After its first road course race of the season, NASCAR shifts gears quickly, over to its first short track of 2023 for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.
William Byron has had a standout campaign so far, with two wins already. He lurks just behind Kyle Busch on the NASCAR Cup Series odds board, and sits as the outright leader for this weekend's race. But hot on his heels is veteran Kevin Harvick — who could be the better betting value at Richmond.
As the season continues to evolve, get a look at how the upcoming field stacks up in our NASCAR odds, as well as a full race analysis with our Toyota Owners 400 betting picks.
Odds to win 2023 Toyota Owners 400
|Driver||Odds to win|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+1,000|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of March 28, 2023.
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Toyota Owners 400 field
Contrary to this race's name, the oddsmakers don't think Toyota will be owning the podium Sunday.
While Toyotas occupy spots four through six on the odds board, Chevy takes two of the Top 3 odds choices, including favorite William Byron, who scored third in this race last season, is coming off a Top 5 last week, and has two wins already this season.
Kevin Harvick won here last fall — his fourth career victory at Richmond — and has been very steady to start this season, with just one finish outside the Top 13. He enters with the second-best odds at +550.
Third, we find Kyle Larson, also a past Richmond champ, still looking to once again find the form that catapulted him to the 2021 Cup Series crown.
Overall, despite fairly short odds for the favorites on this short track, there's a relatively slim consensus among the top tier of contenders, with a plentiful 12 drivers available for +1,800 or lower.
Toyota Owners 400 picks and predictions
Toyota Owners 400 favorites
Kevin Harvick (+500)
Worth a look this week. He was runner-up last spring and won last summer for his eighth Top-8 result in his last nine Richmond tries. He also has 20 consecutive Top-10 finishes at Phoenix, including what should have been a win last month, and that track is the most similar to Richmond. Harvick has three Top-10 finishes in the last five weeks.
Christopher Bell (+700)
He was fourth and third, respectively, in 2021, sixth in the spring race after leading 63 laps last year and scoring a second-place finish in the second stage. Then, Bell was a runner-up last summer on the return trip. Bell qualified in the Top 5 at Phoenix and was sixth in the end too. He has four Top-6 finishes in six races run this season as well.
Denny Hamlin (+900)
He was runner-up in both races in 2021, while leading 207 laps in the spring and 197 more circuits in the fall. Hamlin won last year’s spring race and was fourth in the summer to tally 11 Top-6 finishes in his last 13 Richmond starts. He has just two Top-10 finishes this season, however.
Toyota Owners 400 sleepers
Martin Truex Jr. (+1,100)
He has to be one of the favorites, right? He absolutely needs a win and Truex has eight Top-5 finishes at Richmond in his last nine tries, including four Top-2s in his last seven. He was fourth last spring after leading 80 laps and scoring a stage win while being seventh last summer. My only pause is that Truex has one Top-10 finish in six weeks this season and hasn’t won a race in his last 50 starts. However, that last win was here in 2021.
Kyle Busch (+1,200)
He has nine straight Top-9 results, including a Top 2 in nearly half of his last 14 Richmond starts. He also had finished in the Top 10 in almost every short-track event last season. Now, he’s in Chevrolet power…
Austin Dillon (+8,000)
He surprised everyone in 2020 with a fourth-place run at Richmond, but he’s also had seven Top-11 finishes in his last eight on this track. He was 10th in this race last spring, too.
Toyota Owners 400 fades
Sure, Hendrick Motorsports has arguably had the top speed this season. However, it's hard to pick them on a track where they've won just once since 2009 (27 starts), and even that lone victory was on a late-race pit strategy and not with the quickest car.
Alex Bowman (+1,800) lucked into that 2021 for his only Top-5 in 10 Richmond starts. William Byron (+400) used strategy and strategy only to lead 122 laps in his only Top-5 in nine Richmond starts last spring. Again, he didn't have a Top-5 car that day in terms of speed and chances to win. Kyle Larson (+600) has just one Top-5 finish in his last eight Richmond starts and that was only a fifth-placed run in last year's spring race.
They just haven't had the speed to win at this track, and I can't bet on them to do so now either. Not for their odds.
