By Cole Cusumano
Each week, Cole Cusumano will provide statistical and observational insight for the upcoming race in hopes you can redeem it for “Cole’s Cash” once the checkered flag waves.
Virginia may be for lovers, but the analysis dished out to bettors in NASCAR’s first trip to Richmond Raceway should have everyone who reads this in the same state of mind.
The beauty of betting on the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022 is the seventh generation car has presented so many unknowns, favorable odds have been a common trend on a weekly basis. For all intents and purposes, the numbers provided will coincide with DraftKings, but there are other sites and apps available for play around with. Please remember to gamble responsibly.
As has been the case through six races, Las Vegas has drawn up enticing odds for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond pre-practice and qualifying. Although unpredictability has been the theme all season for the NASCAR Cup Series, the three-quarter-mile track has a reputation for being contained and predictable in some ways.
Richmond hails in comparison to Phoenix Raceway, which has easily been the most composed race overall in 2022. Taking the “West Coast Swing” finale into account as well as prior history at the Virginia-based track, forecasting the Toyota Owners 400 may not be as challenging as the odds makers seem to believe.
Pre-Practice & Qualifying Odds/DFS Value per DraftKings Sportsbook:
Chase Elliott +850 ($10,500)
Martin Truex Jr. +1000 ($9,600)
Kyle Busch +1000 ($9,900)
Kyle Larson +1000 ($10,200)
Joey Logano +1000 ($9,200)
To no surprise, Chase Elliott emerges as the favorite heading into the Cup Series race on April 3. While the only winless driver at Hendrick Motorsports this season, a breakout seems imminent for the 2020 Champion.
Elliott is making a case for the most consistent driver in 2022 and this is exemplified by his residency atop the standings and 11th-place average, which leads all competitors through six races. The driver of the No. 9 placed fourth in the most recent event at Richmond and led 58 laps that day. With five top-10s in 12 starts at the short track, it’s been a mixed bag of results for the 26-year-old; but keep in mind, he was one of the more dominant cars at Phoenix this year.
If there’s one thing we’ve seen time and time again, it’s Richmond has been a playground for Toyota over the past decade. In fact, the manufacturer has won five of the last seven races there, including the most recent event in September of 2021.
While Toyota has had a sluggish start to the season, drivers in that camp are beginning to trend in the right direction, like reigning Richmond winner Martin Truex Jr. By all accounts, the driver of the No. 19 should be the safest bet and a lock for all DFS lineups.
Truex is riding a six-race top-five streak at Richmond with three wins and 645 laps led during that span. As for his 2022 campaign, he’s seen positive place differential in all but two events this season – more than any of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. The 2017 Champion is also riding back-to-back top-10s heading into a track where he has 11 in his last 15 starts.
You know it’s been a rough season for Denny Hamlin when he isn’t included in the top-five for odds to win at Richmond. The hometown hero has had an abysmal time getting acclimated to the Next Gen car, failing to place above 13th through six races. In fact, he’s the only driver in Cup to have negative place differential in every event this season, which is detrimental to DFS lineups.
The speed has been there on occasion for Hamlin this season, but if he doesn’t produce a top-10 in Richmond, it could be a murky forecast for what’s to come the rest of 2022. Last year at his home track, the driver of the No. 11 finished runner-up in both races with a combined 404 laps led in addition to sweeping all four stages.
Hamlin had as great a run at Richmond as it gets without winning last season, and should look at the Toyota Owners 400 as a chance to get back on track with a respectable top-10 showing. The results may not be pretty in 2022, but the three wins, 2,108 laps led, 8.8 average and 15 top-fives in 30 starts are no fluke. Never count the hometown hero out, but use caution. You can likely confide in any of his teammates over him.
Someone you may not expect to hear a campaign for heading into Richmond is Joey Logano, but he’s been a silent killer this season. He may not have the flash or dominance as the two drivers ahead of him in the standings, but there’s a reason he sits third overall in points.
Like most of the veterans in Cup, Logano has been getting acclimated to the seventh-generation car, but he seems to be getting a quicker grasp than some of his older competitors. It’s almost as if he’s sitting there waiting to pounce, and Richmond could be a great place to break out.
Logano is one-of-four drivers to place top-five in both Richmond appearances last season. On top of riding a three-race top-five streak at the three-quarter-mile track, the 2018 Champion has two wins, 15 top-10s, 428 laps led and a 10.2 average in 25 starts. He’s also led laps in the last three Cup events this season. The driver of the No. 22 could be a contender for the win and should be a dependable driver for DFS purposes.
DFS Price/Odds: Logano $9,200 (+1000), Hamlin $9,300 (+1200), Truex $9,600 (+1000)
Sleepers and Value Picks
Sleepers are where the most money could be made in terms of placing race winner bets outright. These drivers can also serve as great value picks over the heavy hitters aforementioned.
