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Upon Further Review: Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — Just days after being knocked out of the lead on the last lap by a teammate, Kyle Busch likely will have to play the role of a good teammate at Talladega Superspeedway.

It will be car owner Joe Gibbs’ role to ensure the ripples of Sunday’s move by Carl Edwards are limited.

“I think when something like this happens, I don’t think there’s a game plan for it,’’ Gibbs said after Edwards’ contact moved Busch up the track and allowed Edwards to win his second Sprint Cup race of the year Sunday at Richmond International Raceway.

“You have no real organized way of handling it. What you do is you start out and work your way through it. That’s what we’ll do.’’

If Joe Gibbs Racing hopes to duplicate the dominance it had at Daytona, peace will need to reign. Recall how all four Gibbs cars and fellow Toyota team Furniture Row Racing worked together to control the front of the field, especially late in the race.

They occupied the front five spots heading to the final lap. Denny Hamlin went on to win, nipping Furniture Row’s Martin Truex Jr. with Busch third.

While it will be more difficult to have such control this weekend with Talladega’s wider lanes, that will be the goal again for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. That could mean that Busch and Edwards will have to work together at times.

“We’ll talk about it,’’ Edwards said Sunday about his bump of Busch. “I can say this, my teammates have been spectacular. They truly have been.

“Yeah, we’re going to have times like this when you’re running like this. We’re racing each other for wins, which is really, really good. So hopefully, it all works out fine.’’

Sunday marked the fifth time since 2007 Busch has lost a race on the last lap. Teammate Matt Kenseth passed Logano on the last lap at Pocono in August when Busch ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap.

Busch’s other last-lap defeats since 2007 include:

  • Aug. 2012 at Watkins Glen when Brad Keselowski and Busch made contact while Busch led. Busch spun and Marcos Ambrose got by Keselowski to win.
  • July 2009 at Daytona when Busch tried to block Tony Stewart coming to the finish line and they made contact, sending Busch into the wall and Stewart to the win.
  • July 2007 at Daytona when Jamie McMurray nipped Busch at the line after a side-by-side duel.

Busch kept his feelings to himself after Sunday’s race at Richmond, but should he get revenge against Edwards in the future, Edwards’ crew chief, Dave Rogers, says they’ll understand.

“There’s going to be plenty of days that (Busch) is faster than us and they’ll probably get to our back bumper and move us,’’ Rogers said. “We’ll go down to Victory Lane, shake their hands, tell them, ‘Good job.’ That’s just a testament to Joe Gibbs Racing, allowing us to put ourselves in that position.’’

— After contending for the win in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Richmond, Justin Allgaier’s race ended after contact with Brennan Poole in the final laps. Allgaier finished 35th.

Allgaier, who is seventh in the points, is in his first year at JR Motorsports. Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes what Allgaier has done this season after moving over from HScott Motorsports in the Cup series.

“Man, I’m going to tell you, he’s been a real surprise,’’ Earnhardt said of Allgaier. “Let’s be honest, it’s hard to get a measure of what he had running on the Cup side over the last couple of years, where that program is, where the car is, where the communication is, where he is. So it was a bit of a gamble.

“We have been pleasantly surprised with his speed, his personality with that team, what he’s done to sort of bring that group together. He’s got a real level, good personality, always positive. That does wonders for that team.

“(Allgaier and crew chief Jason Burdett) get along good, and they run great. Their cars are always one of the fastest cars we have at the track each week. I challenged the other teams to compete with Jason and his group.’’

Allgaier finished 30th in the Cup points last year at HScott Motorsports with one top-10 finish in 36 starts. He was replaced this season by Clint Bowyer, who is 29th in the points this season with one top-10 finish.

— In the first two weekends of heat races in the Xfinity Series, dominance has been the theme. Each of the four heat races has had one driver lead all the laps. Will NASCAR need to make changes to the heat races? Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, addressed that question Monday on “The Morning Drive.”

“I think it’s important to know what that format is about, and it’s the emphasis on the Xfinity Series drivers and certainly the leader going flag-to-flag, we’d like to see more passing, but if you look at those who are eligible to compete for the Dash 4 Cash have really been mixing it up on the race track,’’ he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“This was something that we put together at four races that we wanted to see how we could improve on it each and every race. We’ll get through the four this year and look at what improvements we can make.’’

— Joe Gibbs Racing seeks its fifth consecutive Sprint Cup victory this weekend at Talladega after Kyle Busch’s wins at Texas and Martinsville and Carl Edwards’ wins at Bristol and Richmond. The last time a Cup organization won five points races in a row was 2014 when Hendrick Motorsports did it with Jeff Gordon (Kansas), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Pocono) and Jimmie Johnson (Coca-Cola 600, Dover and Michigan).

Kasey Kahne’s fourth-place finish Sunday was his first top-five result since Kansas last fall and just his fourth top-five finish in his last 45 races, dating back to the start of last season.

Chase Elliott finished 12th at Richmond. He’s placed 12th or better in five of his last six races.

— Carl Edwards is the only driver to place in the top 10 in each of the three short-track races (Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond).

 

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report

Chase Briscoe scores 8th Xfinity win of year with Las Vegas triumph

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Chase Briscoe met a preseason goal of winning eight races with his victory in Saturday night’s Xfinity playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Briscoe, who also won at Las Vegas in February, advances to the second round.

Briscoe dominated, winning both stages on the way to his second consecutive victory and eighth of the year. He led 164 of 200 laps.

“Awesome car,” Briscoe said on the radio of the car that also won at this 1.5-mile speedway earlier this year. “Can’t say enough, awesome car.”

Gragson said of Briscoe’s car on NBCSN: “Lot of race cars out here and one space shuttle.”

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson finished second and was followed by JR Motorsports teammates Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg placed fifth.

Austin Cindric placed sixth and was followed by Michael Annett, Anthony Alfredo, Harrison Burton and Justin Haley.

Briscoe’s eight wins through 27 races ties him with Jack Ingram and Sam Ard for the most wins by non-Cup drivers through 27 races in a season. Ard and Ingram both did it in 1984. Briscoe’s eight wins ties him with Carl Edwards for most wins by a Ford driver in a season in the Xfinity Series. Edwards accomplished the feat in 2011.

“I knew this team was fully capable of achieving that and even more,” Briscoe told NBCSN of winning eight races this year. “I just can’t say thank you enough to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart and everyone that lets me drive these race cars. It has been an unbelievable season and we still have a lot, six more wins that we can try to get and a championship. That is what we are going to try to do. I am so happy to start the playoffs like this. After the last couple weeks we had, to go to Bristol and win and now here is a pretty good way to start our playoffs.”

The 25-year-old Briscoe does not know where he’ll run next season. He has a year left on his contract with Ford.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Sieg’s fifth-place finish is his fifth top five of the season, the most he’s had in a season. … Runner-up Noah Gragson has finished in the top six in all four of his Xfinity Las Vegas starts. He did it by overcoming a bloody nose during the race. At one point, he put roll bar padding up his nose to clog it. … Daniel Hemric had finished 24th or worse in four of his last five starts before Saturday’s race. He finished third at Las Vegas.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers. It’s his first finish outside the top 10 at a 1.5-mile speedway this season.

NEXT: The series races Oct. 3 at Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) in the middle race of the opening round of the playoffs.