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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).

 

NASCAR will have choose rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Following support from drivers, NASCAR will allow competitors to choose which lane they want to restart in during the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The choose rule designates a spot on the track where a driver must select if they wish to restart on the inside lane or outside lane. The choose rule also will be in place for the NASCAR Open.

NASCAR also announced the format for the NASCAR Open and All-Star Race.

In the NASCAR Open, which is for drivers who have not qualified for the All-Star Race:

  • Stage 1 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

The winner of each stage advances to the All-Star Race. After the NASCAR Open, the Fan Vote winner will be announced. That will go to the driver not yet qualified for the All-Star Race after competing in the NASCAR Open.

In the All-Star Race, the format will be:

  • Stage 1 will be 55 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 3 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

Both green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage. There will be an unlimited number of attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green flag conditions.

NASCAR also stated that the car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give more exposure to the teams’ sponsors

The biggest change is the choose rule. At Bristol, the outside line is dominant on restarts. The leader chooses to restart on the outside line and the driver starting in the second row — in fourth place — often is second shortly after the restart because of the lane’s advantage. With the rule change, others would have the chance to start on the outside lane if they wanted.

“I see nothing bad that it can bring,” Joey Logano said of the chose rule concept in May. “It brings another strategy to the table, it’s definitely something to talk about. You don’t have luck becoming involved. …

“I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out.”

Said Austin Dillon: “As a sport we’re always changing. We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.”

Some drivers have called for this type of rule to prevent the brake checking that takes place at the exit of pit road so a driver can be in an even-number position in the running order and restart on the outside lane.

“It takes out pit crew’s fast stops,” Dillon said. “Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do.”

The All-Star Race was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway because of the COVID-19 pandemic and North Carolina restrictions on mass gatherings. Bristol will be allowed to have up to 30,000 fans.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

 

Can anybody catch Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

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Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.

Or is it Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

They’ve won four of the last six Cup races, including the past two, and came within a late caution flag of being the last two Brickyard 400 winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s race (4 p.m. ET on NBC).

MORE: Indianapolis weekend schedule

MORE: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick 1-2 in Power Rankings

“For the most part, when we have had chances to win races, we have won them,” Harvick said. “I think Sunday (at Pocono) was probably the only one that I could point to and say that we had the car to win the race and didn’t win the race. I think for the majority of the races that we have had chances to win we have capitalized on those situations.”

That Pocono race Sunday? Harvick finished second to Hamlin, who has won two of the last four races.

“I would say specifically the last 10 to 11 (races) we’ve been exceptional, really since coming back from the break that we had,” Hamlin said. “I thought we’ve been really good.

“My team is really strong. They’re doing a lot of really good work at the race shop preparing our cars to be set up, optimized right from the first run of the day.

“Where we’re really struggling is not getting stage points. I think we’d be winning the regular season if we could get some. The way the races have played out, we’ve kind of made our bed to try to win the race because we’ve had race‑winning cars. I’ll definitely take race wins over stage wins, especially knowing that a race win counts for five (playoff points).”

Harvick enters Sunday’s race at Indy as the defending winner. He led 118 of 160 laps in last year’s race, winning by more than six seconds.

In 2018, Hamlin led at Indy when a caution with six laps to go took away his advantage. Brad Keselowski passed Hamlin coming to the white flag and won.

If not Harvick or Hamlin this weekend, Keselowski could be one to watch.

“My confidence level right now is very, very high that we can be a contender for the entire season and continue to build and get stronger,” said Keselowski, who has two wins and eight top-10 finishes since the season resumed in May. “Very, very pleased to see how the team has come together. … Now we’re starting to show a lot of speed. I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential.”

