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What to Watch For: Richmond Raceway

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings

NASCAR Cup Series
Playoff Format

• 16 drivers qualify
• Drivers awarded playoff points for race wins, stage wins and regular season points positions
• Drivers automatically advance to next round with win
• Bottom 4 drivers in points (if they're winless) will be eliminated after 3rd, 6th and 9th races
• Points total resets at start of each round (with playoff points added)
• Best finisher among 4 remaining drivers in season finale wins championship

Wild Weekend in Vegas Leads to Playoff Uncertainty

The top-7 finishers last week in Las Vegas were all playoff drivers. That's not surprising. What was more shocking was that 4 playoff drivers wrecked out of the opener, and half of the 16 playoff drivers finished 19th or worse after having issues.

Playoff Scenarios - This Week at Richmond

Any playoff driver who wins clinches spot in Round of 12
Any driver 56 points ahead of 12th in standings after race clinches spot
No driver can be eliminated
Several drivers may have had a rough playoff opener, but this format is forgiving to bad finishes (a win at Richmond or the following weekend at Charlotte will advance a driver through). And the last 4 champions all had a finish of 20th or worse on way to a title.

Brad Keselowski Looking for 4 in a Row

Brad Keselowski went winless in the first 3 races of the season. But he won the last 2 races of the regular season and then won the playoff opener at Las Vegas, giving Team Penske its 500th win across all motorsports.

Keselowski's 3-race win streak is the 3rd of its kind this season (Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch also pulled it off). Having 3 win streak of 3 or more races in a season is unusual, it's just the 3rd time it's happened, and the first time with 3 or more drivers pulling it off.

Neither Harvick nor Busch could extend their win streaks to 4 in a row. Harvick finished 35th at California and Busch 13th at Talladega in their attempts. Only 1 driver has had a 4-race win streak since 2000, Jimmie Johnson in the 2007 playoffs.

Keselowski had proven he can dominate at Richmond. 4 years ago in this race, he led 383 of 400 laps in winning.

With 7 playoff wins since 2012, Keselowski trails only Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in that time.

Kyle Busch Always Ready for the Action Track

Since the beginning of his career, Kyle Busch has excelled at Richmond. He's a 5-time winner at the track, including a win earlier this season. With 1 more win, he'll tie for the 3rd-most wins in track history (trailing only Richard Petty's 13 and Bobby Allison's 7), but he's already among the best in terms of average finish at the track.

Although Busch's overall numbers at Richmond are solid, all 5 of his wins have come in the spring race at the track.

Busch has helped lead a Gibbs team which has been the winningest team on short tracks over the last 10 seasons. Gibbs' 26 wins are 16 more than any other team on short tracks since 2009. Kyle Busch is responsible for half of those wins.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Returns to the Track

Friday night in the XFINITY Series race at Richmond, Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes his first start since the end of the 2017 season, when he retired from full-time competition.

Earnhardt Jr. has won 24 of his 139 career XFINITY Series starts, giving him the 3rd-best win percentage in series history.

Earnhardt Jr. is one of the top drivers in XFINITY Series history.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
XFINITY Series Career Notes

• 24 wins (T-10th all-time)
• 2-time series champion (1998-99)
• Won championship only 2 seasons he ran for title
• 13 wins in 1998-99 (5 more than any other driver)

Earnhardt Jr. has run 7 XFINITY Series races at Richmond, winning 4 times. He finished 9th in this race last year, and won the spring race at the track in 2016. He's also won at Richmond as a Cup driver.

XFINITY Series Playoffs Start at Richmond

The Cup and Truck series playoffs are already underway, and this week the XFINITY Series will join them at Richmond. The XFINITY Series playoffs consist of 12 drivers, with 3 rounds (7 total races).

The Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned JR Motorsports has 3 drivers in the playoff field (Allgaier, Sadler, Reddick) and will be looking for its 3rd title in the last 5 seasons.

A driver to watch in this postseason is Ross Chastain. The watermelon farmer from Florida usually drives for the underfunded JD Motorsports. But he picked up a 3-race deal with Chip Ganassi Racing. He led 90 laps and wrecked out in the first, but picked up his first career win in a dominant effort last week in Las Vegas. This will be his 3rd and final race of the deal, but he has a chance to move into the Round of 8 with a victory at Richmond before returning to his normal ride.

Who's Hot and Who's Not - Richmond

HOT:

Brad Keselowski (Penske): on career-long 3-race win streak, trying to be 2nd driver since 2000 to win 4 straight (Jimmie Johnson, 2007)
Kyle Busch (Gibbs): 5 wins career at Richmond lead all active drivers
Denny Hamlin (Gibbs): finished 6th or better in last 6 Richmond starts (18th or worse in previous 5)
Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas): 6 top-5 finishes in last 8 Richmond races
Kyle Larson (Ganassi): recorded 6th runner-up finish of season last week at Las Vegas (0 wins); tied for 2nd-most runner-up finishes in a season without a win in series history
Joey Logano (Penske): 9 straight top-10 finishes at Penske (won 2017 spring race)

NOT:

Ryan Blaney (Penske): finished 18th or worse in all 5 career starts at Richmond
Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick): on career-long 50-race winless streak; 14 straight races without top-5 finish is 1 off career-long streak
Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row): 2 top-5 finishes in 25 career Richmond races (1 in last 20 races)
Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas): 1 top-10 in last 5 Richmond races (20.6 Avg finish); 6 in his previous 8 Richmond starts (12.5 Avg finish)
Austin Dillon (Childress): 9 starts, 0 top-10 finishes career at Richmond

--- ESPN Stats & Info ---