In a Nutshell – The first three quarters of the race might have been rather sedate, but things heated up nicely there at the end.
Dramatic Moment – When Kurt Busch’s crew fumbled on the final pit stop it left Busch and Edwards to settle the race between themselves. Those final 20 laps watching Edwards stalk then bump his way past Busch were well worth the price of admission.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
Resolved – All future Richmond races need to be run during daylight hours. The ¾-mile moderately banked RIR might be the best track on the circuit. Remember when all of a sudden all the new race tracks were being modeled after Charlotte, 1.5-mile tri-oval dual use facilities? Too bad those track designers didn’t model their new facilities after Richmond instead. Though it’s been reconfigured several times over the decades, RIR has been on the schedule since 1953. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing so wrong with the new NASCAR an old race track can’t fix it.
Lost in the glad tidings after the race is the fact once again the JGR outfit pretty much opened another can on the rest of the field. Edwards and Busch finished 1-2. Matt Kenseth battled back to seventh despite the team having to replace both batteries during a pit stop at the midway point of the race. Denny Hamlin had to overcome a penalty for a runaway tire during the race to finish sixth. If the No. 20 and 11 teams hadn’t had those issues in the pits, we might have had a JGR 1-4 finish. For the record, JGR drivers have combined to win the last four Cup races and five of this season’s nine points paying events.
I’d have loved to see how many lug nuts were on the Nos. 18 and 19 cars after the race. Quite frankly, I find it hard to believe that any pit crew could rip off a “Five on five off” pit stop in ten and a half seconds. If they did so, more power to them but I’d love to see the tape.
I missed the invocation. Which presidential candidate did the preacher endorse this week?
There were all sorts of mixed messages sent at Richmond this weekend amidst the key players. Welcome back Tony, but shut up would ya? NASCAR slapped a $35,000 fine on Stewart for his comments about the sanctioning body not policing the old lug nuts rules any longer and made themselves look foolish in the process.
As if they needed help in that regard, the Driver’s Council took great exception to the fine to the point they announced they’d pony up the money to pay the fine. At which point NASCAR suddenly decided maybe it was time to have another look at the new lug nut regulations after all. That loud whirling sound you hear along the Atlantic Coast in Florida is Bill France, Sr. spinning at about 10,000 RPM in his grave.
Speaking of Stewart, did you read how he was checking to see if he was ready to return to racing by operating heavy equipment to level six acres of trees on his property. Yep, AJ Foyt and Tony Stewart- twin sons of different mothers.
While we’re on the topic, having been granted an exemption for missing eight races will Stewart be able to make this year’s Chase? Recall he wound up 24th in the points last year after running all the races and failed to win a single Cup event for the second consecutive year.
NASCAR no longer releases purse money awarded after races, but last year, Edwards finished 19th in this race and the prize money was listed as $77.825 bucks. Even after expenses that ought to leave about $35,000 laying around.
So now let’s talk about lug nuts. Anyone else recall the 1995 race at Rockingham when NASCAR issued Dale Earnhardt a penalty for a tire changer leaving a lug nut off the No. 3 car during a stop? Richard Childress and the crew argued vehemently that all five lug nuts were installed on all four wheels but Earnhardt was forced to pit again anyway. And as it turns out, Childress was right. All the lug nuts were tight or at least in place as the rules required. Whoops. In an unprecedented move NASCAR extended the caution and allowed Earnhardt to re-assume the position he’d been running when the penalty was issued.
As best I recall, that never happened prior to that race nor has it happened since. In another instance involving the Intimidator, lug nuts were indeed left loose. There was no denying it that time. The left side tires fell off the black and silver Chevy as it left the pits. Apparently Earnhardt had thought it was a two tire stop when his team actually planned to change all four. (I believe this took place at Charlotte. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)
As per the rules, with Earnhardt having exited his pit box he’d have had to sit there until a wrecker towed his car back to his stall, but in the midst of a tight points battle with Mark Martin for that year’s title his crew couldn’t take it, and rushed down pit road with the jack and T style lug wrenches to rescue their driver. Shockingly no penalty was issued. Oh, and back years and years before that Smokey Yunick had a notion four lug nuts ought to hold a wheel on tight enough on a stock car and it would make pit stops faster. He went ahead and drilled the hubs and axles so there were only four studs, ninety degrees apart.
NASCAR got one look at that set up and said, “No way!” After all the “stock cars” those race cars were based on all had five lugs a corner. But sometimes strength beats pit road speed. The infamous Black Widow 1957 Chevy factory prepared (though slipped out the back door because GM didn’t support racing…nod, nod, wink, wink) had six lug wheel pirated from an airport limo version of the same Chevy to hold up to the demands of the common place badly rutted dirt tracks of the day.
