NASCAR Sprint Cup at Richmond Preview: Eight things to know

Image courtesy of @NASCARONFOX

Let’s keep it short and sweet. No, literally. That’s exactly what NASCAR is doing for a second straight week with yet another short track race in Richmond.

With excitement teeming and the engines ready to fire up, here’s a look at the eight things every NASCAR fan needs to know before the Toyota Owners 400:

1. Watch/Listen/Stream/Wager

Where: Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, Virginia

When: Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Vegas Odds: Kevin Harvick 9-2; Brad Keselowski 6-1; Joey Logano 6-1; Kurt Busch 7-1; Jimmie Johnson 8-1 (Courtesy Sportsbook.ag)

2. Penske Power: Anyone who watched Sprint Cup races the last two years understands the dominance of Team Penske. Richmond is a hotbed for success particularly over the past year, with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski trading off wins at the track.

Both drivers have a win this season, meaning their berth to the Chase is essentially clinched. On Saturday, the joy ride for Penske might key the start of another sweep—Las Vegas certainly seems to think it’s possible.    

3. Gordon Tired of Being the Bridesmaid: Just behind Penske in both races last year was Jeff Gordon. The Hendrick car caught the short end of the stick each time in his attempts to win his first race since 2000 at the track. Though he has just two wins, Gordon holds the most top fives for an active driver at the course with 18. In the famous words of Dale Earnhardt, “Second place is just the first place loser.”  

4. Richmond Rebound: Go ahead and look back at the top-10 results from Bristol last weekend. If they look strange, it’s because several big names are all absent. Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano all missed out on finishing 10th or better for the first time all season. All three have a strong history at Richmond—Logano and Harvick have wins in the last two seasons—so Richmond should be a chance for the NASCAR universe to return to normality.  

5. Danica Loves Short Tracks: Last Sunday, Danica Patrick made history with her sixth top-10 finish, putting her ahead of Janet Guthrie on the all-time list for female drivers. Persistence was key to her second top 10 of the season.

“I didn’t think this day was ever going to end,” Patrick said in a Stewart-Haas Racing release. “I’m proud of everybody for keeping their heads up and staying positive, and these are the things that happen when you work together as a team. Today was a total team effort.”

She’ll need another team effort if she plans on making it three top-10 results in a row at short tracks. In four races, she’s never finished better than 16th.    

6. Hamlin Back Behind the Wheel: It was a short stint on the disabled list for Denny Hamlin, but one that caught the NASCAR world’s attention. Hamlin suffered back spasms and was replaced by Erik Jones in Bristol. Close to 100 percent, Hamlin will return on Saturday night to his home track in Virginia. With an average finish of 10.41 and two wins, Hamlin is one to watch for Joe Gibbs Racing.    

7. Favorite This could go to either Penske driver, but we’re rolling with Kevin Harvick. The SHR driver is pissed off after a horrible finish at Bristol, where he led 184 laps and had a chance to win late. With two wins already, Harvick will be looking to become the first driver this season to hit the Victory Lane trifecta. And with the speed under that hood, the sky is the limit in terms of victories.    

8. Underdog

  What do all the cool kids do late at night?….go to Waffle House! Oh hey Austin! We all got top tens too!!!!!!!   A photo posted by Danica Patrick (@danicapatrick) on

Need a reason to root for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.? Instagram gold like visiting Waffle House only happens when something huge occurs. After his top-five finish last Sunday, Stenhouse is hoping to build off that momentum.

Commonly known more for his ghastly mullet and being Patrick’s arm candy, Stenhouse can hold his own on short tracks. Coming off a fourth-place result at Bristol, Stenhouse hopes to return to his 2013 form at Richmond with another top-10 finish in Richmond.

Roush Fenway Racing hasn’t done much this season, but Stenhouse can change that with two straight strong finishes on Saturday. He might be competing for position with Patrick late in the race, making for an even more enticing end to the race.

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