formerly won at the 2.439-mile road course and it is Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger, who grabbed the win in 2021.
At Watkins Glen International, the three active drivers without wins this season that have formerly won at the 2.450-mile road course are Chase Elliott (two wins), AJ Allmendinger (one win) and Kevin Harvick (one win).
At Daytona International Speedway, the eight active drivers without wins this season that have formerly won at the 2.5-mile superspeedway are Austin Dillon (two wins), Kevin Harvick (two wins), Brad Keselowski (one win), Michael McDowell (one win), Austin Cindric (one win), Justin Haley (one win), Aric Almirola (one win), and Erik Jones (one win). Since Daytona moved to the regular season finale event in 2020, two of the three wins in the regular season finale have catapulted the driver into the postseason – William Byron (2020) and Austin Dillon (2022).