Track Talk: Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

Following some craziness at Las Vegas, might it be a tame race evening for someone like Alon Day at Richmond?
Following some craziness at Las Vegas, might it be a tame race evening for someone like Alon Day at Richmond?

Following some craziness at Las Vegas, might it be a tame race evening for someone like Alon Day at Richmond?

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

Tonight, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley HullChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen Cassidy, Katie Copple, Matt Sisoler consider the strength of the NASCAR Playoffs field following a wild opener at Las Vegas and the future for Ross Chastain.

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Question 1
Sin City was more like Spin City.

Sin City was more like Spin City.

While Brad Keselowski scored his third straight win of 2018, we saw half of the Playoff field encounter problems at Las Vegas. Which of these teams can bounce back at Richmond and which ones are truly in trouble?

Acero :  Everyone except Brad K. That No. 2 team is peaking at the right time and doing things right on track. The other 15 drivers from here on out will have their own race within the race. Richmond will only make things get heated up amongst them even more!

Bowman : It’s so hard to predict who can make it back in. Especially with so many of them having issues at Vegas. In my opinion, it is going to come down to the mindset of the driver as to how well they bounce back. If they go in with determination and a solid game plan, I believe they will have a better chance than the drivers who go in apprehensive.  

Cassidy :  Truth is – you never really know! This Playoff format has proven year after year that having a good season guarantees you a spot in the playoffs, not an advance. Everyone but Brad K could be in trouble.

Copple :  There is no real answer to this. Every team is going to be fighting for the best position on the track. That will, most likely, lead to more wrecks. Some of these guys will be caught up in a wreck of their making and others will just have a case of real bad luck.

Hull :  In my years of watching NASCAR, I have learned that the Playoffs are very unpredictable, and you never know who will pull something up their sleeves and win. I never even guessed that Brad Keselowski would pull off 3 wins in a row! With that said, we shall wait and see.

Lucas :  I have no idea! That’s what make the playoffs so unpredictable, literally anyone can have dumb rotten luck that can potentially derail a championship caliber teams hopes. The No. 4 team will be back toward the front, no doubt about that one. But the one team I think will have to work at it is Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 team.

When your driver is complaining constantly about “how they suck” in almost every phase of the race, you have to question the entire teams approach to race day. Is it the driver, the crew, or is it because the moon and stars aren’t aligning? The next two races will be extremely crucial for them.

Shoppe :  Denny Hamlin, being so many points back after the first race, is in a terrible position. He hasn’t been able to win all year and he absolutely needs to. Elliott, Jones, and Johnson still have some hope that other teams that haven’t shown speed to advance. Look at the No. 3 of Dillon and the No. 88 team of Bowman, who are still within grasp. Barring another big shake up in the playoff points, that’s the way it looks but with a short track race in Richmond that the Roval wildcard, anything can happen!

Sisoler :  That’s a great question. Playoffs in any sport brings a lot of chaos. 12 of the 16 drivers in this year’s playoffs had issues in Vegas. I think Harvick, despite his frustrations over last weekend, is in an ideal spot to recover, given his plentiful bonus points. JGR teammates Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin are not in good places after they had issues, but both have two races to recover.

Same goes for Hendrick squadmates Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. Like I said with the JGR pair, both have two races to recover, and both have to be lifted, if only a bit, by the fact that both cars ran well before having issues. The plus side of last weekend for any driver who had a rough go of it, is that 75% of the other cars in the playoff field had issues. Lastly, you only have to beat four cars to make it to the next round. It’ll be an interesting two weeks coming up.

Question 2
I have conquered The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!

I have conquered The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!

Ross Chastain scored his much anticipated first NASCAR XFINITY Series win at Las Vegas.  Considering his top-10 finish in the Truck race and top-20 finish in the Cup race, might Cup car owners consider this young Floridian for a quality ride in 2019?

Acero :  Kudos to Chastain and his victory at Vegas in XFINITY. I wouldn’t say they are looking at him for the following season. But, it’s a name that will be talked about in the Cup garage next year for the 2020 season.

Bowman :  I would not be so quick to jump the gun on getting a Cup ride after just one win in XFINITY. While it’s an extraordinary accomplishment and should be celebrated, there are a lot of quality drivers looking for rides in 2019 and we have a very young field as is. Some owners may want to look to veteran drivers to secure a fanbase and solid sponsorship.

