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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Byron, Larson say Richmond Raceway challenges their confidence

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — William Byron already has a pair of victories just six races into the NASCAR Cup Series season, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson has one, too.

Neither comes to Richmond Raceway brimming with confidence.

“It’s just one of those places we go to that we just don’t have an idea of how it’s going to go,” Byron said Saturday. “We’ve had some good races here, but we’ve never showed up here knowing that we can run, you know, easy top ten or compete for a win.

“I feel like this is one of those places where we’re still trying to build that solid notebook, but I feel really good going into this race because we had a great test a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “We’ve done some different things with our preparation, so I feel good. But until we get on track, we really don’t know and it’s probably one of the few places that is like that for us.”

Larson agrees, even as the defending champion in Sunday’s race and a two-time winner on the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval. He also won the pole Saturday with a lap at 120.332 mph.

“It’s a tough place for me, so I don’t ever really come here with the highest of expectations more so just because of me. Talking to my team and stuff — we won the spring race, but we were really bad in the fall race,” Larson said prior to qualifying.

The qualifying run gave him a boost, as well as the best pit location.

“It helps the confidence for sure. So, yeah, I mean, practice went well, qualifying went good. Not expecting to win. But yeah, I think that we have a car capable of contending,,” he said.

Denny Hamlin expects to contend, too. He’s won four times at what he considers his home track and has finished in the top four in five of the last six races here.

“All week I’ve been excited to get here and kind of see where we stack up,” he said. “Certainly, with the history we have here over the last three or four races here at Richmond, being in contention. I feel pretty strongly about it.”

NIGHT RACING

After practicing and qualifying during the day, the race is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., and points leader Martin Truex Jr. said it’s anyone’s guess how that will affect handling.

“Just a lot of guessing going on right now,” he said. “Sometimes you go in the night here thinking you’re going to gain grip and everything’s going to get a little better and usually gets a little worse. So, we’ll see how that plays out.”

SLOW START

Joey Logano is happy to be at Richmond, where he’s won the spring race twice and hopes to jump start his season. He’s 22nd in points with just one top-10 finish.

“It’s obviously not the best start we’ve ever had. Probably the worst start we’ve ever had. But, there’s still signs of light throughout what we’re doing,” he said. “This is probably my best track right now. We’re definitely in contention every time we come here, so I look forward to it.”

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AP NASCAR: https://apnews.com/hub/nascar-racing

By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer

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