Not one of Ryan Blaney’s (+1,600) better tracks. He’s never had a Top-5 here in 13 Richmond starts. Austin Cindric (+10,000) was 20th and 12th as a rookie and Joey Logano (+1,600) was 17th and sixth himself. Logano and Cindric each struggled in Phoenix last month, too.
Toyota Owners 400 prop pick: Kevin Harvick (-115) vs. Kyle Larson (-105)
Seems like an easy one here. Larson has one career Top-5 finish in Richmond. Harvick was in the Top 2 in both Richmond races a year ago.
Pick: Harvick (-115 at DraftKings)
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Richmond Raceway track analysis
This will be the 133rd NASCAR Cup Series run at Richmond but once again this year, both races will take place under daytime conditions again instead of at night. By doing so, it creates a slicker track under the sunny skies than it does at night.
The Toyotas swept the action at Richmond in 2018 and 2019, to go along with nine trips to victory lane in the last 14 starts on the .75-mile D-Shaped Virginia oval, including last spring. JGR went 1-2-3-4 across the finish line in Sept. 2019 as their top feat. They had the fastest race cars here last April, too.
However, does that change since the Fords were so strong at Phoenix last year and struggled with the new rules package that will once again be in place this weekend?
NASCAR has announced updates to the components of the NASCAR Cup Series car for races held at road courses and short tracks (excluding Bristol and Dover). The Road Course and Selected Short Track Package will consist of the following:
- 2” spoiler
- Remove engine panel strakes
- Remove center and inner diffuser strakes. Only the outer diffuser strakes will remain installed. Spacers will be installed between the diffuser flap and diffuser due to removing the inner diffuser strakes.
- Remove diffuser fences and replace with baseline fences.
- Splitter stuffers will remain unchanged from the current components.
Phoenix wasn’t the best of races, so does Richmond follow suit? At least in Phoenix, the cars were vastly more difficult to drive — Richmond being a tougher track could make for a better race. That suits the veterans of the sport.
41-year-old Hamlin won last year’s Toyota Owners 400. He topped 46-year-old Harvick by .552-seconds. 41-year-old Truex Jr. was behind them in 4th.
Last summer, 46-year-old Harvick won the return trip. 41-year-old Hamlin was fourth. In fact, both races on the .75-mile short track a year ago were everything geared towards the elder statesmen of the sport.
“I think I talked to radio about that before the race. They said, This is going to be a veteran day,” Hamlin said then. “Yeah, it’s tough to really draw a parallel to that. But when you have so many laps at a track like this that is so technical, even though it doesn’t look technical, it is, usually with track knowledge, it matters at this track.
“(Kevin) Harvick has run more laps than I have around here. But Truex, myself, Harvick, we have a ton around here. When our car is not performing how we need it to perform, we can do things to manipulate it, to maximize lap time to at least put us in the game.
“I think being a veteran of the sport probably helps in those instances.”
He’s not wrong. Blaney led the first 128 laps last spring, but once he lost his track position, he lost his pace.
“There were a handful of cars that could kind of run up and run in traffic pretty good and we just weren’t really good enough to run in traffic,” he said. “Once we lost track position I struggled a little bit.”
Byron led 122 laps in this race last year, the second most. He didn’t win either. After a final pit on Lap 310, he was left wondering what went wrong in the end.
Toyota Owners 400 trends
- Starting position doesn’t matter here as much as it does in other places. Drivers say in qualifying, you attack this track for two laps, but in the race, you have to baby the tires and take it easy. Push too hard in race mode, you fall backwards due to tire wear. It’s why three of the last four winners started outside of the Top 10 including both Hamlin and Harvick from 13th this last year, and Bowman from 24th the spring prior.
- In saying that, each of the last four winners on the season have come from a Top 3 starting spot.
- Strategy is key here, as Hamlin scored no stage points in his win last past spring while Harvick had no points in Stage 1 and was fourth in the second stage. Three times since 2018 has someone swept both stages here but didn’t win. On the season, three of the last four Stage 1 winners won the race. The only reason it isn’t 4-for-4 is that Reddick pitted while leading three laps from the end of the opening stage in COTA. For the second stage, all six race winners this season finished in the Top 4, including finishing second each of the last five weeks.
- Richmond typically doesn’t allow for smaller teams to prevail. Just look at the recent winners. Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, and Stewart-Haas Racing have won all of the last nine, and 13 of the last 14 overall.