In addition to Hamlin, Truex and Logano, Christopher Bell was the only other driver to place top-five in both Richmond races last season, and he’s been trending in the right direction after a rocky start to 2022. The 27-year-old has finally seen positive place differential in his last two starts and he finished a season-best third at Circuit of the Americas last week.
The driver who finished directly ahead of him was the reigning winner of this race one year ago, Alex Bowman. The 28-year-old is already a winner in 2022 and he’s looked like a different driver this season. Although he’s stated numerous times the label of lucking into wins doesn’t phase him, he seems to be racing with more of a purpose.
Bowman has been racing more frequently this year between different series and forms of motorsports, which could be rounding him into a more complete driver. He sits fourth overall in the standings and has an additional top-10 to coincide with his win and runner-up this season. He may be more of a gamble than Bell this week, but don’t count out last Spring’s race winner at Richmond.
Finally there’s the driver who’s been knocking on the door for what feels like over a year now, Tyler Reddick. It may seem odd to have one of the fastest drivers this season in the sleeper bracket, but the two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion has yet to win a Cup race and hasn’t led a lap at Richmond in any national series event.
Reddick has been a bit of a volatile driver for DFS in 2022, as the laps led and speed have been evident, but he’s only scored positive place differential in one race this season. Richmond stats aside, the 26-year-old has been a contender essentially every week and it’s looking like it will stay that way for a while.
The driver of the No. 8 is coming off a top-five at COTA and also placed third at Phoenix – a track that races very similarly to Richmond. Reddick’s best finish at the three-quarter-mile track in Cup was 11th in his debut there, but his best result was fourth in Xfinity.
DFS Price/Odds: Reddick $8,200 (+1200), Bowman $8,500 (+1800), Bell $8,700 (+1400)
Beware the Bait!
It’s easy to get caught up in recent successes and big names, but there’s more to betting than the fancy bells and whistles.
Ross Chastain is going to be an interesting driver to keep an eye on during the Toyota Owners 400, because he’s off to a rollicking start in 2022. He hasn’t placed lower than third in the last four races and just handed Trackhouse Racing their first career win at COTA.
The speed and dominance of Chastain aren’t in question, but rather carryover from his first Cup win. The Melon Man gave the bumper to Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger on the final lap for the victory and he stated post-race A.J. “owes him one.” Well, that one can be this weekend, as the 40-year-old will be back in the No. 16 and tempers tend to flare up at short tracks.
On the flipside, Chastain had a very strong run in the most recent race at Richmond driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. He finished seventh, led laps and ran 99% of the race inside the top-15. In theory, the Florida native should absolutely be a contender for the win, but tread lightly.
We can’t forget Ryan Blaney, who’s arguably been the fastest all season, but been cursed with unreliability on the pit crew end. Speed is validated by the 28-year-old’s series-high 206 laps led in 2022 and second-placing in the standings.
Like Reddick, Blaney has negative place differential in all but one race this season, but he’s been a contender for almost every win. He came closest to his first victory of the season at Phoenix after winning a stage and leading a race-high 143 laps.
In terms of speed all season and success at a similar track like Phoenix, you would think Blaney could be a contender for the win, but caution should be used with the driver of the No. 12. As was made evident in Arizona, all season and on a bi-annual basis at Richmond, these races are typically won based off of team-wide execution.
Much like Elliott, speed and consistency can only take a driver so far. It could be best to stay away from Blaney this week, as his resume at Richmond isn’t pretty. He has negative place differential in all but one Cup start at Richmond (his debut) and hasn’t led a single lap there. He did, however, score his first top-10 in 11 starts in the Fall of 2021. In place of Blaney, consider drivers like Truex, Logano and Bell in the same price range.
DFS Price/Odds: Chastain $8,900 (+1200), Blaney $9,400 (+1300), Elliott $10,500 (+850)
Trending Up (DFS)
Chris Buescher has seen positive place differential in the last four races with two top-10s. Although his best finish in 11 starts is 17th, he did score place 10th at Phoenix earlier this year.
The only driver with positive place differential in every race this season is B.J. McLeod. However, his best finish this season was 19th at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It’s advised to only insert the Live Fast Motorsports product in extreme top-heavy circumstances, but even then there’s better options – for instance, Ty Dillon and Justin Haley, who have positive place differential in all but one race this season using better equipment with results.
Dillon has finished top-20 in five out of six events this season. Haley’s lowest placing was 23rd back-to-back to open the season. Since then, he’s riding a four-race top-20 streak which includes two consecutive top-15s entering Richmond.
DFS Price: T. Dillon $5,200, Haley $6,300, Buescher $6,800
Big Money Prop Bets
Martin Truex Jr. to finish top-three +275
Christopher Bell to score a top-five +175
Race Winner (Small Bet) / DFS Inclusion Combo
Daniel Suarez +2500 ($7,800)
Kurt Busch +5000 ($7,900)