April has arrived and so too have the short-tracks on the 2022 calendar. After a mixture of superspeedways, 1.5-mile ovals, and the road course in Austin, Texas teams are ready to tackle the short ovals. They will certainly have that opportunity over the next three weeks as a trio of tracks lie ahead that are less than one-mile in length.

There are several drivers eager to get going this afternoon at Richmond, but perhaps no team is chomping at the bit more than Joe Gibbs Racing. The team has owned the Richmond oval in recent years, winning 8 of the last 12 races here and 17 in total. The last win for the four-car team came in September last year, and they are all tired of hearing about it.

In the 2019 Fall race at Richmond, JGR did more than just win the race. They finished 1-2-3-4 in what was a spectacular display of their team dominance. Add in the fact that Toyota is the title sponsor of this race, and there is even more motivation for this team to get back to their winning ways.

To say that it has been a rough season for JGR would be a massive understatement. Through six races this year, the team has a grand total of just two top-five finishes among their four drivers. Denny Hamlin still has yet to record a top-12 finish this season.

There have been plenty of bright spots, with Kyle Busch contending for several race wins, only to have lady luck land in his way. Hamlin has had his fair share of misfortune and Christopher Bell has run well on multiple occasions. Martin Truex Jr is currently the only driver inside the top ten in the standings. He has been quiet all season, but that could easily change tomorrow.

The four Gibbs drivers have combined for 43 top-five finishes here, with 33 of those coming from Busch and Hamlin. Both Truex and Hamlin have three wins each at Richmond, but Busch equals their win total with six to lead all active drivers. Bell has yet to win at Richmond but finished 4th and 3rd in the two races here last season.

"I think we have potential to run as good as any of them," Bell said of his chances tomorrow. "Richmond is one of my best race tracks, so I think we all have high hopes. Between the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series, it’s a place that’s been really good to me."

There is a very good chance that those numbers will increase by the end of the day on Sunday. A win is certainly in the cards as well, given the recent trend to start the season. There have been six different winners in the six races this season. Gibbs would love to be lucky number seven, and getting his team back into Victory Lane.

Looking at the track trends, one important factor is starting position. Nine of the last 13 races here have been won by a driver starting inside the top five. Busch starts 3rd tomorrow with Truex starting 6th, Bell 9th, and Hamlin rolling off from the 13th position.

Oddly enough, Truex swept both stages in 2018 during the playoffs but did not win the race. Hamlin did the same thing last April and was not able to come away with the win. Points will continue to be important, but this team is not going to be pleased if they leave Richmond without a race win.

While Busch may be viewed as the favorite in the Gibbs camp, it should actually be Truex. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota swept both races here in 2019, finished runner-up in 2020, and won the Fall race last year after finishing 5th in the Spring.

Truex has led at least 80 laps in eight of the last ten races here. His 2.2 average finishing position over the last six Richmond races is impressive. In fact, he is the only Cup driver with a top-five average finishing position here since 2018. Truex has also finished 8th or better in three of the last four races this season.

It has been three years since Busch has won on a short track. The veteran has finished inside the top ten in 12 of his last 14 starts at Richmond, including his sweep of the two races in 2018. There is no doubt that Busch has come the closest to victory this season, and he just might finally break through tomorrow.

Hamlin needs this win more than any of the other drivers. The driver of the No. 11 car has had a dismal start to the season, but could turn things around tomorrow afternoon. Hamlin leads all active drivers in laps led here, with 2,108. The next closest is Kyle at 1,528 laps and third on that list is Truex at 1,205 laps led. That is just another prime example of the Gibbs dominance that has been happening here.

Hamlin is a huge crowd favorite, as he grew up in nearby Chesterfield, Virginia. "I’m always excited to go to Richmond,” the 41-year old said. “I have been fortunate to have had a lot of success here throughout my career and especially the last few years. Richmond is very unique compared to the tracks we have been to so far with this car, so it’s really going to be up to us to perform well. I have a lot of confidence in Chris Gabehart and our team that we can do that."