Cassidy :  There are a lot of young guns looking for a full-time Cup ride. Ross’s accomplishment is huge. However, I think he will need to continue to prove himself.

Copple :  I wouldn’t go that far. He is still young and pretty green. There are already a good number of young drivers who were brought up to Cup way too soon. Give him another year in XFINITY, and get him in a Cup car for a few races in 2019. Then let’s talk about moving him up to the premier series team.

Hull :  While Ross Chastain’s victory was awesome and long-awaited, he still has to get through some hefty competition in scoring a Cup ride. I do hope he gets one, but it’s not a sure thing yet.

Lucas :  I want to say yes, but I also know that the sport is based on sponsorship, i.e. money. Maybe if Ross can get a good break in top-of-the-line XFINITY equipment and be able to compete consistently, perhaps. But realistically, I’d give him about a less than 5% chance with the current market and business model.

I love his story (and his watermelons), but I also do not want to see him pull an Allgaier. Allgaier went from a good XFINTIY team to a mid-to-back marker team with full funding and was never able to flourish in Cup. Instead, he’s made a great name for himself since going back to the XFINITY Series.

Shoppe :  Many people fail to notice that Ross Chastain has been in Cup for a while now, just in terrible equipment. Much like Alex Bowman, he has the Cup experience under his belt just not the time behind the wheel of competitive cars. I do doubt any quality Cup seats could go to him in this silly season despite Ganassi’s No. 1 car being up for grabs.

The watermelon farmer’s best bet is to seek a top-tier XFINTIY ride for next year to further show his ability to win in that series. With what we have seen in just two races in a good car, he could be a easy title contender in 2019!

Sisoler :  I think any team would at least have to consider him, given his proven ability to perform when given the proper equipment. Money could be the big thing that keeps him out of a top Cup Series ride next year. However, his good performance in Ganassi equipment in the XFINITY Series this season, in my opinion, should allow a top-notch XFINITY Series team to give him a shot in 2019. Then, maybe in 2020, if he can keep it up, some Cup teams should be in the market for his services.

The current market of drivers at top teams are starting to get up there in years (Kenseth at Roush, Johnson at Hendrick).  In a year or two, there are gonna be Cup teams that will be looking to pick up drivers from the XFINITY Series.

Two solid laps around Richmond means it’s nearly time to make winning picks.  However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t review the wild, frantic action last weekend at Las Vegas!
A solid day for yours truly may look great on paper.

A solid day for yours truly may look great on paper.

However, Hobbs' points lead increases to 12 heading into Richmond.

However, Hobbs’ points lead increases to 12 heading into Richmond.

A week from now, the NASCAR Playoffs goes to a true unknown to end the Round of 16.  Tonight, it’s a chance to make some noise for the Round of 12.  Let’s see our picks for tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond.
Clearly, the TPF team has some unique takes for the Federated Auto Parts 400.

Clearly, the TPF team has some unique takes for the Federated Auto Parts 400.

Tiongson :  Clint Bowyer looks to rebound from his Las Vegas letdown with a Richmond rebound win on Saturday night.

Acero :  Bowyer! Don’t ask why!

Bowman :  Ryan Blaney was first to come to mind!

Cassidy :  Ryan Blaney.

Lucas :  Penske will get win No. 501 with the driver of the No 22. in Joey Logano!

Copple :  I’m thinking Penske here. They’ve found something these last few weeks, but I’m going with Logano at Richmond.

Hobbs :  Look for Denny Hamlin to continue his hot streak at his home track this weekend.

Hull :  Brad Keselowski will do 4 in a row!

Shoppe :  Kyle Busch sweeps Richmond in 2018!

Sisoler :  Richmond is extremely chaotic, like any short track for NASCAR, so in reality, anything could happen. Since the start of 2014, there has only been one driver who has won multiple Cup races at Richmond, and that’s Joey Logano. But I don’t think Logano wins. Richmond is survival of the fittest, and I think we’ll see Kurt Busch rise to the occasion and win another short-track race.

TPF Stats :  The stars align for Kevin Harvick this weekend to rebound from Las Vegas.

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 tonight’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.

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

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

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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