Richmond Produces the 8th Different Cup Series Winner in 2021, Alex Bowman

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Richmond Raceway, Richmond, VA — April 18, 2021

Back-to-back short track races have the NASCAR Cup Series at Richmond Raceway this Sunday for 400 laps around the .75-mile D-shaped track. Last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr.(19) starts on the pole with teammate Denny Hamlin(11) on the front row beside him. The winner of last year’s fall race, Brad Keselowski(2), takes the green in the 20th starting position. Stages are 80/155/165 laps, a competition caution is scheduled for after lap 30 as no practice or qualifying was conducted.

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski will be going for his second straight NASCAR Cup Series win at Richmond Raceway after taking last year’s event in dominating fashion. Keselowski led 192-of-400 laps in recording his second career Cup win at the Virginia short track.

Overall, Ford led 297 laps on the night and had five drivers finish in the top 10, including Joey Logano (3rd), Kevin Harvick (7th), Aric Almirola (8th), and Clint Bowyer (10th). In 22 career starts at Richmond, Keselowski has 6 top-five and 12 top-10 finishes.

In addition to Keselowski, fans will be watching Kevin Harvick(4), Denny Hamlin(11), and Chase Elliott(9). All four combined for 25 wins last year, none of them have visited Victory Lane this year. Truex broke the streak of no repeat winners this year at Martinsville, expect another 2021 non-winner to take the checkered flag at Richmond.

Stage 1

Truex drove off into Turn 1 with the lead, Hamlin spun his tires on the start and Elliott took advantage to grab the 2nd spot. Hamlin returned to his starting position quickly, he and Truex entered the pits 2-1 for the competition caution.

Most teams took four tires and fuel, it was Hamlin beating Truex off pit road to lead for the first time on the afternoon. On the restart, Joey Logano(22) slipped in between the pair and took the 2nd spot behind Hamlin. Truex passed Logano on the final lap of the stage to grab the extra bonus point.

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 11 Denny Hamlin 10
2 19 Martin Truex Jr. 9
3 22 Joey Logano* 8
4 24 William Byron 7
5 12 Ryan Blaney* 6
6 20 Christopher Bell 5
7 48 Alex Bowman 4
8 3 Austin Dillon 3
9 2 Brad Keselowski* 2
10 4 Kevin Harvick* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

Hamlin, Truex, Logano, and Ryan Blaney(12) led the pack as the race restarted in Stage 2. Until Truex moved back out front on Lap 104. Other than BJ McLeod(78) leading one lap under caution, the Joe Gibbs drivers have split leading every lap of the race so far.

Green flag pit stops began 56 laps into the Stage. Ryan Newman(6) spun in Turn 4 prior to the completion of the leader’s stops. Six drivers had not entered pit road with Keselowski in the race lead when the yellow came out. Most of the drivers that just pitted took the wave-around under caution, but the front of the pack looked a bit different as they rolled to the restart.

Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford at Richmond / NASCAR Photo

The race restarted with 87 laps to go in Stage 2. Harvick held the lead with Truex 2nd and Hamlin 3rd, followed by Alex Bowman(48), Logano, and Keselowski. It did not take long for Truex to reclaim the lead with Hamlin in 2nd.

The next round of pit stops started under the green flag with 52 laps to go in the Stage. Keselowski and Blaney stayed out opting to take advantage of improved track position. His crew may have miscalculated, Hamlin and Truex passed with 26 laps to go, and Keselowski was struggling on old tires. If he can remain on the lead lap it will minimize the damage. If Keselowski goes 1 or more laps down it will be disastrous to his chances at a repeat Richmond win.

With just 15 cars remaining on the lead lap, Hamlin was fighting to put Daniel Suarez(99) and Elliott a lap down. The battle helped Keselowski keep some distance between himself and the leader. Unfortunately, with just four laps left in the Stage Keselowski went a lap down.

Hamlin repeats as the Stage winner with Truex in 2nd again.

Denny Hamlin leads the pack at Richmond. / NASCAR Photo

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 11 Denny Hamlin 10
2 19 Martin Truex Jr. 9
3 22 Joey Logano* 8
4 48 Alex Bowman 7
5 4 Kevin Harvick* 6
6 21 Matt DiBenedetto* 5
7 18 Kyle Busch 4
8 24 William Byron 3
9 20 Christopher Bell 2
10 10 Aric Almirola* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

At the start of the Final Stage, with 12 cars on the lead lap, Hamlin Logano, Truex, Kyle Busch(18) and Harvick are the Top 5. As has been the case, the top three begin to pull away. Logano peaked inside of Hamlin a couple of times but could not make the pass. He fell into a battle with Truex who tried the same route, only to fail as well.

Based on Keselowski’s experience in cutting a pit stop out of the previous Stage, all teams are expected to employ the three-stop strategy to keep fresh Goodyears under their race cars. Meaning, stops will likely occur at about 100 laps to go and again with 50 laps left. Cautions could throw a wrench into those plans.

Those green flag pit stops began with 108 laps to go in the race. Martin Truex Jr. was caught entering pit road too fast. The penalty a drive down pit road at 40 mph, sending him to the rear of the lead lap and in danger of going a lap down.

