Who’s in the headline – It had to happen eventually. Kyle Larson is too good of a racecar driver to only win on two-mile racetracks. Richmond Raceway is a track that will highlight a drivers ability more than most any other one, so it would make sense that someone with Larson’s talent would shine there. In a year when people are screaming about competitive imbalance for Toyotas over everyone else, he continues to prove that the Chevrolet can be just as fast.
What happened – Matt Kenseth won the pole and led the first 90 laps of the race. He looked like he’d be in contention for the win all night until a bizarre incident on lap 257. The field was coming to the pits when they were opened under caution. An ambulance was in the pit entrance and stopped in front of the field. As cars checked up, Kenseth ran into the car in front of him and knocked the radiator out of his machine. His night was over.
— Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) September 10, 2017
In another bizarre incident, Kenseth locked up his tires to avoid contact with Danica Patrick near the end of Stage 1. NASCAR threw a caution because they thought his car had blown up. The official reason for the caution was smoke. Kyle Busch led the final laps of stage one and won it.
The second stage ran completely green and Martin Truex Jr. showed the dominance of his car, leading 104 laps through the end of stage 2 and the beginning of stage 3. While Larson showed strength during the race, it was Truex who had the fastest car, again. As the final laps clicked by Truex was cruising to the win when Derrike Cope bounced off of the wall with three laps to go. Teams pitted for tires and Larson was the first off of pit road. During the mayhem on the overtime finish, Denny Hamlin got into Truex, spun him out, and relegated him to a 20th place finish.
Why you should care – When it is all said and done, Truex is still the best car in the series right now. Kyle Busch is strong as well while Larson continues to be the class of the Chevy camp. The Ford crew has some hope with Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch from Stewart-Haas Racing and Brad Keselowski for Team Penske. You can never count out Jimmie Johnson when you’re talking about playoff racing, but the No. 48 car still looks to be a tick off.
What your friends are talking about – The caution calls at Richmond have everyone scratching their heads. The first questionable call was the Kenseth tire smoke. While it did look like a blown engine initially, it still should have been given a chance to play out. The second call for Cope, seemed rather rapid as well. It wouldn’t have been a stretch to let the race finish without putting the yellow out.
The debacle that was the ambulance on pit road was simply laughable. Race control has communication with all safety vehicles. How they opened pit lane with an ambulance anywhere near Turns 3 and 4 was poor judgment at least and negligent at the worst. It harkened back to when they threw a green flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a safety truck in the middle of Turn 2. There is no excuse for this to have happened, and it negatively impacted several teams’ chances during the race.
Hamlin’s victories at Darlington were both encumbered after post-race inspection issues at the R&D Center for NASCAR in Concord N.C. The Cup failure is understandable. Every team is looking for every possible advantage and sometimes it goes to far. The XFINITY failure is simply unacceptable. When you have a Cup organization with Cup resources bringing a Cup driver to race in that series, you must play it conservative. There is simply no excuse for a Cup team in XFINITY to ever be found in violation of a rule.
There is a very easy way for it to be fixed. Any Cup driver who has an encumbered win in XFINITY or Trucks should be banned for life from ever competing in those series again. If they want to push the limits then, when they violate the rules, the hammer must come down and come down hard.
The backlash over the cancellation of the sponsorship of the No. 19 JGR car by Subway over the pre-race doughnut video at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July has been far reaching and very vocal. The main focus has been that Subway, a company who let a person who was suspected of being a pedophile by management of the company for some ten years before he was finally cut loose, is using something so petty to end their sponsorship. It is obvious that they wanted out of the deal since Carl Edwards left, but the negative PR is going to be hard for them to overcome. It will be interesting to hear if their earnings take a hit after this decision.
Hearing that Smithfield may be moving to SHR to sponsor the No. 41 and bring Kurt Busch back for 2018 and more. The company had been negotiating with Richard Petty Motorsports about renewing their deal but that seems to have fallen apart. SHR has been working hard to keep Busch in the fold and this would appear to be the kind of development that would do just that.
Who is mad – Can anyone be madder than Joey Logano now that the playoff field is set and he’s not part of it? An early season win was classified as encumbered because of a technical violation. Not only did that prevent him from advancing to the playoffs, the team never seemed to have the necessary speed to rebound the rest of the year. He came to Richmond, where he’s had considerable success, needing a win. When the checkered flag flew, he was one spot short of winning his way into the playoffs.
1 spot short. 😬
This may be the end of our championship run. But it's damn sure not the end of our season.
A lot more races to win.
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) September 10, 2017
Kenseth won the pole and looked strong throughout the race. Looking to come into the playoffs with some momentum from a win and it all went to hell because of the ambulance incident. It has seemed all year like there has been a dark cloud hanging over the No. 20 team and this was yet another bizarre twist for the team. It would be fitting for Kenseth to go on a run in the playoffs and win a second title on his way out the door at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Who is happy – Jamie McMurray didn’t earn a single playoff point during the regular season. He didn’t win a race or a single stage. He did score enough points to make the playoffs, again. McMurray has made a habit of pointing his way into the playoffs.
Ryan Newman strategized his way to a win early in the year. He spent much of the season on a roller coaster of finishes that didn’t have anyone considering him for a spot in Homestead come Championship weekend. The last four weeks, Newman has been at the back of the top five and the middle of the top ten every week. Newman has found momentum at the right time. We’ll have to see if it continues through the playoffs as it has in the past.
When the checkered flag flew:
Kyle Larson won his fifth career race in his 137th career start.
Larson has four wins in 2017.
This is Larson’s first career victory at Richmond Raceway.
Five triumphs ranks Larson tied for 71st on the All-Time list with the likes of Ward Burton, Dan Gurney and Alan Kulwicki.
Joey Logano came home in second Saturday night for his third career top two at the track.
It is Logano’s second top two of the season.
Logano has nine career runner-ups which ranks him 69th on the All-Time list with Tiny Lund, Ken Schrader, Bob Welborn, and LeeRoy Yarbrough.
Ryan Newman rounded out the podium at Richmond for his third top three of the year.
Newman has come home first, second or third at Richmond six times in his career.
This was Newman’s 52nd career top three which ranks him 45th along with Fred Lorenzen and Dick Rathman.
The drivers who have scored playoff points and are still in the playoffs along with their total:
Martin Truex Jr – 53
Kyle Larson – 33
Kyle Busch – 29
Brad Keselowski -19
Jimmie Johnson – 17
Kevin Harvick – 15
Denny Hamlin – 13
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 10
Ryan Blaney – 8
Chase Elliott – 6
Ryan Newman – 5
Kurt Busch – 5
Austin Dillon – 5
Kasey Kahne – 5
Matt Kenseth – 5
Jamie McMurray – 3
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic) – While it isn’t the Richmond of the 90s and 2000s, this race was incredibly similar to the days when Richmond was the best. There were grooves from the bottom to the top, which is higher than we’ve ever seen there. Passing was tough but not as hard as it was in the heyday of the track. In the end it was a great race with some pit strategy thrown in and some idiocy from the safety crews once again. Richmond always seems to serve up something crazy. It all came together to earn the race five ice cold Legend Lagers from Legend Brewing Company.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – The playoffs have arrived. Sunday, Sept. 17 at 3 p.m. ET. The coverage will be on NBCSN. The race can also be streamed on the NBC Sports app. It can be heard on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.