Track Talk: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

Can Kurt Busch return to Victory Lane in tonight's Toyota Owners 400?

Can Kurt Busch return to Victory Lane in tonight’s Toyota Owners 400?

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeKathleen CassidyJose Acero Jr, Katie CoppleKayla Sturm, and Stephen Conley ponder about a potential resurgence for Chevrolet teams and the level of intensity to possibly be on display tonight at Richmond Raceway!

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Question 1
Recently, William Byron netted a top-10 at Texas. Might this be a sign of things to come from Chevrolet?

Recently, William Byron netted a top-10 at Texas. Might this be a sign of things to come from Chevrolet?

After a tough start to the season, Hendrick Motorsports collected its first top-five finishes of the season at Bristol (Jimmie Johnson, third, and Alex Bowman, fifth).  Given the strong runs for these teams, the runner up for Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace leading laps, is Chevrolet starting to turn the corner?

Acero:  One race won’t determine whether they have actually turned the corner. But, I will say that they are pointing in the right direction. We’ll see in the next few races if Chevy has what it takes to play alongside the Fords and Toyotas.

Bowman:  It’s hard to say if it was just luck and circumstance that had Chevy doing well at Bristol or if they have worked out some of the kinks in their program. If we see more strong runs over the next few weeks, I would commit to saying that whatever they are doing is working and hope that they continue to improve. Competitive teams make for better racing.

Cassidy:  Bristol is not a fair judgment for any driver or team. This track takes a lot of luck to make it out alive. I do believe Chevy will have its time to shine this season, but I am not sure when.

Conley:  I think they are close, but this was Bristol. High bank short track, that had the “sticky stuff” down to increase competition. Aero isn’t the biggest deal at Bristol so I wouldn’t judge off this race. We have a lot of “unique” race tracks coming up in the next couple of weeks including Talladega. If they run well at Kansas May 12th, I’ll say they have certainly turned the corner and ready to compete in the heart of the schedule.

Copple:  I don’t know about Chevrolet, but Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson surely is. If Chevy continues to improve through the next few weeks, then I’ll say they are turning around and improving. But one week doesn’t make a big statement.

Hull:  While the finish is a great one, it won’t determine how Chevy will perform the rest of the season. This week could have just been a fluke and they could have a bad week next week. Or maybe they have finally found their groove. We will see if that is true next week.

Lucas:  It appears that the Chevy teams are shaking off the new first coat of turtle wax from their new Camaro ZL1. Only time will tell as we progress through the first half of the season.Toyota went through a similar scenario last season, minus Furniture Row Racing who dominated from the start of the year. Fear not, ye faithful bowtie lovers, the tide is turning and churning toward good fortune soon.

Sturm:  Hard to say. Bristol is a different animal from intermediate and restrictor-plate tracks, so it could have just happened by chance. I do believe that the Chevy teams are starting to get a feel for the new car, but for it to all of a sudden happen at one track after weeks of subpar performance, that would be a little odd. I think that the next intermediate track will determine whether or not they have a hold on the Chevys yet.

Question 2
Will we see some of that razzle dazzle racing tonight at Richmond that was on display at Bristol?

Will we see some of that razzle dazzle racing tonight at Richmond that was on display at Bristol?

The first half of the short track season wraps up at Richmond this Saturday night.  Might we see more of that physical, paint trading racing for the win as we saw on Monday afternoon between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson?

Acero:  Yes! We will see much more of the short track racing fireworks amongst drivers! What happened at Bristol between Busch and Larson was only an appetizer of what we will get Saturday at Richmond. Tempers will rise and paint will be traded. Hopefully Mother Nature can take an off week and let these drivers race!

Bowman:  There were so many variables at Bristol such as the impending weather that heightened the sense of urgency to stay up front and that contributed to much of the aggressive racing. Richmond will surely have its own character and I’m so excited to have a night race! I would not expect the drivers to be as aggressive as they were last weekend though. That was just Bristol baby!

