Friday, April 25, 2014

Richmond Practice Notes: Larson Fast, but Logano looks like driver to beat

Kyle Larson was fastest in first Richmond practice session 
Kyle Larson was fastest in the first of two Friday practice sessions at Richmond International Raceway in preparation Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400, and based on what we’ve seen on race day where he’s already had two top-5 finishes through eight races, there’s now only a slight reason to doubt that his quality practices won’t translate well to the race itself.

We like to compare Phoenix and Richmond a lot because the similar set-up requirements tend to produce similar results for drivers at each track, with New Hampshire to be included into the mix once a race stops there in July. During the first weekend of March, Larson kind of snuck up on everyone in the second race of the season at Phoenix where he had top-3 speeds in the final two practices sessions.

We said at the time that Larson had the look of possibly being someone that has the “it” factor where everyone just kind of knows they might be seeing the beginnings of what could be a great NASCAR career. Certain drivers, you just know right away something good is about to happen and it’s usually found out within the first half of the season. You knew Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were going to be good fairly quick during their rookie years. Could Larson be the next in line?

Adding labels to a driver can sometimes be premature and unfair. Just ask Joey Logano who had a bumpy early Cup career with Joe Gibbs Racing before finally living up to expectations when going to Penske Racing last season. Now Logano is in line to win a race on a weekly basis.

In that March Phoenix race, the great practices didn’t translate well to race day as Larson finished 20th, the last driver on the lead lap. So there was kind of a reward for the bettor that was skeptical of Larson because of his youth in the series by not wagering on him with odds to win or driver matchups.

But then we all became believers again when he battled with Kyle Busch at Fontana before settling for second, and then he was fifth two weeks later at Texas. And then perhaps his greatest achievement was finishing eighth at Darlington’s tough layout where ‘The Lady in Black’ can be quite cruel to rookies. Now with Easter weekend off, here he is again fast in practice.

How about Larson’s chances Saturday night based on practices?
We understand he may have had some race jitters at Phoenix that could explain why such a good practice set-up didn’t run as well on race day, but just about everyone else at Phoenix that practiced well had a great race result, including race winner Harvick who won and was our top-rated driver. In fact, our top-4 rated drivers after practice finished in the top-4. The most disappointing drivers of that day based on our ratings following practice were Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Larson, which indicates there might be more of a team set-up issue that Larson having jitters.

So I guess you could say, we’re still in a wait-and-see approach with Larson, at least on these type of tracks, but it'll be a different story when more 1.5-mile tracks start lining up on the schedule. However, one eye will be attached to everything he does Saturday night, and because of his practice speeds, he’s still a driver that might deserve a little attention at the bet windows for a small flier that could pay big returns at 20-to-1 odds. It’s not 100-to-1 like at Phoneix, but we do know a lot more about him now and he is starting on the pole.

Why Logano as top candidate to win?
At Phoenix he led the second most laps, 71-of-312, before finishing fourth behind Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Keselowski. He had a career best third-place finish last spring in his first attempt at Richmond with Penske. And then in Friday’s final practice session, he came out blazing with his first 10 laps that was quick enough for the best 10-consecutive laps average among the 31 drivers that ran as many in a row. Being fast on the longer runs is essential at Richmond, and while 10 laps is hardly a fuel run at Richmond, it’s a good sample size to help point wagers in the right direction. For whatever it’s worth, Harvick had the fastest 10-consecutive average lap average during final Phoenix practices.

Read More Here.......Final Driver Ratings


Richmond Practice 1 Speeds

Richmond Practice 2 Speeds

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great job Joey Logano won just like you said.