Richmond Sprint Cup Preview – Strategy, Milestones and More

It sounds simple. If you want to win a race, the best place to begin is in front. But in reality, starting from the pole doesn’t necessarily translate into winning the race…unless you’re racing at Richmond International Raceway. The statistics below tell the story.

Winning Strategy:

1) If you want to win at RIR the best strategy is to win the Coors Light Pole Award. There have been 117 Sprint Cup races at RIR and 23 of those were won by drivers from the pole starting position.

There are four active drivers who have done just that; Kasey Kahne did it in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2007, Kyle Busch in 2010 and Brad Keselowski in the fall race last year.

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2) The second best way to win is to begin on the front row where 13 races have been won by drivers starting in second place. Combine those two numbers and 36 (30.7 percent) of the Sprint Cup races at RIR have been won by front row starters.

3) The third best way to win is to qualify in the top-ten. Ninety-one of those 117 (77.7 percent) races were won by drivers in the top-ten starting positions.

Clint Bowyer has the distinction of winning at RIR after starting deepest in the field, 31st, in 2008.

Milestones:

As Jeff Gordon heads to Richmond he is on the verge of reaching another significant milestone in an already storied career. Gordon has led 24,778 laps during his Sprint Cup career. If he can add 222 laps to that total, he will become the sixth driver in NSCS history to lead 25,000 laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make his 550th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at the Toyota Owners 400 Saturday night. He is 30th on the all-time NSCS starts list. Earnhardt, along with Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, leads all active drivers in wins at RIR; with three victories (Kyle Busch has four wins but is currently inactive). Although his last win at Richmond was in 2006, it remains one of his favorite tracks and could prove to be the impetus Earnhardt needs to capture his first win of the season.

Paul Menard is 14th in the standings and needs a win to secure his position in the Chase. He’ll make his 300th NSCS start this weekend at Richmond. All Richard Childress Racing entries will feature decals to honor the memory of Richard “Bob” “Poncho” Myers, who passed away April 16. He was the brother of longtime RCR employee, Danny “Chocolate” Myers.

Defending Cup champion, Kevin Harvick, shows no intention of slowing down this year. With two wins and seven top 10s, he leads the Chase standings. He has also led 950 laps in 2015 and is 50 away from becoming the eighth driver in series history to lead 1000 laps or more in the first nine races of a season. Harvick has led laps in every race this season, with the exception of Daytona, averaging 118.75 laps led per race.

Firsts – Now Chand Then:

Chase Elliott has a full weekend coming up at Richmond as he competes for the first time in both the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series races. As an added incentive, Elliott gets a second chance to impress in his second Cup start. His NSCS debut at Martinsville in March resulted in a disappointing 38th place finish, 73 laps down, after contact with another car and the loss of his power steering sent Elliott behind the wall for extensive repairs.

The first NSCS race at RIR was April 19, 1953 and was won by Lee Petty.

Buck Baker won the inaugural pole award at RIR in 1953 with a speed of 48.465 mph.

The first race under permanent lights was held on September 7, 1991.

The first season when both races at RIR were night races was in 1999.

Tony Stewart (1999) and Kasey Kahne (2005) each captured their first NSCS career win at Richmond. A victory for Stewart could kick start a dismal season and provide the momentum to propel him into Chase contention.

By the Numbers:   

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Richmond –

110.7 – Denny Hamlin – Leads all active drivers with an average finishing position of 10.412

110.3 – Kevin Harvick – Series-best Average Running Position of 7.5

109.8 – Kyle Busch – Four wins at RIR

99.6 – Clint Bowyer – Two wins, four top fives, 10 top 10s

99.3 – Jeff Gordon – Leads all active drivers with 18 top five-finishes

94.0 – Tony Stewart – Won at RIR in his second appearance

92.5 – Ryan Newman – One win, six top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole

91.6 – Brad Keselowski – One win, two top fives, four top 10s; one pole

91.5 – Kurt Busch – One win, five top fives, 10 top 10s

89.1 – Carl Edwards – One win, four top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole

The Toyota Owners 400 Sprint Cup race will be televised on FOX Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

 

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