Kevin Harvick, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series regular-season champion kicked off the 10-race playoffs with his series-leading eighth win of the season Aug. 6 at Darlington Raceway. At Richmond Raceway on Saturday night, he’ll pick up where he left off at Darlington, first at the start of the Federated Auto Parts 400.
Harvick is a two-time winner at Richmond.
The front row of Saturday night’s starting grid will be an all-Ford row, with Joey Logano alongside Harvick in the second position. They will be followed by the Chevrolet second row of Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman.
Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron will start fifth, sharing row three with reigning series champion Kyle Busch.
“It’s not going to be what it was last year,” Busch said of racing at Richmond. “I think it’s going to be more reminiscent to maybe 2017 or 2018 as far as downforce package and the way the cars feel and such like that. I’m sure with the tire upgrades that have been going on from Goodyear over the last year or two, the tires are, certainly, going to react different, so the downforce level is not necessarily going to feel exactly the same. You’re going to look at your notes from ’17, ’18 and kind of look and see what things you did or didn’t do well in that time period and start from there.”
Busch is a six-time winner at Richmond, but last year’s champion is still winless in 2020, after 27 races. His Richmond wins include a sweep of the two races at the track in 2018. Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last four Richmond races, with Busch’s JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. winning both races there last season. The coronavirus-related realignment of the 2020 schedule has resulted in only one Cup Series race at Richmond this year.
“Richmond is a place we feel very confident about, with how we’ve ran there over the past four or five years and, finally, getting to victory lane last year,” Truex said. “It has become one of our best tracks, and the guys have done a great job giving me the feel I need there. We, obviously, didn’t get the finish we wanted last week, but it’s a new week and we know what we’re capable of. James [Small, crew chief] and the guys are bringing unbelievable cars every week, so I expect to run up front and have a shot to win this weekend.”
Truex is slated to start 14th Saturday night. Other drivers staring in the top-10 include another JGR driver, Denny Hamlin, who is second to Harvick in the standings, in seventh. Kurt Busch will start eighth, and Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola in the fifth row in ninth and 10th.
The 16 playoff drivers will line up in the top-16 positions of the starting grid, with Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto the last of the 16th in row eight.
“We have to really perform at our very best for the next two races,” DiBenedetto said. “We put ourselves behind the eight ball at Darlington. We had a big struggle of a race, and it didn’t show, but we finally got our car actually driving okay at the end of that thing and could have salvaged a decent finish and okay day, but a poorly timed caution really hurt us, there, points-wise. It just put us behind, but luckily, we have two short tracks coming up, and we will have to perform at our very best and hope we can stay up front all day long.”