NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Breakdown: Virginia529 College Savings 250

No one or nothing could stop Kyle Busch on Friday evening. After multiple races full of disappointment, Busch set sail at Richmond International Raceway for the Virginia529 College Savings 250. Leading each of the 250 laps, he won his 67th career Nationwide Series event.

Busch held off Chase Elliott late in the race, but he was no contest for the driver of the No. 54 car. None of the other 39 drivers came close to him throughout the race as he led wire-to-wire for the second time in 289 career starts in NASCAR’s second-tier division (Busch also accomplished the feat at Phoenix in February, 2011). Before Busch, the last driver to lead each lap of a Nationwide Series contest was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Daytona in July, 2003.

During the race, the Joe Gibbs Racing team was able to stay ahead of everyone’s strategy and it paid off. Kevin Harvick ended the race in the third position after being Busch’s strongest challenger throughout the evening. Ryan Blaney had a solid race as his Team Penske Ford Mustang and ran inside of the top 5 throughout the race. By finishing the race with a tenth-place effort, Chris Buescher now has ten top 10s after missing the season-opener at Daytona for Roush Fenway Racing.

The race lasted approximately two hours and three minutes with the extended green flag runs. With no lead changes throughout the event, it was the second straight Nationwide Series race that has had fewer than two passes for the top position. Busch’s dominating effort was also the second time that there were no lead changes in 62 Nationwide events at Richmond; the previous one came in a 150-mile event with former champion Tommy Ellis going to Victory Lane.

Elliott extended his lead in the championship standings over his JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith with a 19-point gap now. Ty Dillon remains third in points, but is now 42 points behind his fellow Rookie of the Year competitor for the title lead. Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott are fourth and fifth in points, yet sit more than 50 markers back of Elliott’s impressive tally. Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher, Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Reed and James Buescher remain as the rest of the top 10 in points.

The Good

Joe Gibbs Racing showed that their equipment is capable of winning once again. Busch had not won an event for eight straight races, and none of their cars have been exceptionally quick. Although they have run inside of the top 5, each of their drivers has had some struggles.

Elliott Sadler ran inside of the top 5 on Friday evening, but he fell back on the final restart to the eighth position, costing him several valuable points after having a shot to earn his first top-5 finish since Iowa in May. Matt Kenseth also showed some speed during the 187.5-mile race. However, he finished the evening with a 12th-place effort, and that is just about how the team has been this year. But with Busch’s win, they now have momentum. That momentum could be a key for Sadler, who might be out of a ride with several young drivers joining the team’s Nationwide Series stable next year.

The Bad

Trevor Bayne failed to perform once again. Bayne finished 15th in the race, and now he is nearly 100 points behind Elliott in the title battle. In a year that he was considered one of the championship favorites, he has struggled mightily for RFR. Going without a win has certainly hurt Bayne’s confidence, but he is moving up to the Sprint Cup Series next year.

Brendan Gaughan ended the evening in the 18th position. Since his victory at Road America, he has just two top-10 finishes. Albeit the No. 62 team has shown speed, they have not been able to seal the deal. Richmond proved just that as he finished one lap down with two of his three RCR teammates finishing inside of the top 10.

The Ugly

The race itself was indeed ugly. There was very little passing within the 250 laps. However, the race wasn’t completely dull. The night started off with Jamie Dick and Kevin Lepage getting together, but the only other major incident was when Jeff Green and Jeffrey Earnhardt collided. The lack of passing for the second consecutive week is a major concern for a division that just signed a $200 million title sponsor.

It was also another ugly evening for James Buescher. The 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion finished two laps down in the 19th position on Friday. He has just 11 top 15s this year, and had high expectations for Richmond after earning his first top 10 of the year in the first event at the 0.75-mile track. His abysmal season has continued, even after swapping crew chiefs when Chris Rice moved over to NTS Motorsports and former JGR crew chief Matthew Lucas took over for Buescher’s team.

Underdog Performer of the Race

Dakoda Armstrong earned his second career top-10 finish on Friday evening. Earning a career-best finish, he took his Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford to the seventh position after gaining several spots following the final caution. Now tied with Mike Bliss for 13th in points, Armstrong is looking for some momentum in the final stretch of the season.

Kelly Admiraal and Ryan Ellis also earned career-best results at Richmond. Admiraal, driving a second car for RAB Racing, finished in the 22nd position. Ellis, who was piloting a car sponsored by his fraternity, ended the day in the 24th spot for JGL Racing. Although both drivers finished three laps down, they were running times capable of racing inside of the top 15 late in the race.

Double Duty and Start-and-Park Effect

Six of the 40 drivers entered in the race are full-time drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Five of the cars opted to start-and-park. The five drivers that chose to end their race early were Matt Frahm, Blake Koch, Morgan Shepherd, John Jackson and Josh Reaume.

The Final Word

After what many have called a “boring race,” fans are going to be looking forward to Chicagoland, which has been one of the most exciting 1.5-mile tracks on the circuit. The division has had an extreme lack of passing over the past two weeks, and that is not what they need. However, the championship battle is getting extremely exciting to watch.

