NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch 2-Minute Drill: Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

The NASCAR Cup Series heads north to Richmond Raceway on Saturday (Sept. 11) for the second race of the first round of the playoffs.

Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of September’s annual Federated Auto Parts 400 in the Commonwealth, but Alex Bowman came out of nowhere in the spring this year to become the most recent winner at the track.

Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin is coming off his first win of the season, coming last week at Darlington Raceway as he held off Kyle Larson. Hamlin is no slouch at Richmond, either: he has three wins apiece in Cup and Xfinity series competition, adding another in the 2011 Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. He also reeled off five straight finishes of sixth or better between the fall of 2015 and spring of 2018, but hasn’t won at the D-shaped oval since 2016.

Speaking of Larson, Hendrick Motorsports is looking to bounce back after every single one of their cars ended up in the wall at Darlington. Of course, Larson still came home second, but the other three drivers in that stable (Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron) all finished 26th or worse in the playoff opener.

Larson and Hamlin’s starting order was the inversion of their finishing positions last week, with Larson holding pole position with Hamlin alongside. Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick round out the top five, while Joey Logano, Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola and Christopher Bell fill out the rest of the top 10.

Like last week, the 16 playoff drivers make up the original top 16 starting spots. However, Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection twice and he will start at the rear, so Hamlin inherits the pole and the rest of the aforementioned top 10 move up a spot each. Tyler Reddick slides into the newly vacant 10th starting position. Cole Custer also failed twice.

The race will be held in a doubleheader with Xfinity on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Noah Gragson emerged as the Xfinity winner in the Go Bowling 250, going back-to-back after his Darlington triumph and holding off Justin Haley for the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gragson’s owner (and teammate for the race) and racing his lone event of 2021, ended up 14th.

The field rolls off pit road for the Federated Auto Parts 400 at 7:30 p.m. ET this evening.

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