NASCAR Barometer: Busch’s Come From Behind Win at Richmond

NASCAR Barometer: Busch’s Come From Behind Win at Richmond

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kyle Busch overcame a poor qualifying effort and starting from the rear of the field to score a crucial win in the championship battle Saturday night at Richmond Raceway. The former champion suffered some damage during his qualifying run, which the team elected to fix prior to the race. That resulted in a trip to the back of the field for the start, which he quickly overcame to join the top runners. Throughout the race he battled every one of the top championship contenders and came out on top. That could be an omen for the rest of the field as they focus on the championship battle at Homestead.

This week the series will stage its first playoff race on a road course. Not only is it a first for that fact, but it will be the first race on the Charlotte course, too. Add to the mix that this is the last race in the battle to make the round of 12, and you have the ingredients for what should be one of the most intense, exciting, and unpredictable races of the season. Only Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski can truly enter the weekend pressure-free after securing their spots in the next round, and the pressure is on for everyone else looking to join them.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch booked his entry to the next round of the playoffs by moving from the back to the front to win ahead of Kevin Harvick in Saturday night's Federated

Kyle Busch overcame a poor qualifying effort and starting from the rear of the field to score a crucial win in the championship battle Saturday night at Richmond Raceway. The former champion suffered some damage during his qualifying run, which the team elected to fix prior to the race. That resulted in a trip to the back of the field for the start, which he quickly overcame to join the top runners. Throughout the race he battled every one of the top championship contenders and came out on top. That could be an omen for the rest of the field as they focus on the championship battle at Homestead.

This week the series will stage its first playoff race on a road course. Not only is it a first for that fact, but it will be the first race on the Charlotte course, too. Add to the mix that this is the last race in the battle to make the round of 12, and you have the ingredients for what should be one of the most intense, exciting, and unpredictable races of the season. Only Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski can truly enter the weekend pressure-free after securing their spots in the next round, and the pressure is on for everyone else looking to join them.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch booked his entry to the next round of the playoffs by moving from the back to the front to win ahead of Kevin Harvick in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400. The win was not only impressive for the fact that Busch had to move to the rear due to repairs after qualifying, but it was also the second time this season he won at the track while starting outside of the top 30. His effort Saturday means he can enter this week's road course race in Charlotte not needing to score a top finish, but fantasy owners shouldn't expect him to sit back. With two wins each at Sonoma and Watkins Glen he can't be discounted this week either.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex's streak of failing to score a short-track win continued Saturday. He raced to the lead in the first segment over Harvick and held on to grab the valuable playoff points for winning the stage. He did it again in the second stage, dominating the first half of the race, but again couldn't close the deal for the race win after suffering an uncontrolled tire violation and losing that track position. Road courses have been happier hunting grounds for the former champion, though. Truex has won at both Watkins Glen and Sonoma, including his visit to the track earlier this summer.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski and his Penske Racing team continued to demonstrate their massive step forward in competitiveness last week at Richmond. He was quick throughout the weekend and consistently ran inside the top five during the race. He has no pressure on him entering this week's road course race, and that could give him and the team the freedom to experiment or take a few more gambles that could result in another top finish to continue his momentum. He doesn't have a road course win, and his results at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen have been hit or miss. Regardless of what happens this week, this team has closed the gap to the championship favorites, and maintaining that momentum will be their focus.

Kevin Harvick – Despite not winning Saturday night, Harvick showed what he is capable of when determined. He did not have the fastest car in practice but managed to put it on pole. He led the opening laps of the race until faster cars took control, but the team made adjustments throughout the night and worked to stay in touch with the lead. Harvick has been one of the most dominant drivers this season, and his determination to win the championship only seems to be growing. He has one win at both Watkins Glen and Sonoma, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him up front throughout this week's first visit to the Charlotte roval. He remains one driver fantasy players should expect to win nearly every week.

Erik Jones – Richmond proved to be a sore spot for Jones again but he did find redemption. He hasn't found the top results fantasy owners expect of him at the circuit, and Saturday's pit mistake almost robbed him of the chance to overcome that. Jones was running in the top 10 at the conclusion of stage 1 but lost that track position due to a pit penalty. That mistake led to a total of three stops under the caution period, but crucially he did not lose a lap despite the multiple stops. That gave him the chance to recover. By race's end he had rebounded back into the top 10 and now sits above the playoff cutline heading to Charlotte. That is a nice recovery from two weeks ago.

DOWNGRADE

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin needed a top finish in Richmond but couldn't get the job done. The stumble Saturday night was the second in as many playoff races for the No. 11, and that looks likely to end his championship run for this season. He enters this week's race at Charlotte in a must-win situation, which is something he has been unable to do all year. The situation is desperate for the team, and they'll need to pull off a big surprise if they want to advance to the round of 12. Hamlin has one road course win from 2016, but his uncertainty this season should play a heavier role in fantasy expectations for him this week.

Joey Logano – Saturday was not Logano's night despite him being one of the better short-track racers in the series. The Penske driver has been overshadowed by his teammate's success in recent weeks, and may be feeling even more pressure than before as a result. An uncontrolled tire in the final stage meant a penalty under green-flag conditions. That dropped him off of the lead lap and nearly outside of the top 20. He never managed to get that lap back and raced the rest of the night mired in the middle of the pack. Logano will not be feeling comfortable heading into this week's race and only has one road course victory at Watkins Glen, which might make him a risky option for fantasy owners this coming weekend.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney was another Penske driver who couldn't get things to work out in Richmond. His handling wasn't what he wanted early in the running, and the team's adjustments lacked the perfection necessary for him to overcome the hole he was already in. He finished 19th when the dust settled on Saturday night's effort, which wasn't great news for his effort to advance in the playoffs. Blaney remains in the danger zone ahead of this week's race despite a four-point gap to the cutoff line and will need many things to fall his direction to advance to the round of 12. He has one top-10 finish at each road course on the schedule and could use another to stay alive in the playoffs.

Jamie McMurray – McMurray had a forgettable night at Richmond. He struggled to find speed throughout the weekend and wasn't able to work any miracles during the race, either. By the time the race entered its final 100 laps, McMurray was two laps down with little hope of staging a comeback. McMurray hasn't officially announced plans for 2019 yet, but we could be witnessing his last days in the sport. He sits at 21st in the standings as the series gears up for next week's race. He has three top-five finishes on road courses, and adding one more to that total this week seems like wishful thinking. It has been a rough season for the No. 1 car, and it doesn't look like that will change in these final weeks.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson and his No. 48 team seem to have found something that works. In Las Vegas, the car was fast in the race but faded in the latter stages. He was quick again Saturday night, and even managed to overcome a speeding penalty to work his way back into the top 10 with less than 50 laps remaining. This team has struggled all season but could be finding their groove in the playoffs. A road course visit with some wind in their sails could be exactly what this team needs to spring a surprise on the rest of the field. Johnson has been one of the best on road courses, and the unknowns of this week's event could give Johnson an opportunity to capitalize.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle
NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Breaks Winless Streak
NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Breaks Winless Streak
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the EchoPark Automotive 400
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the EchoPark Automotive 400
NASCAR DFS:  AutoTrader EchoPark  Automotive 400
NASCAR DFS: AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400