Denny Hamlin wins Xfinity Series’ ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway

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Denny Hamlin led all but two laps on his way to winning the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway for his 12th career Xfinity Series win.

Hamlin and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won from the pole, the fourth time he’s done so but the first time he’s done it away from Darlington Raceway.

“There’s not much you could complain about,” Hamlin said. “The car was flawless and this reminds me a lot of the night I had in Cup a few years ago where we led every lap but one I think and we had a flat tire with 15 laps to go. So it reminded me of that and we were just thinking about all the scenarios in your head of how you’re going to lose it, but luckily all the cautions fell the way we needed them to and we were able to get a victory.”

With Hamlin’s win, Toyota now has 100 in Xfinity Series since joining the series in 2007.

Hamlin also delivered Joe Gibbs Racing its 100th win in the Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2012.

“It’s such a big weekend for everyone at Toyota and I didn’t know that they had 99 wins,” Hamlin said. “They told me before the race, ‘Hey, if things go well, it’s 100.’ I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa. Don’t.’ I’m very superstitious when it comes to that kind of stuff. I didn’t know when it was 99 on the Cup side for JGR.”

Joey Logano finished second and was followed by Regan Smith, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott.

Friday’s win was Hamlin’s first in the Xfinity Series since winning at Richmond in 2011.

Logano started and came in second a week after leading every lap on the way to the win at Bristol Motor Speedway

“(Hamlin) was just so fast,” Logano said. “We had nothing for him. We had a second place Discount Tire Ford Mustang and that is right where we finished. We knew he was fast in practice and it transferred right over. I know what it is like to be on the other end of the butt whooping and it isn’t as much fun from this side.”

How Hamlin won: Hamlin started from the pole and only gave up the lead twice, edged by Brian Scott at the line on a mid-race restart, and Elliott Sadler led one lap during green flag pit stops.

Who else had a good day: Regan Smith was the highest finishing Xfinity regular, placing third after starting eighth. After a career best second-place finish last weekend at Bristol, Daniel Suarez followed it by finishing sixth at Richmond. Suarez stayed steady at 10th in the points standings.

Who had a bad day: Chris Buescher, who came into Friday’s race on top of the points standing, finished 20th, three laps down. He is now third, 11 points behind Ty Dillon and three points behind Chase Elliott. … Kevin Harvick’s stretch of 29 Xfinity Series races with a top-10 finish was snapped. Harvick finished in 18th, two laps down after his car experienced technical problems after a Lap 139 restart. His 29-race streak is second to Sam Ard’s stretch of 42 races from 1983-84.

Notables: Hamlin’s win was the 22nd straight at Richmond by a Sprint Cup regular and it was his third Xfinity win at the track. The victory was the seventh for the Toyota Camry in Xfinity competition at Richmond.

Quote of the Day: Joey Logano on winner Denny Hamlin: “He just toyed with me all night long. Now I know what it feels like to be on the other end of it after last weekend.”

What’s next: Winn-Dixie 300 on Saturday, May 2, at Talladega Superspeedway

Unofficial Results for ToyotaCare 250:

1. Denny Hamlin … 250 laps
2. Joey Logano … 250 laps
3. Regan Smith … 250 laps
4. Erik Jones … 250 laps
5. Chase Elliott … 250 laps
6. Daniel Suarez … 250 laps
7. Brian Scott … 250 laps
8. Austin Dillon … 250 laps
9. Ty Dillon … 249 laps
10. Landon Cassill … 249 laps
11. Brendan Gaughan … 249 laps
12. Darrell Wallace Jr. … 249 laps
13. Brennan Poole … 249 laps
14. Jeremy Clements … 249 laps
15. Aric Almirola … 249 laps
16. Elliott Sadler … 249 laps
17. Ross Chastain … 248 laps
18. Kevin Harvick … 248 laps
19. J.J. Yeley … 248 laps
20. Chris Buescher … 247 laps
21. Ryan Reed … 247 laps
22. Harrison Rhodes … 246 laps
23. Mike Bliss … 246 laps
24. Blake Koch … 246 laps
25. Cale Conley… 246 laps
26. Joey Gase … 246 laps
27. Dakoda Armstrong … 246 laps
28. Dylan Lupton … 246 laps
29. David Starr … 245 laps
30. Branadon Gdovic … 245 laps
31. Ryan Sieg … 244 laps
32. Peyton Sellers … 241 laps
33. Jimmy Weller …  240 laps
34. Carlos Contreras … 238 laps
35. Derrike Cope … 234 laps
36. Eric McClure … 205 laps
37. Carl Long … 43 laps
38. Timmy Hill … 31 laps
39. Mike Harmon … 3 laps
40. Jeff Green … 2 laps

Time of Race: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes and 47 Seconds

Average Speed:  101.550 mph

Margin of Victory: 3.719 seconds

Caution Flags: 3 for 24 laps

Lead changes: 4 among 3 drivers

Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

“Honored to have two,” Elliott said. “It’s really more than a trophy or award. It is about the people you see at the race track.”

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award.

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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