NASCAR Playoff racing headlines the weekend schedule at Richmond Raceway.
Both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series will bring their respective playoff battles to the .75-mile Virginia short track Friday and Saturday night.
Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (6:30 p.m. ET, MRN) is the second race of the opening Cup Series Playoff round. Martin Truex Jr. kicked things off in grand style last weekend when he took the checkered flag in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The win moved the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the Round of 12 and closer to a shot at winning his second career championship.
Truex Jr. won the April race at Richmond while his JGR teammate Kyle Busch is the defending Federated Auto Parts 400 winner. However, Busch, who won the regular season championship, endured a frustrating day in Las Vegas that ended up with a 19th-place finish. It erased the cushion he had built up by winning the regular season title and he comes to Richmond fourth on the Playoff grid.
"Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are," Busch said of getting around the "Action Track." "The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond.
"You have to have good brakes, as well, and be able to turn the center. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race."
Four drivers dropped below the cutline after Vegas. Ryan Newman is six below heading to Richmond followed by Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones. The four drivers who are at the bottom of the standings will be eliminated from the playoffs after next week’s final race of the round at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Friday night’s Go Bowling 250 (7 p.m ET, MRN) begins the Xfinity Series Playoffs. A field of 12 drivers is set to compete for the title with Christopher Bell the top seed.
A quartet of drivers will be knocked out of the playoff race after the opening round that includes Richmond, Charlotte and Dover so getting off to a good start Friday night is on the mind of everyone.
Cole Custer won the spring race at Richmond and is hoping for a repeat performance Friday night to help his playoff chances.
"Both races are starting around the same time of night so we can take most of what we learned and put it towards this weekend," Custer said. "The one big difference is that it rained in the spring so the track was green when we went out. It gives us a starting point for practice to see if we can get the car as good as it was in April, but I know the guys back in the shop are going to bring just as good of a car this weekend as we did in the first race here.
"There’s a lot of pressure on the team this weekend since the Playoffs begin, but we are ready to get back to Victory Lane and this weekend would be a great time for that to happen."