Podium Preview: Federated Auto Parts 400

Might we see Denny Hamlin score a homecoming victory at Richmond? (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

Might we see Denny Hamlin score a homecoming victory at Richmond? (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

If last Sunday night’s Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington provided drama, then tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond will provide action. By all means, Round 28 of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season may live up to this venue’s former nickname as “The Action Track.”

Certainly, there’s plentiful action worth following with the second race of this year’s NASCAR Playoffs. After Kevin Harvick drove to another win at Darlington, there’s plenty of short track fun ahead with this 400-lap race!

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists, consisting of columnists, photographers, and fans, preview the racing action. This weekend, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis Torres, Matteo MarcheschiMichelle Raynor, Terra Jones, and yours truly ponder about dark horses and surprises for the NASCAR Playoffs.

Podium Preview: Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond
Trending Topics
Question 1
Can Kurt Busch continue his sneaky ways?

Can Kurt Busch continue his sneaky ways?

Which Playoff driver could give the Hamlin-Harvick dominating duo a run for their money? Name the driver and defend your answer.

Jones :  I have a hard time thinking anyone will be able to stop Harvick and Hamiln over the next nine races. But if I had to pick out one driver, it would be Chase Elliott. When that kid gets on a hot streak, it’s hard to stop him. And honestly, it could start as early as this weekend.

Hobbs :  For me, this comes down to the numbers. One driver mimics Denny Hamlin (as no one mimics Kevin Harvick) and that is Brad Keselowski. He sits in third place for wins this season with three, and he has been pretty consistent on track. While it is hard to ignore the dominance of Hamlin and Harvick, Keselowski is just sitting, watching, and racking up solid finishes.

Sisoler :  I’m sort of surprised that none of my fellow panelists said the defending champion Kyle Busch. All it takes is one race. If Kyle wins one, he’s gonna be hard to stop. But that is a big if with the way KB18 has performed this year. I’d say more likely options are out of the Penske camp with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Both are hard-nosed drivers that have shown some solid pace, and when they get hot, they are tough to slow down and almost impossible to stop.

Marcheschi :  There are a few that come to mind for me, but I’d say the top candidate is Denny Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. While Truex has struggled to produce the dominating performances he did last season, Sunday showed that he’s still got it. As for the calendar coming up, he won at three of the nine remaining tracks just last year, including a season sweep at Richmond. Truex has also shown prowess at Kansas and the Charlotte Roval, and has established himself as a threat at pretty much any track on the circuit. If there’s anyone who can upset the Hamlin-Harvick duo, it’s MTJ.

Tiongson :  I wrote about this in the most recent issue of ROAR and I stand by my observation. Kurt Busch has the makings as a legitimate contender for the Championship 4. The performance by Busch and crew chief Matt McCall reminds me of what Jeff Gordon and Alan Gustafson compiled in 2015. Sure, KB1 hasn’t been lightning fast. However, he grinds out good finishes, doesn’t push the envelope, but will go 110 percent if he’s in position for the win. His performance at Darlington was commendable in terms of resiliency, pace, and confidence.

Raynor :  This is a hard one for me. I think Martin Truex Jr. could continue to step up and win a couple more races. That team has been getting stronger and showing speed. If they can minimize their mistakes, they will be a big contender in Phoenix. 

Question 2
Might we see more Joey Logano celebrations soon?

Might we see more Joey Logano celebrations soon?

Darlington saw Kevin Harvick lock up the first of the transfer spots for the next round. Who would be, in your opinion, a shocking pick to, not only win at Richmond, but also shake up the playoff picture with an automatic lock to the next round?

Lambeth :  After he nearly caught Kevin Harvick for the Southern 500 victory, why not Austin Dillon? In my opinion, it seems like many people are not expecting him to advance from the Round of 16. Nobody expected him to win at Texas either but he did. I think Dillon is motivated by the large number of people who doubt him. If he were to win at Richmond and move on to the next round, I am sure that he would be fired up and ready to work for a deep playoff run, if possible.

