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).

 

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.