Even with Keselowski’s success, Harvick and Hamlin have been stout. This is how dominant Harvick and Hamlin have been all season and since May:

Most wins this year (15 races)

Most wins since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (3 wins)
  •  Kevin Harvick (3 wins)
  • Brad Keselowski (2 wins)

Most top-five finishes this year (15 races)

Most top-five finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 5s)
  • Kevin Harvick (7 top 5s)
  • Chase Elliott (6 top 5s)
  • Ryan Blaney (6 top 5s)

Most top 10 finishes this season (15 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (12 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (10 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (10 top 10s)

Most top 10 finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (8 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (8 top 10s)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (8 top 10s)

Patriots of America PAC to be primary sponsor for Go Fas Racing in nine races

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Patriots of America, a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, will be the primary sponsor of Corey LaJoie’s car this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Go Fas Racing announced Wednesday.

Patriots of America PAC will be the primary sponsor on the car for eight additional races.  

“Our mission is to get voters registered and to the polls in November,” said Jeff Whaley on behalf of Patriots of America PAC. “We are excited about our sponsorship with Go Fas Racing No. 32 and Corey LaJoie. We feel this partnership is the best way to help us communicate this message to the NASCAR community and encourage all Americans to do their part by heading to the polls.”

Team owner Archie St. Hilaire said in a statement: “I am honored to be part of the President’s re-election campaign through the Patriots of America PAC. As a Trump 2020 supporter, this team will do everything possible to secure victory on and off the track electing President Donald Trump to a second term. Let us bring this country back and Keep America Great!”

According to public documents, Patriots of America has paid Go Fas Racing $350,000 to this point for the sponsorship.

Sunday’s Cup race airs at 4 p.m. ET on NBC.

NASCAR, Coca-Cola to honor military, frontline healthcare workers

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NASCAR will honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces and frontline healthcare workers throughout the month of July as part of this year’s expanded “NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola” initiative.

Per a media release, NASCAR said the program will be “an industry-wide opportunity to recognize and thank those who have gone above and beyond to keep society safe and healthy.”

The kickoff event for the program begins with Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at the Brickyard (4 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), shifting to a mid-summer window due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We take pride in honoring all who work tirelessly to keep our nation safe, whether a frontline worker in the fight against COVID-19 or part of our U.S. Armed Forces protecting us around the world,” said Jill Gregory, executive vice president and chief marketing and content officer, NASCAR. “The NASCAR industry has always been passionate about saluting our nation’s heroes both past and present, and we once again look forward to recognizing those who serve.”

Per a statement in the media release, NASCAR and Coca-Cola will create content to honor the “heroic work from our military and first responder community during the COVID-19 pandemic. … Through NASCAR digital and social channels, the industry will spotlight even more stories with a new ‘NASCAR Salutes Refreshing Moments’ feature that will also be hosted on NASCAR.com/Salutes.”

“While this crisis has impacted everyone’s daily lives, we are able to race because of the selfless acts by our military community and frontline workers,” said John Mount, vice president, sports marketing and region assets, Coca-Cola North America. “NASCAR Salutes offers an impactful opportunity to showcase our pride and appreciation for these heroes and their families.”

In addition to premier partner Coca-Cola, several other NASCAR Official Partners will also take part in the program:

  • Mack Trucks will wrap its NASCAR Mack Anthem haulers with NASCAR Salutes-themed graphics voted on by fans at com/NASCARSalutes. The paint schemes honor both military and frontline heroes and the winning designs will be unveiled July 4 and debut during the NASCAR Salutes window.
  • AMR, the “Official Emergency Medical Services Partner of NASCAR,” will feature the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola branding on its NASCAR safety trucks and safety team helmets throughout the program.
  • Goodyear continued its tradition of replacing the iconic “Eagle” sidewall for 600 Miles of Remembrance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This year’s recognition was the Honor and Remember organization, which works closely with the industry to honor gold star families who have lost family members while serving.
  • Mack Trucks and Blue-Emu also collaborated on a day-long effort to thank truckers and critical workers for their hard work during COVID-19. After a kickoff at Mack Trucks’ headquarters, NASCAR’s Mack Anthem haulers visited Virginia-based Sovah Health to thank the frontline workers at the hospital en route to the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Fans can learn more about the heroes honored throughout the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Colaprogram by visiting NASCAR.com/Salutes.