After stops cycled through, the Top 5 were Hamlin, Logano, Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Christopher Bell(20). It’s unlikely Truex will be able to rebound and steal the win from Hamlin as he did at Martinsville.

Keselowski has set in the “free pass” position since the restart. However, cautions are generally hard to come by during racing at Richmond.

With 70 laps to go, Logano again began to challenge for the lead as Hamlin was putting Elliott a lap down. Eventually, Logano made the pass.

The Final Pit Stops

The leader’s pit stops began on Lap 341. Barring a late caution, it will be the final stop of the day. Kyle Busch did not get fully committed to pit road on his stop and had the serve the same penalty as Truex. Dropping him from the lead lap.

With 50 laps to go Logano continued to lead, Hamlin, Bell, Bowman, and William Byron(24) rounded out the Top 5 group. Hamlin was staying close to Logano, while Bell was running 12 seconds behind. Almost a half-lap in arrears to the two drivers battling for the win.

Working lapped traffic, Hamlin began to pull up next to Logano. The final 30 laps should be exciting.

The Finish

Hamlin laid a couple of bumper taps on Logano, not enough to spin the #22 car. Logano opened a slight lead when he put 8th place Matt Dibenedetto a lap down. With 20 to go, Harvick blew a right rear tire and hit the wall bringing out a late caution. Everyone hit pit road for fresh tires.

Hamlin took the lead exiting the pits, Logano followed. With Bowman, Bell, and Aric Almirola, having his best run of the year in 5th. Kyle Busch got the free pass and returned to the lead lap as 25 drivers opted to take the wave around, not all returned to the lead lap which held 14 cars for the restart.

The green flag flew with 12 laps to go, Hamlin drove off with the lead as Bowman passed Logano and dove to the inside of the #11 car. With 10 to go, Bowman was the new leader and Hamlin was again looking like the bridesmaid in 2nd.

Bowman had to negotiate lapped traffic on the final two times around, but Hamlin could not get to his bumper, and he loses late again after leading the most laps. The driver of the #48 car became the 8th different winner of a Cup race this year as Bowman put the car number made famous by Jimmie Johnson in victory lane for the first time in 4 years.

Playoff Standings

Denny Hamlin is walking away with the points lead, which is good as long as there are not 15 winners this year other than the #11 car. Some notable drivers are mired below the cut line, it’s still early and there is time to make a run. But, with Talladega next on the schedule another surprise winner is a good possibility.

Rank Driver Points Status
1 Martin Truex Jr. 353 In-Win (2)
2 Joey Logano* 352 In-Win
3 William Byron 310 In-Win
4 Ryan Blaney* 304 In-Win
5 Kyle Larson 299 In-Win
6 Christopher Bell 257 In-Win
7 Alex Bowman 236 In-Win
8 Michael McDowell* 199 In-Win
9 Denny Hamlin 434 +230
10 Chase Elliott 285 +81
11 Kevin Harvick* 273 +69
12 Brad Keselowski* 269 +65
13 Kyle Busch 245 +41
14 Austin Dillon 239 +35
15 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 222 +18
16 Kurt Busch 214 +10
Playoff Cut Line
17 Chris Buescher* 204 -10
18 Matt DiBenedetto* 175 -39
19 Ryan Newman 174 -40
20 Bubba Wallace 168 -46
21 Ryan Preece 163 -51
22 Tyler Reddick 161 -53
23 Daniel Suarez 160 -54
24 Ross Chastain 152 -62
25 Cole Custer* 151 -63
26 Erik Jones 147 -67
27 Aric Almirola* 137 -77
28 Chase Briscoe 129 -85
29 Corey LaJoie 76 -138
30 Anthony Alfredo* 75 -139

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Richmond Raceway 400 Lap Spring Race

Position Car Driver Interval Laps
1 48 Alex Bowman 400
2 11 Denny Hamlin 0.381 400
3 22 Joey Logano 0.850 400
4 20 Christopher Bell 2.110 400
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. 2.575 400
6 10 Aric Almirola 3.155 400
7 24 William Byron 3.812 400
8 18 Kyle Busch 3.984 400
9 21 Matt DiBenedetto 17.869 400
10 3 Austin Dillon 20.145 400
11 12 Ryan Blaney 20.491 400
12 9 Chase Elliott 20.751 400
13 1 Kurt Busch 20.796 400
14 2 Brad Keselowski 22.259 400
15 42 Ross Chastain -1 399
16 99 Daniel Suarez -1 399
17 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 399
18 5 Kyle Larson -2 398
19 43 Erik Jones -2 398
20 8 Tyler Reddick -2 398
21 7 Corey LaJoie -2 398
22 14 Chase Briscoe -2 398
23 41 Cole Custer -2 398
24 4 Kevin Harvick -3 397
25 17 Chris Buescher -3 397
26 23 Bubba Wallace -3 397
27 34 Michael McDowell -4 396
28 33 Austin Cindric -4 396
29 37 Ryan Preece -4 396
30 6 Ryan Newman -5 395
31 38 Anthony Alfredo -5 395
32 78 BJ McLeod -7 393
33 15 James Davison -10 390
34 0 Quin Houff -10 390
35 53 Garrett Smithley -11 389
36 51 Cody Ware -15 385
37 52 Josh Bilicki -16 384
38 77 Justin Haley -399 1