Elliott extending his lead was no surprise as he has now finished inside of the top 5 in 12 races this year. For a driver that never competed in a Nationwide Series race prior to this season, his accomplishments are remarkable. Moreover, if Busch weren’t so dominant during the race, he would’ve been able to learn more about how to catch the leader and take that vital position away at one of the most difficult tracks in NASCAR.

Besides the points leader running well, other young guns did the same. Blaney, coming off of wins at Mosport and Bristol, showcased his talent once again. He ran inside of the top 10 throughout the race, and showed why he might be Elliott’s biggest competition if he were to get a full-time ride next year. But Dillon and Chris Buescher each had solid runs as well. They are showing why the Nationwide Series is great for developing talented drivers, but they do need to even the level of competition between the Cup Series drivers, most of whom race for their Cup Series teams with the same pit crews they use in NASCAR’s premier division.

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JohnQ

Joe, what were you watching? You are wrong, it wasn’t a race and it was completely dull. Fortunately there were at most 3500 fans forced to endure it. They would have made more money if they charged people to get out. It was less interesting then spending 3 hours on a lawn chair on the side of a random stretch of interstate. I didn’t think it was possible to put on a bad race at Martinsville. I was wrong. Congratulations NASCAR. Keep those Cup drivers in and before long you can draw crowds in the hundreds. Imagine!

Fred

I find it hard to believe anybody paid more than a nickel to watch this mess. way to go na$car yes those cup drivers sure do add a lot to the “show”. imagine, these buffoons really thought taking away their chance at the championship would actually keep them away. Their egos are what needs stroking even if it means beating the crap out of teams with one tenth the amount of funding. Ah, but the schedule next year is exactly the same and the rules still allow the cup dominance. More of the same, but I wont be wasting my time watching.

Chris

I watched the first 100 or so laps before it suddenly occurred to me that there might actually be something more exciting on another channel. Listening to announcers going on and on about Harvick and Kyle got really old quick. One only has to look at the stands to see how bad it has become. The fans have, (and still are), spoken with their wallets yet NASCAR and a good percentage of the racing media seem to think that things couldn’t be better in the Nationwide series. The fact that you think that Kyle winning his 67th Nationwide race is a good thing is actually pretty sad. I used to love watching what was then the Busch series when Randy Lajoie, the Green Brothers and Buckshot Jones were running.

kb

I do not understand the praise over Trevor Bayne, and until he does something, my opinion stays the same. 15 minutes of fame lasting years winning a stupid restrictor plate race getting a push does not equate into hype or results from that crapshoot win

Ken

Personally, I think Trevor has a lot of potential. His problem isn’t him. His problem is the equipment he is given. Roush is just out in left field, and is a rapidly sinking ship. Compare the Roush organization to Penske. Even the Wood Brothers saw the light and broke off their tie to Roush and moved over to The Captain. That’s why I feel sorry for Trevor going to Cup next year in Roush equipment. What gets me is that John Henry, Roush’s investor, or Ford for that matter, has not stepped in and forced Jack to change his business plan, as it does not work. Maybe with losing his two best drivers (Kenseth and Edwards), and numerous sponsors who were with Roush for a long time (3M), Roush will take the hint and step down, and let someone else take over. The organization has to change, and soon.

kb

Ken, I agree with you somewhat. After I posted my first comment, Jack did come into my thoughts, as the organization does have something to do with it. Trevor’s car while having its “limits” is one thing, WatchingTrevor for years, something always seems off to me, and it isn’t the car. He just can’t get it done more often than not. A lot of time Trevor is a human pinball while driving, I get nervous for the other drivers around him, a lot. As for Ford and Nascar interjecting. They should. They need Rousch as much as he needs them. Something is floundering in that business and it can’t go on much longer. Imo.

rg72

Heck, David Gilliland won a Busch race at Kentucky and he has milked eight years of Cup rides out of it.

kb

But you don’t hear how “great” David G. is either. heck you don’t hear about him at all.

rg72

“One of the most exciting 1.5 mile tracks on the circuit”- Exciting and 1.5 mile track never belong in the same sentence.

racefangurl

Biffle said the aerodynamics got off track. Maybe Roush needs a new engineer. And re: the Nationwide, I think the names in the top-6 are set, as long none of the top-6 drivers miss any races. They could move around within, though. Like Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott may not stay where they are. Chase Elliott could have a wreck and DNF and Smith could have a good finish in that race and retake the lead. If Brian Scott had a bad luck spell, Trevor could climb back into the top-5, if he continues his top-15 streak, which is currently 11 races. Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott are the most likely to move around, but the others could too, just not as easily. I count Ty out as a possible champ due to his rookie mistakes. Somebody like Sadler’s a long shot at this point and Chase I don’t see as more than a Rookie of the Year favorite, perhaps prohibitive favorite at best. I still fill Smith has a decent shot, particularly if Chase has a DNF and Smith finishes as he consistently has, as in that scenario I mentioned above.

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