Cassidy:  Drivers were super aggressive at Bristol due to the circumstances. With rain delays time and time again, drivers wanted to be the one leading if they made it to the end of stage two. I think Richmond will have its own character, with good racing but a less aggressive dash for the win.

Conley:  I expect good racing, but I don’t expect what we saw at Bristol. I think part of the tense, pushing and shoving that came about early Monday that brought about “old Bristol” style racing was due to impending weather. The end, that was just Kyle Busch not wanting another second place finish. Richmond hasn’t held the “Action Track” standard up in the last handful of races. But, it’s our first night race, and if the moon is out, who knows what these animals may turn into.

Copple:  I love short tracks and I love the trading-paint racing they produce. I hope we see more of that this weekend at Richmond. I’d love to see some of these younger guys battle it out with the veterans. We are also going to see our first night race at Richmond, so who knows what is going to happen!

Hull:  Richmond always produces good racing, and there have been some good finishes these last couple of years. I don’t expect any less this weekend, especially since there are some drivers who are itching to win a race.

Lucas:  It will be a fun race for sure, but from a tension wise viewpoint, no there won’t be much trading paint. The anxiety that Richmond produces traditionally happens during the fall event, and with this year’s race being a playoff race, I think that will amp it up to another notch.

As for this weekend’s event, I think it will be mellow. Starting up front will be a mega advantage. One final note, I do miss the Sunday afternoon time slot for Richmond. Seeing the multiple grooves added another element to an already storied short track.

Sturm:  I think it’ll be a good race, as short tracks always are. However, I don’t think it will be like Bristol, not near as aggressive. The weather played a huge factor in Sunday’s/Monday’s race. The track was unarguably different due to the crazy wintry mix that we saw fall at Bristol, and there was a sort of tension to finish the race before the weather got bad again. Plus, Richmond never has the action like Bristol or Martinsville do, but I am expecting a decent race.

So far, clean good stuff from our team and not even a scratch on our car!  Before we use the bump and run for the win at Richmond, let’s see how we fared last weekend at Bristol!
Bowman and Hull enjoyed a victory thanks to Kyle Busch.

Bowman and Hull enjoyed a victory thanks to Kyle Busch.

Meanwhile, the points have tightened up, making tonight an interesting one for the entire team!

Meanwhile, the points have tightened up, making tonight an interesting one for the entire team!

Well, how about it, friends?  Let’s reveal our picks for tonight’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway!
Can one of these six smile in Victory Lane at Richmond tonight?

Can one of these six smile in Victory Lane at Richmond tonight?

Tiongson:  We saw Kevin Harvick score a terrific three-peat during the West Coast Swing.  Look for Kyle Busch to make it three wins in a row with the checkers at Double R.

TPF Stats:  Buschhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Acero: After getting the oh so famous bump and run applied to him this past Monday at Bristol, Kyle Larson will get to avoid that and race to the finish taking the checkers at Richmond! 42 to Victory Lane!

Hull:  Going with Larson. He always finishes strong here, and came oh so close last weekend!

Sturm: I think I’m going to have to pick Kyle Larson. The dude was not happy with being a bridesmaid Monday at Bristol. He’s going to get the win.

Conley: I need points, and I need them bad. He hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since 2013, and with an average finish of 4.5. Joey Logano gets win number three at Richmond.

Copple: It’s been a while since he visited Victory Lane but I think that will change this weekend. Joey Logano will take the checkered at Richmond.

Hobbs: Joey Logano is going to make it right this time around.

Bowman: There are an abundance of drivers with great ratings at Richmond which makes it so hard to choose! I think Kurt Busch is hungry for a win and it will come under the lights!

Lucas: Going along the same battle lines as Mr. Conley, I need a win. However, I’m heading in a different direction pickwise. Hometown flare will be on full display. Look for Denny Hamlin to take the checkered flag Saturday evening!

Cassidy:  Jimmie Johnson!

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Saturday night’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2018.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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