Drivers to watch for in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway

0 Comments

NASCAR heads to Richmond Raceway this weekend for the first points race at a short track this season.

The Next Gen car has yet to be utilized on a track quite like Richmond, but that’s because no track on the schedule offers a straight-up comparison to what will be displayed Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).

What we do know is that drivers who tend to run well on short tracks continue to excel at the ¾-mile oval. That’s not expected to change this weekend.

FRONT RUNNERS

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: Seventh
  • Last three races: 35th (DNF) — Phoenix; 8th — Atlanta; 7th — COTA
  • Recent at Richmond: Won three of last five races, including September 2021

Truex has been exceptional at Richmond since 2016, dating back to his days with Furniture Row Racing. Since the fall race of 2016, Truex has led 1,157 laps and boasts a streak of six straight top fives. The 2017 series champion has scored points in 17 of the 18 stages run at Richmond and notoriously finds his way to the front of the field.

Truex has been fairly quiet throughout the season’s first six races, notching three top 10s (seventh at COTA, eighth at Las Vegas and Atlanta), two finishes of 13th (Daytona, Auto Club) and a crash at Phoenix that left him 35th. He was, however, hot on the heels of teammate Kyle Busch for a potential Las Vegas win before a late caution and subsequent pit strategy jolted the results.

If ever there was a track where Truex could make a statement, Richmond would likely be it. The next step is waiting to see whether his prior successes can translate to the Next Gen car.

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 11th
  • Last three races: 7th — Phoenix; 33rd (DNF) — Atlanta; 28th — COTA
  • Recent at Richmond: 11 top-10 finishes in last 12 races

Joe Gibbs Racing is highly touted in this week’s edition for good reason: the organization has won eight of the last 12 races at Richmond and finished 1-2-3 in two of the last five.

Busch, of course, is a significant contributor to that stat line, collecting six career wins at Richmond, the most recent in September 2018. While it’s been some time since Busch’s last victory here, the two-time Cup champion has collected eight straight finishes of ninth or better. No driver with more than 15 starts at Richmond holds a higher average finish than Busch’s 6.9, and no active driver has more top fives at Richmond than Busch’s 18.

The last two weeks have produced dismal results for the No. 18 team. Richmond may be the perfect place to turn those around.

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Third
  • Last three races: 8th — Phoenix; 9th — Atlanta; 31st — COTA
  • Recent at Richmond: Three straight top fives

Logano is the only driver to win at a short track in the Next Gen car, courtesy of his victory at the quarter-mile track built within the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the exhibition Clash.

That almost certainly won’t translate this weekend, but Logano has a strong track record in Richmond regardless. The 2018 Cup champion has two wins here, along with 13 top 10s in his last 15 Richmond starts.

Logano has just one top-five finish this year (fifth at Auto Club) and comes off a disappointing run at Circuit of the Americas. But he and teammate Ryan Blaney have proven Team Penske are frontrunners this season — Blaney leads the series in average running position at 10.107 and Logano sits third at 12.014. To see the No. 22 Ford up front would be no surprise.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 22nd
  • Last three races: 13th — Phoenix; 29th (DNF) — Atlanta; 18th — COTA
  • Recent at Richmond: Four top-fives in last five races

On the heels of two consecutive runner-up finishes at Richmond, Hamlin should be expected to contend for the win Sunday. But it’s hard to afford the No. 11 team the benefit of the doubt right now.

After six races, Hamlin sits 22nd in points and has failed to finish half the races this season. His 13th-place finish at Phoenix remains his best of the season. It’s a stark contrast from what has been expected of Hamlin in recent years, although he went to Victory Lane just twice in 2021 (Darlington 2, Las Vegas 2).

The good news is that Richmond, his home track, has been somewhere Hamlin excels. With three career wins there, Hamlin is the active leader in laps led (2,108) and stage wins (five) and has led at least 45 laps in each of the last three races. The list of winners this year is growing, and with 20 events left in the regular season, it’s not crazy to think Hamlin may soon need a win to advance into the playoffs.

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: Second
  • Last three races: 4th — Phoenix; 17th — Atlanta; 6th — COTA
  • Recent at Richmond: Two finishes of 11th or better in 2021

Richmond is unquestionably Blaney’s worst track at which he’s made more than two starts. In 11 starts at the ¾-mile track, Blaney has just one top-10 finish, a 10th-place finish in September.

He leads the series in laps led in 2022, but Blaney has never led a lap at Richmond. The finishes haven’t been his only enemy either — Blaney has scored points in just two of his 18 stages there.

Last season, his Richmond results finally took a swing in the right direction, coupling an 11th-place effort in the spring to go with his lone top 10. Those mark his only two top 15s in 11 starts. Luckily for him, the Next Gen car has suited him well through six races. Perhaps it can help solve Blaney’s Richmond woes.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: Fourth
  • Last three races: 14th — Phoenix; 10th — Atlanta; 2nd — COTA
  • Recent at Richmond: Two top 10s in last three races

Bowman led the final 10 laps of the spring race at Richmond a season ago en route to his first of four wins in 2021.

Richmond has historically not been a great track for him. In 11 career starts, Bowman has finished 12th or worse nine times and scored points in six of 14 stages. His last three Richmond starts, though, have built some semblance of consistency, collecting finishes of ninth (fall 2020) and 12th (fall 2021) to accompany his win.

The last four races this season have produced good results too, with a win at Las Vegas, a runner-up at Circuit of the Americas and two top-15 runs sandwiched in between. Whether that continues remains to be seen.

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

0 Comments

The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

0 Comments

After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

 

 

 

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

1 Comment

NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

4 Comments

NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”