Dustin Long

Richmond winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing — It was a 1-2-3-4 finish until Erik Jones’ car failed inspection. Still the team scored a 1-2-3 finish and claimed its fourth consecutive win on a short track with Martin Truex Jr.’s triumph. Don’t forget, the organization also won Friday’s Xfinity race with Christopher Bell.

Ryan Newman His fifth-place finish tied his best result of the year and was his third consecutive top-10 showing. He was encouraged by the team running toward the front and noted: “You take away those four Gibbs cars, we were racing for the win. I know it doesn’t work that way, but if they would have had one bad meeting (incident) we would’ve been in the hunt.” Still, Newman moved into a transfer spot heading into this coming weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Brad KeselowskiHe finished fourth and was the only driver outside of Joe Gibbs Racing to lead Saturday’s race.

Bubba Wallace His 12th-place finish was his third top-15 result in the last five races. He had one top-15 finish in the first 23 races of the season.

Front Row Motorsports — All three of its cars placed 21st or better, the first time the team has accomplished that feat this season. David Ragan was 19th, rookie Matt Tifft placed 20th and Michael McDowell was 21st.

LOSERS

Erik Jones He was feeling good about his fourth-place finish that put him within three points of the final transfer spot to the next round only to later find out that his car was disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Now he’s 45 points out of the final transfer spot and is essentially in a must-win situation. He faces being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for a second year in a row.

William Byron Got lapped in the final circuits before the end of each stage and also had a pit road speeding penalty. That led to a season-worst 25th-place finish. He holds the final transfer spot to the second round by two points on Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman heading to the Roval.

Kyle Busch sees progress in runner-up finish at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — After his fiery comments last week led some to be critical of his attitude toward slower drivers, Kyle Busch was calmer after his runner-up performance to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Busch led a race-high 202 of 400 laps but lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate with 26 laps to go and had to settle for second place.

“We put up a valiant effort,” Busch said.

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car

While his winless drought starched to 14 races, Busch noted that the performance was a step forward for the No. 18 Toyota team.

“I know we’re capable of it, the team is capable of it,” said Busch, who clinched a spot in the second round with his 54-point night. “Just stupid things have been biting us this year and we put it all together tonight. I didn’t speed on pit road, pit crew did a good job, our car was fast and we made the most of our effort.”

Whether it was Busch hitting the wall (or another car) at Las Vegas, an engine failure at Indianapolis, the pit crew losing the lead at Darlington or a speeding penalty at Watkins Glen (and hitting cars), Busch and the team have been off in recent races despite often having the speed to challenge for wins. In the process, Busch has lost the chance to collect many more playoff points.

He was strong enough Saturday night to win the second stage, giving him his third stage win in the last seven races.

But Busch didn’t have enough at the end to keep Truex behind him.

“We ran OK,” Busch said. “(Truex) could follow closer than I could, and he was better on the long run than I was. Why? Maybe I pushed my tires too hard there at the last stint at the beginning trying to stay ahead of (Denny Hamlin), which gave (Truex) the opportunity to kind of save his stuff and roll around and attack later.”

 

NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

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RICHMOND, Va. — Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car failed inspection after Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway and the disqualification puts him in a must-win situation next weekend to advance in the playoffs. 

The team confirmed that Jones’ car failed on the rear toe in the Optical Scanning Station. Jimmy Makar, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said that the team did not plan to appeal.

Jay Fabian, managing director of the Cup Series, explained what officials found:

“There’s fairly critical measurements on the rear wheel alignment that have to be followed, so there’s any number of things that the team could do or not do to make it fail,” Fabian said. “Standard process as a race, we give a pretty strong allowance on what they can run pre‑race to post‑race, and it’s crept out of that range.

“We didn’t see anything that was designed to fail. At the end of the day, the result is the same, it failed.”

Fabian explained why the measurement is important.

“Rear wheel steer and alignment is important as a critical factor in downforce,” he said. “It’s an aero benefit to get more skew in the rear, so we keep those parameters pretty tight so that everybody is racing with the same thing, and that’s the key to running all 16 cars through there. We just finished up probably 30 minutes ago, so it’s important to keep the playing field level and make sure all the playoff cars are the same and pass that thing.”

The disqualification takes away from Joe Gibbs Racing’s first 1-2-3-4 finish in team history.

Jones was dropped to last place and given one point. He had scored 42 points.

Jones is now 45 points behind Willian Byron for the final transfer spot to the second round. The penalty makes it highly unlikely he can advance to the second round of the playoffs via points, so he will need to win next Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

This is the first time this season that a Cup car has been disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Four cars have been disqualified in the Xfinity Series and one Truck has been disqualified in that series.

Kyle Busch touts support he’s received for comments at Las Vegas

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RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch says he’s received support from fellow drivers, who told him “what I said is not wrong” about the ability of some competitors.

