A week after becoming the first repeat winner of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Martin Truex Jr. starts on the pole Sunday at Richmond Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400. Truex is a two-time winner at Richmond, sweeping the races there in 2019.
“Richmond is a really fun race track,” Truex said. “It’s very low grip. I think tire wear is always the big question — how fast are you on the short run, and how does that help or hurt you on the long run. You need to be able to intertwine those two and be good enough at both to stay at the front and, then, have something at the end. It always depends on if it comes down to a long run or a short run to the checkers, but it’s definitely a fun track. It’s always a challenge to get your car to do the things that it needs to do to win there. It never wants to turn good enough and it never has enough drive off, so it’s a typical short track and that makes for an exciting race.”
NASCAR’s formula using car owner points and the previous race’s finishing order and fastest laps to determine starting grids resulted in an all-Joe Gibbs Racing front row at Richmond, putting Denny Hamlin next to teammate Truex.
JGR, which leads all Cup Series teams with 16 Richmond wins, including 11 by its current roster of drivers, has all four of its cars in the top-10 for the start of Sunday’s race. Christopher Bell starts eighth and six-time Richmond winner Kyle Busch in 10th.
Following the JGR front row to the green flag at Richmond is a Hendrick Motorsports second row, comprised of reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott in the third position and William Byron in fourth.
“I don’t feel like Richmond is a very good track for us,” Elliott said. “It seemed like the last time we were there, we were a little more solid than we have been. But like I said, it’s been a really tough track for me. It’s so hard to be great at that track. It’s really difficult to be different there, because everyone is running the same line. Everyone knows how to drive the car to get around there properly. I think that’s why it’s produced good races over the years, because it’s so hard to be different than the next guy and to be better. I say that, and people are like, ‘Eh, it’s not boring,’ but just from a driver’s perspective, there’s just not a lot to it and you have to be perfect from a setup perspective and behind the wheel to be really good there.”
Rounding out the top-five of Sunday’s starting grid is Joey Logano. he shares the third row with a third Hendrick driver, Kyle Larson. Other top-10 starters include Ryan Blaney in seventh and Kevin Harvick in ninth.
The most recent Richmond race winner, Brad Keselowski, who won the only race there in 2020, is mired mid-pack for Sunday’s start in the 20th position.
TOYOTA OWNERS 400 STARTING LINEUP