Shoppe :  Austin Dillon was absolutely a shock to do so well and nearly win last week in Darlington! I would still be surprised to see that continue. This week at Richmond, the biggest shock winner would be Ryan Blaney given his record there. As for a winner that I could actually see pulling it off that you wouldn’t expect, Kurt Busch. Quietly, the older Busch has been consistent and could sneak up on his competitors

Torres :  It hasn’t been the strongest years for Joey Logano since the pandemic happened. In fact, he’s been winless since the season resumed in May. But if recent history paints a picture, Team Penske has the potential of stopping Joe Gibbs Racing, especially Martin Truex, Jr., who swept last year’s races. Logano has won before and not only do I see him winning on Saturday but shake the Playoffs. He got third at Darlington which was one of his better races in recent memory, so momentum is at a high right now.

After a year wait from the last Cup race at this 0.75-mile short track, the crew got around Richmond quite nicely! Next, here’s a gander at our race and points reports from last Sunday’s race at Darlington.
Our machine is in love with Kevin Harvick.

Our machine is in love with Kevin Harvick.

Meanwhile, the intensity ratchets up among the humans.

Meanwhile, the intensity ratchets up among those humans.

Now, Ashley Hobbs drops some numbers worth mulling over for tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 a
First, here's how your favorite team fares in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond.

First, here’s how your favorite team fares in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond.

Not by much, Chevrolet proves quite competitive at Richmond.

Not by much, Chevrolet proves quite competitive at Richmond.

Since 2004, the Federated Auto Parts 400 winners has an average starting spot of 6.4, led an average of 161.8 laps, started within the top-five 62.5 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 81.25 percent of the time.

Since 2004, the Federated Auto Parts 400 winners has an average starting spot of 6.4, led an average of 161.8 laps, started within the top-five 62.5 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 81.25 percent of the time.

Things might get Rowdy at Richmond.

Things might get Rowdy at Richmond.

Next, here's the trends at Richmond's fall race since 2010.

Next, here’s the trends at Richmond’s fall race since 2010.

Here's the trends for the past five Federated Auto Parts 400 races.

Here’s the trends for the past five Federated Auto Parts 400 races.

Were you expecting the Addams Family?

Were you expecting the Addams Family?

Last but not least, here’s our picks for tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400!
Five race picks, five past race winners at Richmond.

Five race picks, five past race winners at Richmond.

Hobbs :  While he may not be having the best season, Richmond is a place that Rowdy knows how to find success. He is also tied for 4th place in short track average finishes this year, and that has got to bring some fire and fight to the 18 crew on Saturday night.

TPF Stats :  The machine is sticking with the best driver this season. Not only is Kevin Harvick the man this season, but he is the man at Richmond (no matter the time of year). He may be locked into the next round, but Harvick still want to hoard all the playoff points that he can.

Raynor :  He’s good at this track so I’m choosing Denny Hamlin.

Torres :  Aside from JGR, Team Penske at Richmond has been rather successful and I don’t see how Joey Logano doesn’t come out on top. He’s had a quiet campaign since racing resumed in May, but if there’s a time he’ll deliver. Look no further at a track he’s had strong runs over the years. Don’t count Logano out this Saturday.

Jones :  It’s hard to vote against the driver who has won the last two races there AND who needs a night of good luck. What better place to turn it around than Richmond under the lights? Look to see MTJ in VL.

Lambeth :  After coming up short last weekend at Darlington, Martin Truex Jr. will make up for sending it and missing by winning another short track race at Richmond!

Marcheschi :  Martin Truex Jr. swept the races at Richmond last year, and has finished inside the top three in both stages and the race in each of the last three events there. While Truex hasn’t been especially strong this season, a great run at Darlington on Sunday shows that the No. 19 team is turning it up for the playoffs. Look for Truex to pull into Victory Lane on Saturday night.

Sisoler :  Very simple, no one in the past few years has been able to dominate at Richmond the way MTJ has. Truex will lock himself into the next round of the playoffs with a victory this weekend!

Tiongson :  It’s time to get aggressive and go with the man who swept Richmond Raceway’s races in 2019. Let’s go get ’em, MTJ!

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this tonight’s race? Who are your favorites to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often!

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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. Ultimately, they 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *