Nate Ryan

Richmond Cup starting lineup: Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain on the front row

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RICHMOND, Virginia — Kyle Larson will lead the starting lineup at Richmond Raceway to the green flag Sunday afternoon after earning his third pole position of the NASCAR Cup Series season.

The No. 5 Chevrolet driver turned a 23.042-second lap around the 0.75-mile oval on the final attempt of the final round of qualifying.

Ross Chastain was second (23.100 seconds), followed by Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr., Cole Custer, Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney for Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, USA Network).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for how they will line up at Richmond l By car number

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for how drivers fared at Richmond

With three races remaining in the regular season, Blaney is second in points but on the cutline of making the 16-driver playoff grid with 15 of the slots occupied by race winners.

Truex, who is fourth in points but also winless, was bumped out of a provisional playoff spot this past Sunday when Kevin Harvick won at Michigan.

Hamlin won the most recent race at Richmond, triumphing April 2 at his hometown track by capitalizing on tire strategy. He will be making his 21st top 10 start at Richmond.

After capturing his 13th career pole position in NASCAR’s premier series, Larson had to dash off to Knoxville, Iowa, where he will be defending his title in the prestigious Knoxville Nationals sprint car race.

NASCAR AT RICHMOND: Details for watching Sunday’s race

Larson was flying with Chastain and Trackhouse Racing team owner Justin Marks (who provided the plane). Larson already has qualified for the A main feature.

“The schedule couldn’t have been much worse,” Larson said of NASCAR qualifying ending barely two hours ahead of hot laps for the A main. “And I knew it was going to be this late before the season ever started. So I was hoping it would change eventually before we got to this weekend, but it still leaves me just enough time to make it in time to run.”

Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain share similar view of their crash at Michigan

Chastain Bell Michigan crash
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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RICHMOND, Virginia – Ross Chastain found the lighter side of his crash with Christopher Bell at Michigan International Speedway.

“It looked like I was driving his car,” Ross Chastain said with a wide smile Saturday at Richmond Raceway. “Blocking all over the place! I think he just made one too many blocks, and I was to his right rear. What did he say?”

Bell said Chastain indeed factored into the Turn 4 crash that eliminated both drivers from contention with 40 laps remaining..

Though the Joe Gibbs Racing driver took the blame for moving his No. 20 Toyota into the path of Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet, he also said he would have refrained from throwing the block if had been another driver attempting the pass on the outside.

“Absolutely,” Bell said. “This sport is a game of respect, and I try to race people how they race me.”

Chastain was amused by Bell’s reply (“He got emotional.”) but also conceded he was culpable in the wreck, which also resulted in Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez getting caught a lap down after a pit stop.

“Honestly, if I would have just lifted, it would have been better for me, Daniel and Christopher,” said Chastain, who is familiar with criticism for his aggression and blocking behind the wheel. “There’s really no circumstance where we need a caution right there, so when he gave me the option of lift or crash, I should have lifted. I just thought I had a lane to his right. I should have just pushed him instead of trying to get to his right rear.”

Bell, who had led 31 laps and essentially was racing for the win by trying to keep Chastain behind him on fresher tires, said he has grown tired of yielding in those situations.

“I’ve been in put in that exact same position on the flip side probably 30 or 40, maybe 50 times this year, and I’ve lifted,” Bell said. “So I made a mistake, but he had an option to lift and cut us both a break, and he didn’t, and we wrecked. … If I was going to win the race, I was going to have to beat him, so I was trying to make his life hard.”

Would he do it again?

“I think it depends on the situation,” Bell said. “At that moment, we were racing for the win. And I felt like it was going to help my case to win to slow him up. And if we’re racing in the playoffs, and I have to be more mindful of my points position, obviously my thoughts are different.

“But in that situation, it was essentially win or bust, and I thought that was going to help me win the race.”

Suarez, who led 33 laps at Michigan, and Chastain, who led 29, both said Saturday that their cars would have been able to control the finish of the race if not for the yellow.

“For sure,” said Chastain, who also crashed while racing for the lead with Hamlin in the July 25 race at Pocono. “It was going to take both of us. Earlier in the race, (Bell) pushed (Denny Hamlin) by me, and I couldn’t do anything with him. But with both of us, I thought we had a shot. You never know.

“I just wish I would have lifted to live to see the next lap.”

Daniel Suarez ‘very close’ to re-signing at Trackhouse; surprised by Busch’s situation

Daniel Suarez Trackhouse contract
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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RICHMOND, Virginia – Daniel Suarez has yet to sign a contract for next season but has no worries of returning to Trackhouse Racing, which has him relieved considering Kyle Busch’s precarious situation.

“I was thinking about that not too long ago, and I’ve been in that position a few times,” Suarez said Saturday before practice and qualifying at Richmond Raceway. “I believe Kyle has a very big resume on his back that supports him a lot, but even with that, he’s struggling. He has lost his main sponsor of many years, and now that the team, in my opinion, the team hasn’t done a good job selling him. They have known that M&Ms is leaving for a long time, and they haven’t been able to find anything. I find that surprising.

“For whatever reason, they are in that situation, and Ty (Gibbs), I thought, has been doing a decent job in the last few races (in place of injured Kurt Busch in the No. 45 Toyota). I don’t think he’s been doing great, but I think he’s been doing OK, and OK probably is good enough to be able to give him a shot (to replace Busch in the No. 18 Toyota). Who knows what is going to happen, but it’s definitely surprising the situation that (Kyle Busch) is in right now.”

Busch, who is in his 15th consecutive season at Joe Gibbs Racing, has no deal beyond the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. The two-time Cup Series champion has been in negotiations with Gibbs for months and recently said he was willing to take less money to stay with the team.

Suarez was asked about Busch’s status after the Mexican driver said he was “very close” to having a new deal at Trackhouse.

“I’m going to be honest, I haven’t even paid a lot of attention to (his own contract talks),” Suarez said. “I’m so focused right now on the playoffs and making my team stronger, but I know that my manager and people from Trackhouse are very, very close. We have never had doubts about where we’re at on those kind of things. I’m just working on a couple of details.

“But yeah, we’re going to be fine. It’s not done yet, but it’s close. It’s just a matter of time.”

With 13 races remaining this year, Suarez said he expects to re-sign before the season ends in November.

“I’m just not the one having all those conversations, but it’s going to happen soon,” he said. “It’s just a couple of little things that they’re working on, and that’s it, but overall we’re in very good shape.”

A new contract with Trackhouse would mark the first time Suarez has signed an extension in Cup.

Because of the retirement of Carl Edwards, he was promoted (ahead of schedule) to NASCAR’s premier series by Gibbs in 2017 to drive the No. 19 Toyota after winning the 2016 Xfinity Series championship.

Fired by Gibbs after two seasons in Cup (and replaced by Martin Truex Jr.), Suarez went to Stewart-Haas Racing for one year before surprisingly being replaced by Cole Custer after the 2019 season.

After a career-worst season with Gaunt Brothers Racing in 2020, Suarez went to Trackhouse’s startup No. 99 team last year and was 25th in the points standings. The team bought the assets of Chip Ganassi Racing and expanded to a second car with Suarez’s new teammate Ross Chastain.

Suarez earned the first victory of his Cup career June 12 at Sonoma Raceway, making the playoffs for the first time. He has a career-high five top fives through 23 races this season.

Trackhouse Racing president Ty Norris told NBC Sports a few days after the Sonoma win that there was “a 100% chance that Daniel Suarez is re-signed with us.”

Texas Motor Speedway names Mark Faber as its new general manager

Texas Motor Speedway GM
Tim Heitman/Getty Images
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Mark Faber was named general manager of Texas Motor Speedway on Thursday after the promotion of Rob Ramage from track GM to a senior vice president role for Speedway Motorsports.

Ramage was named VP of government relations and deputy counsel for Speedway Motorsports, which owns and operates TMS and other NASCAR tracks. He had been in a similar role at Texas since 2013 before becoming the track’s GM last August after the departure of Eddie Gossage.

“Now with a year of experience as a speedway general manager, Rob understands even more about building the community and fan relationships necessary for our success,” said Marcus Smith, SMI’s president and chief executive officer. “In his new role, Rob will not only invest his energy and enthusiasm in what we are doing in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin markets, but also lend his government-relations expertise and legal support to our sports entertainment executives and venues nationwide.”

Faber will join TMS after serving as senior VP of global partnerships at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. He spent the last 17 years with AEG, one of the world’s leading sports and live entertainment companies. He was in Las Vegas since 2014 after working for the company in Kansas City from 2005-13. His more than 30 years in the sports industry also includes positions with the Orange Bowl and the Dallas Cowboys. He also worked with Host Communications, Galles Indy Racing and PSP Sports.

Faber consulted on sponsorships and premium seating renovations for Daytona International Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.

“Mark brings more than 30 years of experience in the sports and entertainment industries to Speedway Motorsports,” said Smith. “Texas Motor Speedway has been hosting major races, concerts and special events for more than 25 years. With Mark’s expertise in corporate sales, fan engagement and event management at premier facilities, we are well-positioned for The Great American Speedway to move into its next quarter-century.

“We welcome Mark back to Texas and to the Speedway Motorsports family, and we look forward to his leadership as our team works together toward the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 NASCAR Playoff race at TMS in October.”

Gossage, the old-school promoter and showman, stepped down last year from the track that he had overseen since its groundbreaking about 20 miles north of downtown Fort Worth in 1995, two years before the first race. Gossage worked for Speedway Motorsports for 32 years overall.

SMI also owns Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Sonoma Raceway.

Ryan Blaney angry after falling third to 26th on restart: ‘People just run over each other’

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INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Blaney was angry after getting bumped from third to 26th on the final restart Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, intentionally spinning Daniel Suarez on the cooldown lap.

After bumping against the No. 99 Chevrolet of Suarez through the exit of the right-hander, Blaney’s No. 12 Ford spun on the entry of the Turn 2 left-hander after being hit in the left rear by the No. 16 Chevy of AJ Allmendinger (who had been squeezed off course and over the curb into the grass).

Blaney was on older tires than the field after taking fuel only on his final pit stop, but he said that wasn’t the reason for his incident.

REDDICK WINS: Another road course victory for Richard Childress Racing driver

“No, it’s a case of just getting wrecked,” he said. “That’s all people do at the end of these things, just dive in there and wreck you. I don’t know who shoved who and I don’t care, but tires didn’t matter at the end. We restarted top three both times, and tires don’t really matter. It’s just a matter of getting through on the restart, but, apparently, that’s a hard thing to ask.

“People just run over each other.”

It was the second consecutive year the Indy road course has been used in NASCAR’s premier series after a 28-year run on the 2.5-mile oval at the Brickyard. Both races on the layout through the infield have produced late yellows that set up overtime finishes.

Blaney led twice for 17 laps and was able to capitalize multiple times on restarts to make ground on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.

“I got up through the middle one time and the middle never really opened one of the last couple restarts,” Blaney said. “I was protecting right, and I guess whoever it was behind me didn’t care. I don’t know.

“They jumped over the curb and just wipe you out. I just didn’t even have a shot at it. I didn’t have a shot to get to the 8 to try to put the bumper to him or anything like that, just get wiped out. I don’t know. I’m pissed off about it and I have every damn right to be.”

Blaney still moved up a spot in the regular-season standings to second, 125 points behind Chase Elliott.

With four races remaining in the regular season, 14 of the 16 playoff spots are filled by drivers with victories. Blaney is the highest-ranked winless driver in a provisional playoff spot, 25 points ahead of Martin Truex Jr. on the cutoff line.