Kenseth dominates at Richmond; Chase field set


Matt Kenseth dominated, leading 352 of 400 laps, to win Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, as NASCAR ends the 26-race regular season and prepares for the start of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.

It was Kenseth’s third win in the last six races and his fourth of the season, putting him in a tie for the lead in the standings with Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch after the points were reset for the Chase after Saturday’s race.

Kyle Busch finished second, followed by pole-sitter Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sixth through 10th were Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer.

MORE: Results, Stats for Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

There were no surprises in the 16-driver lineup for the Chase, as all of those who came into Richmond on the preliminary Chase grid successfully made it after the race ended.

Almirola and Kasey Kahne came into the race with the closest chance of potentially overtaking Clint Bowyer for the 16th and final spot for the Chase. Both tried hard, particularly Almirola, but fell short of making the Chase and Bowyer held on to earn the final Chase spot.

Chase seedings: Here’s how the Chase field looks:
* First place (three-way tie): Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth 2,012 points each).
* Fourth: Joey Logano (2,009 points).
* Fifth (four-way tie): Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards (2,006 points each).
* Ninth (three-way tie): Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin (2,003 points each).
* 12th (five-way tie): Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer (2,000 points each).

Sign up for the $16 Million Perfect Grid Challenge and play each week to win big

How Kenseth won: Kenseth had the best car of the field, without question. To dominate the way he did, and how he capitalized on restarts, Kenseth made it very clear that he wanted to go into the Chase with momentum – and did just that.

Who else had a good race: Despite failing to finish in the top 10 in the race, Jamie McMurray (finished 13th) and Paul Menard (26th) both made the Chase for first time in their careers. … Almirola ran an exceptional race and “drove my heart out,” but came up 17 points short of making the Chase. … Even though he remains winless in 2015, it’s a whole new season for Jeff Gordon in the Chase. … Coming into the race on the Chase bubble, Clint Bowyer was not to be denied from making the playoffs, finishing 10th.

Who had a bad race: Tony Stewart’s hopes of winning and making the Chase fell far short, as he finished 29th. This makes the third consecutive season Stewart has failed to qualify for the Chase. … Martin Truex Jr. is in the Chase, but his 32nd place finish (6 laps off the lead lap) was not the showing he was hoping for. … In one of the oddest scenes since Juan Pablo Montoya hit a track dryer in the 2012 Daytona 500, Michael McDowell suffered extensive damage to the right side and rear of his car after hitting the back of a safety truck under caution on Lap 293 that had been sent out to pick up prior debris on the racetrack. McDowell, crew chief Kevin Walter and spotter were ordered to the NASCAR hauler after the race.

Notable: In his first race driving with a torn ACL in his right knee, Denny Hamlin ignored any pain he might have been in to finish sixth. … A total of 20 drivers came into the race with a chance of making the Chase. … Toyota had four drivers finish in the top 10, while Ford and Chevrolet each had three top 10 finishers each.

How teams fared overall to make the Chase: Joe Gibbs Racing placed all four of its drivers into the Chase (Kenseth, Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards). Hendrick Motorsports placed three of its four Sprint Cup drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Richard Childress Racing (Ryan Newman and Paul Menard), Team Penske (Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski) and Stewart-Haas Racing (defending series champ Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch) placed two drivers each. And placing one driver each into the Chase were Furniture Row Racing (Martin Truex Jr.), Chip Ganassi Racing (Jamie McMurray) and Michael Waltrip Racing (Clint Bowyer). As for manufacturers, Chevrolet has nine Chase entries, Toyota has five and Ford has two.

Quote of the day: “Disappointed, for sure. I drove my heart out tonight, all year long, really. I feel like we’ve certainly overachieved this year. Our cars just haven’t the speed, but we’ve managed a way to get good results. I’m really proud of this team. … To come up short, it hurts. It just wasn’t meant to be.” – Aric Almirola, who finished fourth, but fell short of making the Chase for a second consecutive season.

What’s next: The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins next Sunday, Sept. 20, with the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

COTA Xfinity Series results

COTA Xfinity results
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

AJ Allmendinger led 28 of 46 laps Saturday to win the Xfinity Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

Allmendinger held off William Byron to score his first victory of the year and 16th in the Xfinity Series.

MORE: COTA Xfinity results

Ty Gibbs placed third and was followed by rookie Sammy Smith and Justin Allgaier.

Smith, Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, who placed sixth, and Sam Mayer, who finished seventh, will be eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash next weeked at Richmond after being the top four full-time Xfinity finishers Saturday.



AJ Allmendinger wins Xfinity race at COTA

AJ Allmendinger Xfinity COTA
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

AJ Allmendinger overcame damage from a restart to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

This is the second year in a row he has won this race. It is Allmendinger’s first victory of the season and 16th career Xfinity win.

MORE: COTA race results 

William Byron, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, finished second. Ty Gibbs placed third, Sammy Smith fourth and Justin Allgaier fifth.

Smith, Allgaier, sixth-place finisher Daniel Hemric and seventh-place finisher Sam Mayer — the top four full-time Xfinity drivers — will be eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus next week at Richmond Raceway.

Allmendinger won the first stage and then pitted. When a caution came out shortly, it put him 21st in the field. On the Lap 20 restart, his car suffered damage when he was hit going into Turn 1.

Allmendinger worked his way through the field and took the lead from Sheldon Creed on Lap 33 when they made contact and Creed spun. Creed fell back to 23rd and finished the 46-lap race in ninth.

Stage 1 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Stage 2 winner: Sheldon Creed

Who had a good race: Josh Berry placed eighth after suffering damage to the front of his car on the first corner of the first lap. It is his fifth consecutive top 10. … Riley Herbst‘s 10th-place finish gives him his ninth consecutive top 10.

Who had a bad race: Austin Hill, who had won three of the first five races this season, had mechanical issues early and finished 37th in the 38-car field.

Next: The series races April 1 at Richmond Raceway (1 p.m. ET on FS1)

COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins


Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

MORE: Truck points after COTA

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.