Home sweet home: Denny Hamlin wins at Richmond, Chase field is set


Richmond International Raceway once again proved to be home sweet home for Denny Hamlin in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400.

Hamlin, who grew up in nearby Chesterfield, Virginia, won there for the third time in his Sprint Cup career and also for the third time this season.

The race went into overtime and was extended seven laps after Regan Smith wrecked with one lap left in the scheduled 400-lap event.

Hamlin, who started from the pole, led 189 laps, second only to Martin Truex Jr. leading 193 laps. Hamlin took over the lead for the final time on Lap 322 and held on for the remaining 85 laps.

MORE: Sprint Cup race results from Richmond

MORE: Kevin Harvick ends regular season as points leader

MORE: Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray complete Chase field

“We really got it tuned in there in the last half of the race,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “The restarts, everything just kind of worked out well for us all day. … Hopefully, we’re going on another Chase run.”


The win was the 29th of Hamlin’s Sprint Cup career and second in the last five races (he also won at Watkins Glen).

It was also the third consecutive win for Joe Gibbs Racing at Richmond, its 12th in the series at Richmond. JGR also leads all organizations going into the Chase with wins in 11 of the first 26 races.

Kyle Larson roared from behind to finish second, followed by Truex, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.

Saturday’s race was the final race to make the upcoming 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The biggest drama of the night came on Lap 363 when seven drivers – Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Dylan Lupton, David Ragan, Chris Buescher, Carl Edwards and A.J. Allmendinger – were involved in a wreck that brought out a race-stopping red flag. Newman blamed Stewart.

MORE: Newman blasts Tony Stewart wreck; should be retired the way he drives

How Hamlin won: Hamlin held the early lead, then let Martin Truex Jr. take the point. But it was clear Hamlin had a strong car and paced himself until he regained the lead and then didn’t let go from that point.

Who else had a good race: Martin Truex Jr. almost won his second straight race. But even with finishing third, he showed great promise heading into the Chase. … Kasey Kahne needed a win to make the Chase but just fell short and was eliminated. … If there had been another couple laps, Kyle Larson may have caught Hamlin. Still, his second-place finish bodes well for himself and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray in the Chase.

Who had a bad race: Ryan Blaney had high hopes of making the Chase, but those hopes ended on Lap 11 when he wrecked, suffering heavy damage to the rear of his Wood Brothers Ford. … Paul Menard’s night ended after a single-car wreck on Lap 265. … Matt Kenseth’s night also ended early on Lap 335. Brad Keselowski missed a shift and then drifted up the track, running into Kenseth’s car.

MORE: Kenseth on Brad Keselowski – ‘He cleaned me out’

Notable: After just three cautions in the first 200 laps, there were 13 more in the second half of the race for a total of 16 yellow flags, breaking the old RIR single race record of 15. … After changing the front tire changer and front tire carrier on Kevin Harvick’s team — they came from teammate Danica Patrick‘s crew — Harvick had strong pit stops all night. His final stop was 10.8 seconds.

Quote of the race: “It’s just disappointing that you have someone old like that that’s retiring, or should be retired the way he drives. It’s just ridiculous. I only hit him in Turn 1 when he cut across my nose. So, I don’t think there was any reason other than him being bipolar and having anger issues (leading to the second incident between them).” – Ryan Newman on his crash with former teammate Tony Stewart.

What’s next: The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship begins Sept. 18, at Chicagoland Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”