Truex spins and wins; Hendrick suffers disastrous night at Richmond

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Photo via Twitter/@PlanBSales

To anyone not racing in Joe Gibbs equipment, good luck finding a win this Fall. The four Toyotas of JGR are outclassing the entire Cup Series field with no signs of slowing down. For the first time in the team’s history, all JGR cars finished in the top four and Martin Truex Jr. claimed his sixth win of the season, which gives him back-to-back wins and a sweep of the Richmond races.

From the drop of the green flag, you could already tell who was going to win this race. It was the Kyle Busch and Truex Jr. show all night long. Truex claimed the first stage. Kyle Busch claimed the second stage and the two would duke it out in the final stage for the race win.

It looked as though Kyle Busch would be the victor of this battle but Truex was able to fight his way through lapped traffic better than Busch and passed him with 25 laps to go to put a cap on another dominant performance.

Denny Hamlin was the favorite going into this race and ran in the top five for the entire night but could only pull off a third-place finish. Erik Jones put on the performance he needed to avoid a must-win situation at the Charlotte Roval next Sunday with a fourth-place finish.

The biggest surprise of the night was Ryan Newman. Newman started mid-pack but was able to work his way through the field thanks to fast pit stops and aggressive moves on track to walk away with a sixth-place finish. Newman rockets into ninth place in the playoff standings with a gap of 13 points ahead of the cutline.

Kyle Larson was the only high-performing Chevy with a seventh-place finish. Larson puts himself eighth in points and has a comfortable margin in front of the cutline at +24.

However, tonight could not have gone worse for Hendrick Motorsports.

From the jump, all four cars were better off not showing up as they were absent from contention. Chase Elliott started inside the top five and that would be the end of his night as he would fade on every restart and throughout the long runs. He wound up finishing 14th place and got passed by Bubba Wallace with two laps to go. William Byron and Alex Bowman were caught up in an accident involving Austin Dillon in the first stage that would put both of their nights to rest. Both drivers finished laps down and are now the two men on the cutline. Byron is 16th, Bowman is 17th, and they are separated by two points heading into the Roval next Sunday.

Truex Jr., Harvick, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Keselowski, and Logano are locked into the Round of 12 on points. Elliott and Larson hold a comfortable margin and should have no trouble finishing in positions that advance them to the next round. Newman, Blaney(+8), Almirola(+3), and Byron are above but near the cutline, and Bowman, Jones, Clint Bowyer(-5), and Kurt Busch(-15) will be looking to knock them out.

If you thought last year’s race at the Charlotte Roval was absolute madness, just wait and see what next Sunday will bring.

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Cup Series Preview: Richmond(Playoffs)

Photo via James H. Wallace/Richmond Times-Dispatch

MORE SHORT TRACKS. That has been the anthem of the NASCAR world throughout this season and America’s premier racing organization returns to Richmond Raceway tonight with the Federated Auto Parts 400.

This is the second race in the Round of 16, so tonight is pivotal for drivers, near that cutline, to pull out a solid run and avoid the worries that come with the chaos that the Charlotte Roval will provide next Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr. has already locked himself into the Round of 12 with his win last weekend at Las Vegas and while he may be towards the front for a majority of the night, do not expect him to have the winning car as his team prepares for Dover, Talladega, and Kansas in October.

Nine playoff drivers will lead the field to green with Brad Keselowski starting on the pole and Kevin Harvick adjacent to him. Keselowski and Harvick have a comfortable margin ahead of the cutline but they are still going to fight hard and secure their Round of 12 spots. Clint Bowyer(-19 below cutline) and Aric Almirola(+6 above cutline) start inside the top ten and desperately need great runs tonight as neither driver is that great on road courses.

Erik Jones(16th), Ryan Newman(19th), Alex Bowman(20th), William Byron(25th), and Joey Logano(28th) have put themselves in a hole with their poor qualifying runs. At a track that has been deemed hard to pass on, they will need to strategize throughout the night to get the track position they need. Jones, especially, is going to need to collect the points to avoid a must-win situation at the Roval.

The drivers that need to make statements tonight are Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. Blaney has been silent all season long without a win or a significant run of great finishes. He holds a 12-point gap above the cutline and cannot rely on another win being handed to him at the Roval. Larson does come into this race with momentum after solid runs at Darlington and Las Vegas. With an average finish of 12.2 at Richmond, look for Larson to be a dark horse contender for the win.

The favorite for tonight’s race should be Denny Hamlin. Hamlin rolls off sixth and has won three races at this track. In 26 races at Richmond, Hamlin has 12 top-fives and an average finish of 9.4. If not Hamlin, then take the driver that has a 9.6 average finish in 37 races at Richmond: Kevin Harvick.

Stages are 100-100-200 with the fuel window around 105-110 laps.

You can watch tonight’s race on NBC Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. EST.

 

My First NASCAR Experience

It was over 100 degrees at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the South Point 400. The track staff was given some contradictory instructions for where certain areas were and where Cameron and I had access to. Despite these annoyances, going to my first NASCAR race was a fun and unforgettable experience which changed my perspective on the sport.

Before the race last weekend, I thought very lowly of NASCAR I will admit. I thought it was a “sport” that only involved cars going around a circle in and I did not understand how people could get into such a thing.

But covering the race completely changed my perspective on NASCAR, and it is now a sport I am invested in. I realize that there is a lot more strategy to NASCAR than that which meets the eye. Timing pit stops is challenging, figuring out how to pass while trying to hold off other cars while driving at 175 miles per hour is extremely challenging and that takes a lot of skill and strategy. It was thrilling to watch.

Hearing 38 engines rev up as the race starts is a lovely sound to listen to and to see in person cars accelerating at such a fast speed is incredible to witness. Also, restarts after cautions and stages are tense as it shuffles the deck of the order of the cars and changes up the race. For example, Joey Logano was dominating the race, but after restarts and getting his car damaged, he dropped dramatically.

Martin Truex Jr. won the race thanks to winning the second stage and passing Kevin Harvick later in the race after the final pit stops.

With the playoff season now in full swing as Vegas was the first playoff race, I am excited to see how it plays out.

To all of my sports-loving friends, go to a race and give NASCAR a chance. I had the same view you did so please, give it a chance. It’s a fun ride.