So how come other forms of auto racing don’t have this sort of controversy? Most of them, F1, American open-wheelers etc., have one big nut that bolts the wheel to a central hub. You leave one of those things loose and you’ll find out about it right fast. Even some early 60s Corvettes came with now highly prized “knockoff” wheels you removed with a lead hammer.
Hmm. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. not only won but thoroughly dominated Saturday’s NXS race, but the hullaballoo over a Cup regular cherry-picking in the AAA series was largely muted this week as compared to the uproar when Kyle Busch wins such a race. But Saturday was the last NXS race Junior is scheduled to run this year. Maybe there’s a lesson there?
It wasn’t as noticeable this week because Richmond seats less fans than Bristol but once again a huge percentage of those seats remained unsold despite picture perfect weather on race day. It wasn’t that many years ago my youngest sister (who lived in Henrico County) had to hop a fence to get us race tickets before they sold out.
Sometimes the TV cameras just can’t avoid picking up some awkward images. Like say for example vast swaths of empty seats in the grandstands. But one image struck me this weekend, a front end shot of the Toyota Camry pace car with a pair of Toyota “stock cars” running behind it. From the front there’s not even a distant familial similarity at least to my eyes. I mean I guess you could say Heather Locklear and Hillary Clinton look alike because they both have two eyes and blonde hair but I just don’t see it.
There’s some talk about using the “heat race” format used in two NXS races to date this season in the Cup series as well, Could we possibly wait on that until one of the heat races in the NXS series isn’t so tedious? It would seem most of the drivers have decided there’s no sense tearing up their equipment in the preliminaries so the four run to date have been processional at best.
You think Kyle Busch has dominated NASCAR racing this year? Simon Pagenaud has won the last two IndyCar Series races and finished second in the other two races run in that series this year. Nico Rosberg has won all three Formula One races this year.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Kurt Busch had a dominant car late in the race but his crew dropped the ball on that last stop. Busch exited the pits fifth and slid back to tenth in the final rundown. After the race he decline to comment on what had happened….probably a wise move on his part. Earlier in the race Busch’s chances were also hampered when an air gun broke during a pit stop.
Justin Allgaier was sitting pretty on the final restart Saturday, poised for a potential runner up finish and a $100,000 bonus. So how’d that work out for ya’ll Little Gator?
Rick Stenhouse had a top 10 run going until his team left a wheel loose and he was forced to pit again under green to get it tightened.
I’m sensing a pattern here where Joey Logano practices and qualifies well (qualifying was rained out this weekend) but falls back early in the race itself. At least this week he rallied back to finish eighth after losing a lap earlier. Despite Brad Keselowski’s win at Vegas, the Fords haven’t been a major factor this season, which has to make the four SHR drivers nervous looking forward to next year.
The Seven Come Fore Eleven Award for Fine Fortune
As noted above, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth had to overcome botched pit stops to claim top 10 finishes. For Kenseth, problems in the pits seems to be a weekly occurrence this season.
Stewart’s comeback was thwarted by a flat tire after contact with Joey Logano but he still drove the entire race, finished 19th and on the lead lap.
Three drivers: Edwards, Kyle Busch and Johnson have each won two races this season.
The top 10 finishers drove five Toyotas, four Chevys and a lone Ford, (Logano in eighth.)
Kasey Kahne’s fourth place finish was his best Cup result since Kansas last fall. (Kahne’s three top 5 results last year were all fourth place finishes.)
Statistically speaking Tony Stewart needs to average a 22nd place finish to reach the top 30 to be Chase eligible this year. (In addition to winning a race of course.) He finished 19th Sunday. That 19th place finish was actually Stewart’s best since Martinsville last fall.
Kyle Busch now has top 5 finishes in seven of nine Cup races this season. He’s led 598 of 3049 laps in those races.
This week’s rookie battle goes to Chase Elliott who spent much of the first half of the race a lap down but got a free pass and actually ran in the top 10 awhile before fading late to 12th.
Just two drivers, Harvick and Johnson finished in the top 5 Sunday and also in this race last year.
What’s the Points?
The points have NEVER mattered at this point in the season and in the modern Chase era they matter even less.
Under the old points system and under the Chase standings Carl Edwards leads the pack.
The biggest change among the two different points system involves Joey Logano. He’d be fifth in the standings under the old system but is ranked seventh in the Chase, the highest of any driver not to win a race yet this season.
Chase Elliott is ranked 11th in the new points standings. Ryan Blaney fell to 20th Sunday.
We’ll give this one five icy cold 16 ounce aluminum bottles of Colorado Kool-Aid. The first 200 laps cost the race the sixth can. But as Jerry once wrote, “Man, oh man, oh friends of mine, all good things in all good time….”
Next Up – NASCAR, the sanctioning body that reiterated this week it’s 100% committed to and proactive when it comes to safety in racing heads off to the most dangerous track on the circuit for another pileup plate race. Remember back when the restrictor plates were a “temporary measure” until a better solution could be found….back about 27 years ago?
About the author
Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.
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