Busch was upset last weekend after running into the back of Garrett Smithley’s car and being impeded by Joey Gase in the Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the race, Busch told NBCSN: “We’re at the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys who have never won Late Model races running on the racetrack. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. What else do you do?”

Smithley responded on social media and Gase later responded on social media.

MORE: Kyle Busch’s comments address murky issue with no solution 

Busch was asked Friday at Richmond Raceway if he watched video of the incident with Smithley since last week and if his opinion changed.

“I did see video of last week,” Busch said. “It doesn’t matter what my opinion is. I get beat up on it anyway.”

Busch was encouraged by support he received.

“I’ve had multiple texts from other people that are race car drivers and non-race car drivers this week that have said what I said is not wrong, but there’s other general masses that say different,” Busch said.

Busch’s race at Las Vegas started poorly when he hit the wall in the opening laps and went down two laps. He explained what happened:

“We started out, we practiced our car and we were pretty decent in practice, but I felt like I was a tick tight, so we made some changes going into the race to free it up,” Busch said. “The first run at Vegas is always looser. And I guess I didn’t mentally prepare myself for that enough, and we were 10 numbers loose, like crashing loose.

“I got myself in trouble. I got myself into the fence. Was able to battle back from all of that throughout everything of the day and put ourselves in position for a solid finish and we just didn’t get it.”

Asked what he could have done differently, Busch said:

“I should have been prepared for it,” he said. “I actually prepared (crew chief Adam Stevens) for it, but I guess didn’t prepare myself for it. I was getting passed, guys were going by me and I was falling backwards and I was like I got to go here, I’ve got to move forward and pushed too hard.”

Busch recovered to get back on the lead lap and was running in the top five when he had the contact with Smithley. Busch finished 19th.

“For as bad as our day started, we were certainly able to make something of it and come back for a top-four run until close to the end,” Busch said when asked if his frustration hurts his performance. “People want to say because of my state of mind that’s the reason I ran into the back of a slow car, that’s funny people know how I think and what I am inside my helmet. I don’t think that had anything to do with it.”

Busch, the regular-season champion, qualified fourth for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Daniel Hemric: ‘I’m not done’ after losing ride for 2020

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RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Hemric is confident as he figures out where he’ll race next year after Richard Childress Racing announced this week Hemric would not return to the No. 8 team after this season.

“I’m not done,” Hemric said Friday at Richmond Raceway.

Hemric said he is encouraged by the support he has received since the announcement this week.

“I’ve actually been very blown away by the support,” Hemric said. “It’s very humbling to have not only the people inside the industry but your peers as far as the guys you race with on the racetrack. Some of the stars of our sport reached out with their gratitude and their praise for what they feel like you’re doing on and off the racetrack. Those are the guys who really see you in the heat of the moment. Having everyone on that side support me like they have, I think that has led to a lot of phone calls and a lot of conversations with a lot of race teams over the past week. For that I”m thankful.”

Reigning Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick is expected to take over the No. 8 ride next year at RCR. As for Hemric, a rookie in Cup this year, he is open to any series for next year.

“I don’t think there is much more I could have done on this side to change the outcome, but with that being said, maybe it is time to rebuild the stock,” Hemric said. “Maybe go back Truck racing or Xfinity racing, or whatever the next opportunity is, to build that stock and show I can win. I’ve won in every single level that I ever ran full-time in on my way up the ladder.”

Hemric understands that even with that level of success early in his career, he’s never won in any of NASCAR’s three national series.

“People always talk about not winning races, hasn’t won a NASCAR race,” said Hemric, whose best finish this season is fifth at Talladega in April, one of two top-10 finishes he’s had this year. “On the flip side of that, I’ve said time and time again, you can go back to any interview I’ve ever done, I feel like I’ve always been a part of a build process. I’ve always been coming into race teams that need the work and as a driver, I’ve always had to work on myself as well. I kind of thrive under that.

“I don’t mind being a part of the build process. The success RCR has had as a Xfinity team this year I feel like started way back in 2017 between myself, Austin (Dillon), Ty (Dillon), and everybody running those cars as much as we were to get that program to where it’s at today. I feel like we were on that same path on the Cup side, we just haven’t seen it come to full vision yet.”

Now, Hemric’s vision will have to lead him elsewhere.

“It is late in the game and things have to start materializing pretty quick in order for me to land in a seat that I am hoping to get by next year in any form,” he said.

“I just want to make sure I end up in a good situation that can ultimately turn into a long-term deal down the road to be successful and desirable in the sport. You want to make sure you eliminate any possibility of something like this happening again. The best way to do that is to put yourself in a position where people can know you can win races. I’m looking forward to whatever is next. I’ve been down and out many of times. Everybody knows my situation, where I’ve come from, the things I’ve overcome to get to here. It’s not different. My back has been put against the wall and now that you’ve made it to the top level of the sport, I don’t care where I end up at. I’m not done.”