NASCAR Federated Auto Parts 400 preview

Brad Keselowski continues to own Vegas. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

This Saturday the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Richmond Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400. The track is 0.75 miles in length and has much higher banking than you would see on your average short track so there is plenty of room for side-by-side racing and plenty of room for passing as well. Richmond is one of the two short tracks in the playoffs (the other being Martinsville.) So it is sure to provide some of the great racing we usually see when the Cup series comes to a short track.  Ever since NASCAR began its first variant of the playoffs back in 2004, Richmond had always been the cutoff race before they would reset the points but not this season. For the first time in the track's history Richmond is included in the playoffs.

Last week Brad Keselowski went on to win his third consecutive race at Las Vegas after he was able to hold off the hard charging Kyle Larson. This victory seals advancement to the round of 12 for Brad as he continues his sensational late season surge. Overall, the biggest storyline of the race were all of the tire failures that occurred to playoff contenders. In total 12 of the 16 car playoff field had some sort of tire issue. The drivers affected by this the most were Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, and Denny Hamlin as all four fell below the cutline to advance to the round of 12. Even though they still have two races remaining to get in, things are now a million times more stressful for them. For Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones, it would appear that they are both almost in  must win situations to move on as they are  18 and 19 points out of 12. Look for both to be desperate to go to the front and collect as much points as possible come Saturday.

NASCAR’s “Silly Season” is continuing to make major headlines this week as it was announced that long time veteran Ryan Newman will not return to Richard Childress Racing in 2019. Ever since his breakout debut season in 2014 for the team, the results for Newman and the 31 team have not been exactly ideal as he has only made the playoffs one time prior in 2015. Many have speculated that maybe it is time for Newman to call it a career but all signs point to him moving over to Roush racing and taking over the No. 6 Ford Mustang in 2019 replacing Trevor Bayne. Another possibility for him could be that he reunites with his old boss and close friend Tony Stewart and he would replace Kurt Busch in the No. 41 car. A move for Newman would be beneficial to both him and the driver that Childress brings to replace him. For Newman he gets a fresh start somewhere else and for RCR, they get a young driver they can build around for the future. It will be very interesting to see where all the drivers will land in the coming weeks.

As usual Kyle Busch is the 2/1 favorite going into this week. Over the span of 26 races, Busch has won here five times and has led over 1,000 laps here. As usual, anytime the cup series goes anywhere Busch is always one of the drivers to beat and this week appears to be no exception. The No. 18 M&M’s Camry should be a force to be reckoned with as he tries to claim his spot in the next round.

My prediction for this week’s winner is Denny Hamlin. Going into this race, like I had written earlier, Hamlin is behind the eight ball coming into this race as he is outside of the round of 12 but this week I think he breaks through and gets his first win of 2018 and moves on to the next round. In the beginning, this track was always one where he would dominate and lead more laps than anyone but in the end something would always seem to go wrong and he would not end up winning. It wasn’t till 2009 when he was finally able to win here and he has been on a tear ever since then. He has finished in the top five eight times and has led 1,207 laps, more than anyone. It is clear that he knows his way around the racetrack better than anyone else in the field and what better way to get out of a slump and move on than to win at where you know best, not to mention, this is his home track making it all the more special to win in front of his family in friends. Look for Hamlin to take the No. 11 Fedex Camry to victory lane.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at and the best website for all NASCAR stats).

This Saturday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Richmond Raceway for the first night race of 2019. This track is a 0.75 D-shaped oval and is the second of back-to-back short track races for the series. The track is one of the more spacious of the short track group as the track has multiple groves to pass on so there should be plenty of side-by-side racing come race-day and don't be surprised if someone uses their bumper to get by someone for the win like we saw back in 2016 with Kyle Busch and his former teammate Carl Edwards.

Last week, Kyle Busch came back from a crash in the early stages to win his third race of the season. This race was one of the most entertaining of the season as both Kyle and his brother Kurt battled all throughout the closing laps but unfortunately The big story of the weekend, was not the great race that we saw. Come Monday all NASCAR fans wanted to talk about was how there were"empty seats" in the grandstands. While I can understand how a lot of fans are scorning the new direction of the sport and some of their complaints are valid but I don't think that this should overshadow what a great race we saw Sunday. Overall, while yes NASCAR is in a slump right now, but it doesn't help matters for some "fans" to continue to talk about how the sport is "dying" and A lot of the times, these people don't even offer any solutions either, they just talk about how bad the sport is doing and relive the glory days and that helps no one. Needless to say, I think we can all agree though that there needs to be serious changes made to help NASCAR get to where it needs to be and there are a whole laundry list of things that can be tweaked. One thing is the schedule could use some changes; there are tracks new to this series that fans might be interested in seeing like Circuit Of The Americas or a short track like Iowa Speedway. There have been grumblings of a massive overhaul come 2021 so I hope that this can drum up some more interest in the sport.

Going into this week, no driver has been on a hotter streak than Kyle Busch. As I stated earlier, last week at Bristol he won his third race of 2019; not only has he been winning races left and right but he has been consistently up front as well. He has finished in the top 10 in all eight races in 2019, something only Terry Labonte has done all the way back in 1992 and unfortunately for the competition, Richmond Raceway is a track he has thrived on ever since he started driving stock cars; in fact he got his first NASCAR Xfinity victory at this track all the way back in 2004. This track just seems to cater to Kyle's driving style and he should have no trouble contending for the victory come Saturday.

The driver that I have winning this week is not Kyle Busch though because I am taking the elder of the two in Kurt Busch to win this week. This year, the driver they call the outlaw has really shined and while he hasn't won a race yet, I think this week is the week. Over the course of his nearly 21 years in racing at this track, he has definitely had his ups downs here but he has found success. He was able to win here back in 2015 and all the way back in 2005 so it's clear that he knows how to run at this track. Not only is he coming to a track that he is good at, but he is riding a wave of momentum as he has finished six of the eight races this year in the top 10 and has easily been the fastest Chevy in the field. I look for Kurt to win his first of many in 2019 as he looks to contend for a championship in what very well could be his final season in NASCAR.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at and the best website for all NASCAR stats).(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at and the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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