Pit problems once again derail Martin Truex Jr. at Richmond

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Martin Truex Jr. can’t catch a break in Richmond, Virginia.

Saturday night, for the fourth time in the last five races at Richmond Raceway, the defending series champion led the most laps.

Each time Truex has not ended up in Victory Lane.

Truex finished third Saturday after he and the No. 78 Toyota led 163 laps and won the first two stages.

His bid to win the first short-track race of his Cup career more or less ended in the pits during the Stage 2 caution. That’s when his team was called for an uncontrolled tire penalty, forcing Truex to restart 19th.

In the April 21 race at Richmond, Truex led 121 laps from the pole but finished 14th after a slow pit stop with 10 laps to go.

“It was really good all day,” Truex said. “Just man, I don’t know what we’ve got to do to win this race. We’ve probably led more than anyone here ever that’s not won it. It’s crazy, but it wasn’t meant to be tonight. Hell of an effort by the guys and good recovery by the guys on pit road. Thanks to all you guys back in Denver (Furniture Row Racing’s headquarters) working your butts off to bring these fast cars and just keep digging and we’re moving on. So, that’s the name of the game and hopefully we’ll get the win when we really need it.”

Truex has led 675 laps over the last five Richmond races but hasn’t finished in the top two in any of them.

Despite the penalty, Truex’s earned enough points to clinch a spot in the second round of the playoffs.

Following the race, Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn tweeted his frustration over the penalty that kept his team from earning its fifth win of the season.

Kyle Busch wins Richmond Cup race after starting from rear

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Kyle Busch won Saturday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway, earning his seventh victory of the season after having to start the 400-lap race from the rear of the field.

Busch led 92 laps and beat Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., his fellow members of this season’s “Big 3.” It’s the first time they’ve swept the top three this year.

The win is the 50th of Busch’s career.

The top five was completed by Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola.

Busch repeated his performance from the spring race at the short track, starting 39th – this time for unapproved adjustments – before slowly climbing his way through the field.

He took the lead for the first time on Lap 287 of 400 by passing Keselowski. Then, after a heated battle over the course of roughly 20 laps, Busch passed Keselowski again with 37 laps to go and led the rest of the way.

“That was too close for my comfort,” Busch told NBCSN of keeping ahead of Harvick. “I thought we were a little bit better there on the long run. I know Harvick, that’s kind of his specialty. We had a really, really good race car tonight. … The guys did a great job coming back from that dismal qualifying effort and prepared a really, really good race car for us tonight. Being able to start dead last, come up through the field and win this thing? That’s right, Rowdy nation. All for you, baby.”

It’s Busch’s sixth win at Richmond, but his first in the fall race.

Busch snapped the three-race win streak of Keselowski. He led 67 laps and finished ninth.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Martin Truex Jr. led 163 laps but was hit with an uncontrolled tire penalty during the caution that followed Stage 2. He restarted 19th before reaching third in the closing laps … Aric Almirola earned his second top five of the season … Jimmie Johnson (eighth) earned his best finish since the June Pocono race (eighth) … Austin Dillon (sixth) earned his fourth top 10 of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Denny Hamlin finished 16th after nearly spinning from contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Stage 1, pitting and going a lap down. He is now 29 points behind the cutoff spot … Jeffrey Earnhardt caused the only caution for an incident when he wrecked with 74 laps to go from contact with Matt Kenseth … Playoff drivers Joey Logano (14th), Hamlin (16th), Kurt Busch (18th) and Ryan Blaney (19th) all finished a lap down.

NOTABLE: Martin Truex Jr. secured a spot in the second round of the playoffs on points … Truex has led the most laps four times in the last five races at Richmond without winning … The race’s three cautions tied the fewest at Richmond since 2010.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I don’t know what we got to do to win this race.” – Martin Truex Jr. to NBCSN.

WHAT’S NEXT: The inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 2 p.m. ET on Sept. 30 on NBC.

Tonight’s Cup race at Richmond: Start time, lineup and more

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The Cup Series is back under the lights tonight for the playoff race at Richmond Raceway.

The race is the last chance for playoff drivers to secure a spot in the second round before next week’s cutoff race on the unpredictable Charlotte road course.

Here’s all the info you need for tonight’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Tim Trudnowski, president of Automotive Jobber Supply in Spokane, Washington, will give the command to start engines at 7:27 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:33 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 400 laps (300 miles) around the 0.75-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 100. Stage 2 ends on Lap 200.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at Noon. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:50 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: The President’s Own United States Marine Band will perform the anthem at 7:21 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 7:30 p.m. Coverage begins with NASCAR America at 6 p.m. on NBCSN. Countdown to Green airs at 7 p.m. on NBCSN. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m. and can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 74 degrees and a 10 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch won the spring race over Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. Kyle Larson won this race last year over Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the provisional lineup (lineup will be official after inspection Saturday)

Kevin Harvick wins Cup pole at Richmond

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Kevin Harvick won the pole for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with a top qualifying speed of 121.880 mph.

Harvick led 10 of the 16 playoff drivers in qualifying in the top 12.

It is Harvick’s third pole of the year.

“We ended our last race run (in practice), I was really happy with the car,” Harvick told NBCSN. “Didn’t know what we had for qualifying there. But just a huge credit to the race team for putting a qualifying setup underneath it. Obviously, Aric (Almirola) came here and tested and kind of had a baseline for where we needed to shoot for for targets.”

The top five was filled out by Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez, a non-playoff driver.

The top 12 was completed by Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Cole Custer and Kyle Busch

Custer, driving Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford – in a car prepped by Stewart-Haas Racing, is making his third-career start. This is his last Cup race of the season.

Where the rest of the playoff field qualified:

Joey Logano (13th), Alex Bowman (14th), Chase Elliott (19th), Jimmie Johnson (22nd), Clint Bowyer (25th) and Austin Dillon (28th).

The starting lineup will be finalized tomorrow after inspection.

Click here for results.

Weekend schedule for NASCAR at Richmond Raceway

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The NASCAR postseason continues this weekend at Richmond Raceway, which hosts its first playoff weekend.

Both Cup and Xfinity Series teams will be in action.

The weekend is capped off on Saturday by the Cup Series’ Federated Auto Parts 400.

Here’s the full weekend schedule with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 21

7:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Cup garage opens

8:30 – 9:15 a.m. – Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

10:10 – 10:55 a.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

11:35 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

1:30 – 2:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

4:35 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN)

5:40 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

6:05 p.m. – Cup qualifying impound; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

7:30 p.m. – GoBowling 250; 250 laps/187.5 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday, Sept. 22

Noon – Cup garage opens

5:30 p.m. – Driver-crew chief meeting

6:50 p.m. – Driver introductions

7:30 p.m. – Federated Auto Parts 400; 400 laps/300 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)