2021 Federated Auto Parts 400 Picks & Analysis
Race: Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders
Date: Saturday, September 11, 2021
Track: Richmond International Raceway
Time: 7:30pm ET
What Did We Learn From Last Weekend?
So I guess all that Denny Hamlin needed to get his first win of the season was for his girlfriend to break up with him and tell him what a terrible person he was on social media. I guess that can be motivating for some…? For Hamlin, it was the most focused we’ve seen him almost the entire year. He maintained contention for the win through the whole race. It always seemed to be between him and Kyle Larson no matter what lap we were on. He came out second with 45 laps to go behind teammate Martin Truex Jr. Unfortunately, for Truex, a pit road speeding penalty cost him the lead and catapulted Hamlin to the front of the field. He managed to hold off a tough run from Larson, coming off the last turn of the final lap. Larson literally had smoke pouring from his car as he drove with his foot to the floor along the wall, determined to get to Hamlin’s outside. Hamlin never flinched, though. Larson was hoping for a mistake that never happened, but I give him a lot of credit for not dumping the #11 FedEx Toyota. He could’ve easily taken the win, but he chose to drive a clean hard race. I’m not so sure Hamlin would’ve done the same had the roles been reversed.
Speaking of questionable sportsmanship, Kyle Busch put on a good show of poor character when he ended up wrecking and hitting the outside wall after contact with the #3 of Austin Dillon. Shockingly, he said it wasn’t Dillon’s fault. Despite that fact, Busch managed to speed off the track, take a few cones with him on the way to the hauler, and earn a $50,000 penalty in the process. Busch dropped a few profanities while he was at it for icing on the cake. He just can’t handle having a bad day. Kyle Petty was defending his “passion” and proceeded to applaud him for not hiding it, but there’s a difference between passion and lack of class. Busch could learn how to lose a little more gracefully unless he just likes being the driver everyone loves to hate. The crowd enjoyed his temper tantrum, so I guess there was a silver lining to his bad behavior. If I were his son, though, I’d be embarrassed to have a dad act like a toddler—just my two cents.
Where Are We Headed This Weekend?
This weekend, Busch will have an opportunity for redemption…if he’s even looking for it. He didn’t seem too interested in trying to join Hamlin in securing a spot in the round of 12 by winning a race moving forward. I’m sure his sponsors loved that also. Regardless, he’s going to have to put on his big girl panties and do his best not to get involved in a wreck at Richmond this weekend. While Richmond is definitely classified as a short track, this 0.75-mile D-shaped asphalt oval gives us a lot more green flag racing than some of the other traditional short tracks like Bristol or Martinsville. It’s a track where the leader can still pull away from the field more often than not. That being said, lap traffic can still play a significant role in maintaining track position and those coveted tenths and hundredths of a second ahead of second place. The drivers will have to take care of their tires, too, as they maneuver the lap traffic and try to stay at the front of the pack.
Odds and Value Picks
There are quite a few drivers that are very good at this place. Honestly, it’s not a rookie’s track. This is more of a veteran’s type of track, as it takes quite a bit of skill and finesse to get to the end of the race in one piece. Honestly, we saw a lot of struggling from everyone out of the Hendrick’s garage last weekend, with the exception of Kyle Larson. That was a little odd considering how dominating that entire organization has been all year long. I think they will redeem themselves to an extent this weekend, but I am not so sure it will be with a win. While Larson is competitive no matter where he races, Richmond tends to belong to the Gibbs teams. I say this with Brad Keselowski actually being the defending winner here. Brad has had his share of challenges this year. While he will probably be a contender in his own right, I don’t see him bringing home the win this go-around. Prior to last year, Keselowski’s only other win here happened in 2014. I mean, those are still pretty good odds, but again, with how this year’s been going, I just don’t see him taking the win with as well as the other guys are running. Let’s take a look at your potential winners this weekend heading into Richmond.
- Winner: Martin Truex Jr. 4-1
- Middle of the Road: Kyle Busch 7-1
- Dark Horse: Austin Dillon 50-1
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Dillon is a bit of a stretch, but I’m basing this off recent history with him. In three of his last four races, he’s managed sixth of better. This is one of his better tracks on the circuit overall, so look for Dillon to be upfront this weekend. Kyle Busch is listed as a B-list driver because of his failure to produce in the first round of the playoffs. With a poor attitude heading into this weekend’s race, he’s going to have to use the momentum of his previous six wins to make some moves and get the win that he really needs at this point to advance into the round of 12. He can’t have a repeat of Darlington, or he’s going to race his way out of contention for the championship. Martin Truex Jr. will be the one that everyone is chasing this weekend. He swept the 2019 season at this track and has led the most laps out of any driver in the last five races here combined. Truex has this place figured out and is looking to punch his ticket to the round of 12 before heading into the last race of this current round. Let’s take a look at where everyone stands heading into a short track race at Richmond this weekend.
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Larson
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kurt Busch
- Ryan Blaney
- Joey Logano
- Kevin Harvick
- Brad Keselowski
- Christopher Bell
- Chase Elliott
- Aric Almirola
- Tyler Reddick
- Alex Bowman
- Kyle Busch
- William Byron
- Michael McDowell
As you can see, Kyle Busch is in the cutoff group. That’s a dangerous place to be with how quickly these rounds wrap up. This weekend is the best shot he has in this round to gain a victory and secure his spot in the round of 12. He’s going to have to check his attitude at the start/finish line, though, if he intends on making it to the end of the race. Short tracks give us enough to worry about without the addition of a Kyle Busch attitude problem. This weekend’s race is sure to be an awesome sight. Keep in mind that it falls on 9/11. I anticipate it being a race filled with patriotism, honor, and glory for our nation. Stay tuned for an amazing race under the lights at Richmond International Raceway!
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