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via Getty

via Getty

The next-gen cars have stirred up quite the debate, especially when it comes to short tracks. Instead of the usual bump-and-run tactics and dynamic moves, races have turned into chess matches, focusing more on strategy due to the cars’ resistance to wear and the difficulty of nudging competitors without causing a wreck. Even though the Bristol race brought some edge-of-your-seat moments for next-gen cars on short tracks, Richmond Raceway might not be the same.

Richmond’s setup is unique, thanks to its high banks that require the use of the intermediate package, similar to what we’ll see at Dover. Hendrick Motorsports, with a dozen wins under its belt at Richmond, is no stranger to victory lane. Kyle Larson snagged the last win for the team in 2023, and before him, Alex Bowman took the checkered flag in 2021. But despite such good stats, Bowman believes Rick Hendrick’s camp might need to have something else on their side that could push HMS across the finish line first at the track.

Alex Bowman shared that the team tends to shine at Richmond Raceway when the temps drop a bit

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In the latest spring race at Richmond, Kyle Larson took the win home. Josh Berry, filling in for an injured Chase Elliott, snagged a second-place finish. He played the long game in the final round of pit stops and lucked out with a timely caution. The strategy landed Berry in second place for the home stretch. William Byron and Alex Bowman had their moments too; Byron led for a whopping 117 laps before a run-in with Christopher Bell knocked him back, and Bowman led eight laps and grabbed an eighth-place finish.

Bowman has been on a roll with two fourth-place finishes back-to-back, making his average finish one of the best in the Cup Series. He’s also racked up three top-five finishes this season, tying with a few others for the lead in that stat. But despite his strong track record, Bowman isn’t exactly thrilled about racing at Richmond. He said, “I mean even when we won there I didn’t really feel great about that racetrack. It’s just really slick really difficult to get a hold of even when you’re fast you know your race car doesn’t feel very good.” 

Alex Bowman noted that last spring’s race was pretty solid for the team, but he’s picked up on how the Hendrick Motorsports squad seems to do better at Richmond when the weather’s on the cooler side. The heat usually gives them a bit of trouble. So being a night race and kind of cooler in the spring I think we should be a little bit better and uh spend a bunch of time in the sand trying to work on things to be better there,” Bowman shared.

He also pointed out that, unlike before, with how Richmond’s races have been shaping up lately, the team’s focusing a lot on how the tires hold up over the long haul. According to him, the wear and tear on the tires at Richmond is as intense as it gets, right up there with Darlington.

And the stats back up what Bowman’s saying. Despite the drivers putting up some strong numbers on this track, sticking to a steady game plan at Richmond has been a real challenge for them.

Hendrick Motorsports drivers have the potential to show exceptional performance at Richmond

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Kyle Larson has been lighting up the track, leading 93 laps on his way to victory in his latest appearance. He’s the top dog with an average finish of 5.13 and two runner-up spots over the last eight short-track races, not to mention tying for the lead in wins, top-fives, and top-10s since the Next Gen car rolled out in 2022.

Chase Elliott’s no slouch either, nabbing top-10 finishes in seven out of his last nine short-track races. With six races into 2024, he’s holding a strong average running position that puts him in the top ten.

William Byron is also keeping the #24 car’s legacy alive and kicking with a total of 12 wins. He’s been the main man at Richmond, leading 239—the most laps—and scoring the highest number of wins after dark in this new era of cars. He’s been consistently in the top nine in the last six nighttime races. Alex Bowman has been right there with them, racking up back-to-back top-five finishes in the series’ recent races, having an average finish of 12.50 on the track.

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Mr. H’s team is no stranger to leading the pack at Richmond Raceway, boasting the most pole positions, top-five finishes, and top-10s. Yet, even with these impressive stats, the challenge remains to keep up this level of performance in the next race at Richmond Raceway. But as Bowman hinted, maybe the cooler Richmond weather could be the secret ingredient for the team and its drivers to outperform once again.