What to Watch: 2022 Richmond return

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Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond, the 24th regular-season event of the 2022 campaign.

Race-day info 📝

Where: Richmond, Virginia
Approximate start time: 3 p.m. ET | Full weekend schedule
TV/Radio: USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
The purse: $7,144,995
Forecast: A slight chance of showers after 2 p.m. ET. Mostly sunny, with a high near 83 degrees, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracker
Race distance: 400 laps | 300 miles
Stages: 70 | 230 | 400
Pit-road speed: 40 mph
Caution car speed: 45 mph
Richmond 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup:
TBD
Pit stalls:
TBD
UPDATE: Kurt Busch out again

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

It has been the story line all week and it is no different here. Will there be a 16th winner? Kevin Harvick’s momentous win at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday left two strong playoff contenders straddling the cutline: Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. Unfortunately for Ryan Blaney, the timing this week lines up perfectly for Truex to pounce — at least that is what history tells us. Truex has three wins in the last six races at Richmond and has led an imposing 1,285 laps at the Virginia short track. Blaney, on the other hand, has just two top-10 finishes in 12 starts, though they came in the last two races. The good news for Blaney fans is that his improvements here have been remarkable as of late. But will it be enough to hang on to his 19-point lead?

Who’s hot? Who’s not? 

After breaking the streak of 65 consecutive races without a win, Kevin Harvick is in prime position to become a title favorite down the stretch. The momentum the No. 4 team has found recently is very notable, reeling off five top 10s in the last eight races and storming their way to Victory Lane. Don’t expect them to slow down at Richmond this weekend, either. Harvick and company finished runner-up in the spring race and have finished inside the top eight in 12 of the last 15 races. Harvick’s got the hot hand.

Though Tyler Reddick has won two of the last six races, the No. 8 team’s performance on ovals has been underwhelming compared to their success on road courses. Reddick has three finishes of 21st or worse, including a pair of DNFs, alongside the two wins and heads to Richmond where he has yet to register a top 10 in the Cup Series. Sure, a pair of wins leaves Reddick and company comfortably heading into the playoffs. But with more ovals than road courses in each of the rounds, they need to flip the switch. Fortunately, Reddick finished 12th in the spring race so there is definitely something to build on there.

Driving under the radar

If you haven’t been paying attention to racing at Richmond, this driver to watch out for Sunday may come as a big surprise: Austin Dillon. Dillon raced his No. 3 Chevrolet to a 10th-place finish in the spring and now has five top 10s in the last seven races at Richmond. Recently, he has been one of the best here. With all the talk about other drivers a bit nearer to the cutline, Dillon winning this weekend is certainly not out of the question. And as the 16th, and perhaps most unlikely, winner, it would shake up the playoff picture considerably.

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Race-day staples ✅

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Paint Scheme Preview: Vivid paint schemes for Virginia | Pick a favorite
• Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin is on the rise | Updated drivers rankings
• NASCAR betting: BetMGM odds for Sunday’s race | Underdogs, value bets
• Fantasy Fastlane: Can Martin Truex Jr. turn the tide? | Top plays, sleepers
• Bubble Watch: Which drivers are close to the cutline? | Read more
• Backseat Drivers:
Is Bubba Wallace too hard on himself? | Watch the debate
• Stacking Pennies:
Kyle Petty joins the show | Listen to full interview

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Martin Truex Jr.: Driver opens up on Richmond success, more | Read more
• Driver analysis:
Does Ryan Blaney or Martin Truex Jr. have the edge? | Read more
• Jordan Brand:
New 23XI scheme for the No. 45 at Richmond | Read more
• At-track etiquette:
Justin Haley opens up on growing fanbase, driver interaction | Read more
• New facility:
NASCAR Productions center set to begin construction | Read more
• New signing:
Noah Gragson inks 2023 deal with Petty GMS | Read more
• Block party:
Bubba Wallace, NASCAR host event at Richmond | Read more
• Richmond president speaks:
‘I want Richmond to win’ | Read more
• Playoff breakdown:
How the field looks entering Richmond | Read more
• Austin Dillon:
Inside his role as Carolina Cowboys’ GM | Read more
• Justin Haley:
Running Xfinity Series race with Kaulig Racing at Daytona | Read more
• Silly Season:
Driver moves, changes are heating up | Track them here
• Get your tickets:
Tickets are now on sale for the 2023 Busch Light Clash | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• BetMGM: Public likes Truex to spoil Hamlin’s homecoming | Read more
• The Action Network:
Odds, picks and predictions for Richmond | Read more
• Backseat Bets:
Can Kevin Harvick take down Denny Hamlin? | Watch the segment
• Play it LIVE:
Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
• Going all the way:
2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Racing twice at Richmond ✌️

There is so much NASCAR history at Richmond Raceway, so let’s break down some of the basics. 

• Do you remember?: Memorable moments at Richmond | Relive them
• Earlier in 2022:
Denny Hamlin takes Round 1 at Richmond | Full race recap
• Race Rewind:
Hamlin pulls through for home-state win | Watch highlights
• Last year at Richmond 2:
Back to front, Truex puts on a show | Watch highlights

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Chase Elliott will lock up the Regular Season Championship by leaving Richmond with a 121-point lead.
Ryan Blaney lost 52 points to Martin Truex Jr. in the last four races in the cutline battle.
Truex finished top five in the last seven Richmond races, the longest streak since Rusty Wallace had seven.
Four of the last eight races in 2022 were won by drivers getting their first win of the season.
The longest active top-10 streak is four races by Bubba Wallace. The longest by any driver this year is six.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“Just the atmosphere, the people. I think that’s the most important thing is the people and being able to feel comfortable at an organization, that’s pretty unique as it is, I feel like. JR Motorsports, it’s been a home for me the last four years and the leadership and the same qualities that they really instill in their company, I feel like that’s what we’ve seen here at GMS. So looking forward to the opportunity.” — Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series on signing the 2023 deal with Petty GMS Motorsports

“I think it’s definitely been a letdown for me personally. I wanted to come out and do a really good job and I feel like I made a lot of mistakes early. Some things I feel like I did well early, but I don’t know. I don’t know what the grade would be. I haven’t really thought a lot about that. I think the biggest thing is just trying to build off of every weekend. Last weekend at Michigan was so tough because we just missed it in practice and qualifying and then you get into the race and get crashed early and don’t have a chance to really build off of anything. I’m just trying to get better and better each weekend.” — Harrison Burton, driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, on his 2022 season

“We’re going to show up and fight like we always do. We know Richmond is a good opportunity for us and we want to make the most of that opportunity, but we don’t really change who we are at this point in the season. James (Small, crew chief) and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing are doing everything we can and that’s all I can ask for as a driver. I have a lot of confidence going to Richmond and know what we’re capable of.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

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