Richmond Raceway, Richmond, VA — September 21, 2019
Stock car racing the way it should be, Saturday night under the lights. Race two of the first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs from Richmond Raceway has the fans stoked for a short track shootout.
For the drivers hoping to advance in the postseason, they would like to get it done at Richmond and not have to wait for next weeks elimination race at the ROVAL in Charlotte. Ford Mustangs pace the field as Brad Keselowski(2) starts on the pole with Kevin Harvick(4) beside him on the front row.
Last weeks winner at Las Vegas, Martin Truex Jr.(19), won here in the Spring. Even though his ticket is punched for the next round you can never have enough playoff points. Truex would love to put five more in the bank with a season sweep at Richmond.
The “D” shaped track is 3/4 of a mile in length, 400 laps or 300 miles make up the Federated Auto Parts 400. Kyle Busch(18) won the race last year, in fact, he accomplished the season sweep taking the spring race as well. Stages are 100/100/200 laps and the cars run in excess of 125mph.
Things happen quickly at Richmond and staying out of trouble is key for the 16 drivers vying for the 12 playoff spots in the next round. All eyes will be on the drivers close to the cut line. Clint Bowyer(14) and Erik Jones(20) likely need a win to advance. However, points in both stages and strong finish could give them a boost going into Charlotte.
|Round 1 Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Keselowski easily led the pack into turn one as Harvick was satisfied to settle in behind the Team Penske driver and make laps. Joey Logano(22) started 28th after a poor qualifying effort.
The leaders began lapping traffic after just 25 laps, Logano had moved up seven positions early, but the only other playoff driver behind the #22 was William Byron(24) in 23rd. Both will have to fight to avoid being lapped in the First Stage.
Denny Hamlin(11) moved to second and began to close the gap on Keselowski. A few laps later, Truex appeared to have the fastest car on the track. He worked his way past Hamlin and began to close on the leader. Battling side-by-side, Truex used lapped traffic to block Keselowski and took the lead just after the halfway point of the Stage.
With 28 laps to go in Stage 1, Truex lapped Logano. With three laps to go to the green and white checkered flag, he passed Byron. On the final lap of the Stage, he passed Alex Bowman(88) and Ryan Blaney(12). Blaney got his lap back as the “lucky dog,” the other 3 playoff drivers will start Stage 2 a lap down.
Stage 1 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||10|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Both Bowyer and Jones picked up bonus points in Stage 1
The Stage ending caution brought everyone to pit road for service. Kyle Busch exited first. Followed by Truex, Keselowski, Hamlin, and Harvick. At the drop of the green, the scramble for positions had drivers going three and four wide all around the track. Bowman, Austin Dillon(3), and Byron got squeezed together with fenders pushed in on tires. Bowman and Byron both came away with smoke billowing from tire rubs.
Dillon took offense to his car being beat on and dumped Bowman with some well-placed bumper contact. The caution waved again. Logano was the first car a lap down and earned the free pass back to the lead lap. Restarts will be wild all night as drivers know they can make up spots quickly as cars are getting back up to speed.
Midway through Stage 2, Joe Gibbs Racing was dominating with Kyle Busch in the lead, Truex in 2nd, Hamlin in 3rd, and Jones in 5th. Harvick in his Mustang held the 4th spot until Jones passed with 21 to laps to go in the Stage.
Two laps later Kyle Busch put Logano back a lap down. Byron had fallen two laps behind and Bowman was three laps back.
Stage 2 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||9|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Jones has gained nine stage points, Bowyer has grabbed seven. Should they both post a Top 10 finish the points battle could be wide open heading to Charlotte.
The Final Stage
The restart for the Final Stage had Kyle Busch still in front, followed by Truex, Hamlin, and Keselowski. With the fuel window at approximately 125 laps, it is possible a green flag pit stop will have a big impact on the race. Only 18 of the 38 cars that started remain on the lead lap. Busch seems to run great in clean air, Truex begins to close as the laps mount and the tires wear.
Reed Sorenson(77) hit the wall on Lap 243 bringing out the caution and allowing the field to pit. Still, too many laps remain to finish with a full tank of fuel. Keselowski took the lead off pit road, followed by Kyle Busch, Truex, Hamlin, and Ryan Newman(6). Kyle Busch spun his tires on the restart, costing him two positions. Keselowski led, with Truex in 2nd and Newman 3rd.
With 118 laps to go Truex moved past Kelewoski to retake the lead. Now inside the fuel mileage window, it will be interesting to see how the pit stop strategy develops.
Trouble for the Leader
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. locked up his rear tires coming out of turn 4 and clipped the rear fender of Truex spinning out the leader. Quickly turning the car in the right direction, Truex only lost two positions and the resulting yellow flag opened the pits for all the leaders to get four fresh Goodyear tires and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel.
Kyle Busch, Hamlin, and Truex led the field back to green. With 44 laps to go Truex moved past Hamlin to take 2nd, trailing Kyle Busch by 1.3 seconds. At the 30 laps to go mark, Truex had cut Busch’s lead to .4 seconds.
Truex passed Busch with 25 to go and quickly built a half-second lead. He had stretched the advantage to over 2 seconds by the time the checkered flag waved. Joe Gibbs Racing finished 1-2-3-4 as Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones followed Treux across the finish line.
Playoff drivers finished in the first nine positions. Truex win last week advanced him to the round 2 of the playoffs. Based on tonight’s results Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick advanced on points.
Erik Jones failed post-race inspection with a rear alignment issue. NASCAR penalized the Byron, Michigan driver taking away his 4th place finish and 42 points earned. Jones top 5 run had moved him to three points below the cut line after starting the race 26 points out of the last advancement position. He now sits 45 points behind and will need a win at the ROVAL to advance.
The big winners on the evening? Ryan Newman’s 5th place finish moved him from the bottom four to eight points above the cut line and Clint Bowyer who started the night 21 points out, is only four points behind the cut line after coming in 8th.
The first eight spots are almost assured of advancing, 10th to 15th will race for the final four positions that will move to the round of 12 after Charlotte.
|Rank||Driver||Points||Behind Cut Line||Playoff Points|
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||2141||Advanced Win||41|
|2||Kevin Harvick||2120||Advanced Points||28|
|3||Kyle Busch||2117||Advanced Points||30|
|Round 1 Cut Line|
Results of the Federated Auto Parts 400 from Richmond Raceway
Erik Jones penalized and dropped to 38th position. All drivers finishing behind Jones advance 1 position.
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||—||400|
|2||18||Kyle Busch (P)||2.630||400|
|3||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||5.801||400|
|4||20||Erik Jones (P)||8.960||400|
|5||2||Brad Keselowski (P)||11.676||400|
|6||6||Ryan Newman (P)||12.513||400|
|7||42||Kyle Larson (P)||14.625||400|
|8||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||16.477||400|
|9||14||Clint Bowyer (P)||17.786||400|
|12||22||Joey Logano (P)||23.391||400|
|14||9||Chase Elliott (P)||-1||399|
|16||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-1||399|
|17||10||Aric Almirola (P)||-1||399|
|18||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||-1||399|
|19||1||Kurt Busch (P)||-2||398|
|24||88||Alex Bowman (P)||-4||396|
|25||24||William Byron (P)||-4||396|
(P) = Playoff Drivers