You knew it was going to happen sooner or later and for most of the season, it has been later. Denny Hamlin finally found Victory Lane at the perfect time, the first race of the 2021 championship run. Hamlin led the second most laps at 146 on his way to the checkers followed by none other than Kyle Larson who led 156 and finished second.
This race at the famed track that is Too Tough To Tame had drivers losing their minds early on and the attrition cost several veteran drivers who will be looking for redemption at Richmond.
Last week my prediction for the bottom four drivers of Round One was:
- Michael McDowell
- Aric Almirola
- Tyler Reddick
- William Byron
At Darlington we saw the bottom four drivers were:
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- Michael McDowell
- William Byron
- Kyle Busch
- Alex Bowman (tied with Tyler Reddick)
Drivers looking for vindication this week will be Kyle Busch who has numerous wins at Richmond and swept the 2018 races. Alex Bowman is the defending race winner and will need a really good finish to get out of the cellar and he will have to do that by not only running well but finishing better than Tyler Reddick and William Byron. That goes for these two drivers as well. The toughest past about racing out of the cellar is you have to beat the couple drivers just ahead of you and that leapfrogging gets more difficult as every race goes by.
McDowell is toast and Aric Almirola is flirting with disaster. He has just 3 Top 10 finishes at Richmond in the last 6 races. But again, he just has to stay ahead of Reddick, Bowman and Byron to keep hope alive.
Nearly all the other championship drivers can have mediocre days and stay out of trouble if the bottom four struggle but that is not likely to happen two races in a row. Brad Keselowski won this race in 2020 and will be looking to improve on his P7 finish. And you can bet that Martin Truex, Jr. who swept the 2019 races, will be looking to get his mojo back here too.
Richmond might be the weak link in Kyle Larson’s armor in Round One. Look for other drivers to take advantage of that. But yeah, we are talking about Kyle Larson so he might even win this.
Good on ya, mate
- Ross Chastain (P3) for running well all day and showing his new bosses they made the right choice.
- Kevin Harvick (P5) had a very 2021 Harvick kind of race and stays in contention. He is now the veteran driver looking for his first win of the season.
- Kurt Busch (P6) also is showing his new bosses what he has left in the tank as he is headed to join Bubba Wallace at 23/XI racing in 2022.
- Joey Logano (P8) could be a threat to win at Richmond.
- Chris Buescher (P9) is having a nice year.
- Austin Dillon (P10) knows Kyle Busch said the wreck wasn’t his fault but do you really believe him?
- Cole Custer (P11), Ryan Preece (P12), Daniel Suarez (P13) and Corey Lajoie (P15) had good finishes and Lajoie actually had a decent Top 10 run during the day.
So you had a bad day
- McDowell (P37) was first out.
- Kyle Busch (P35) wasn’t far behind. Which will show up at Richmond, the determined to win Kyle Busch or the petulant Kyle Busch who got fined for driving like a fool back to the garage?
- Erik Jones (P32) had an engine expire.
- Chase Elliott (P31) better run a lot better in the next two races.
- Alex Bowman (P26) and William Byron (P34) need to pull hard on their straps and get going.
- Ryan Blaney (P22) can’t afford too many races like this.
We’ll be treated to another race under the lights this week at Richmond. The starting grid will come out soon so watch for where Kyle Busch will start.
Drive fast, turn left and keep the shiny side up! Leave your thoughts and comments below!
(Featured Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)