Richmond Raceway

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott rides into Watkins Glen at No. 1

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Chase Elliott is the man of the year, and Kevin Harvick is the man of the moment.

Continuing a remarkable resurgence, Harvick won Sunday’s Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway for his second straight victory. The win boosted Harvick five spots to second in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, one place behind leader Elliott, who was fifth at Richmond.

Elliott retains the top spot based on the fact that he has won twice as many races (four) as any other driver. Plus, he is cruising to the regular-season championship.

Christopher Bell also advanced in the rankings this week, moving up a spot to fourth based on a strong second-place finish Sunday.

The Cup Series rolls on to Watkins Glen International Sunday for a 3 p.m. ET race (USA Network).

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 1) — Elliott wasn’t a force Sunday at Richmond, but he still ran near the front and came home fifth. He has won four of the past 14 races, including three of the past eight.

2. Kevin Harvick (Last week: No. 7)Harvick is streaky: 65 straight losses, two straight wins. Of the 106 laps he has led this year, 93 were scored at Michigan and Richmond in victories.

3. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 3) — Logano is on the move. After four consecutive finishes of 20th or worse, he has finished in the top six three times in a row as Ford teams have shown more spark.

4. Christopher Bell (Last week: No. 5) — Bell moves up a spot after challenging Kevin Harvick for the Richmond win in the closing laps, finishing .441 of a second as runner-up.

5. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 2) — Larson was up front for 11 laps at Richmond but was a non-entity at the finish, coming home 14th.

6. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 4) — Blaney scored a 10th at Richmond in his continuing effort to outpoint Martin Truex Jr. and claim the 16th and final spot in the playoffs.

7. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 9)A slow pit stop near race’s end probably cost Hamlin a shot at first or second Sunday. He finished fourth.

8. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 6) — Chastain’s latest on-track incident involved Kyle Busch. Chastain finished two laps down in 18th and has had four consecutive finishes of 18th or worse.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: unranked) — Truex returns to the rankings after a seventh-place run Sunday. He remains in Ryan Blaney’s shadow in the battle for the 16th playoff spot.

10. Kyle Busch (Last week: unranked) — Busch is back in the top 10 after battling through a couple of incidents Sunday to finish ninth.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 8 last week), Bubba Wallace (No. 10 last week).

Winners and losers at Richmond Raceway

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Here’s a look at winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Richmond Raceway:

WINNERS

Kevin Harvick — Twenty-nine wins after the age of 40? Kevin Harvick suddenly is a superstar again. He’s likely to be a big threat in the playoffs. This is his 13th multi-win season.

Denny Hamlin — Hamlin led 22 laps and probably should have been a contender for the win. A slow late-race pit stop blocked the way.

MORE: Richmond Cup results

MORE: Richmond Cup driver points

Joey Logano — Logano was fierce in the middle of the race. He won the second stage and led 222 laps. He had led only 206 laps for the season entering Sunday’s race.

Chris Buescher — Buescher chased Harvick for the lead late in the race, finished third and turned in one of RFK Racing’s best performances of the season.

LOSERS

Ross Chastain — Chastain was involved in another bumpup — this time with Kyle Busch — and finished 18th despite leading 80 laps. He fell two spots in the seasonal point standings to fifth.

Martin Truex Jr. — In the battle for what might be the final playoff spot, Truex finished ahead of Ryan Blaney (seventh to Blaney’s 10th), but Blaney outpointed Truex 38-31 and increased his playoff standings lead over Truex to 26.

Erik Jones — Jones was the innocent victim of an accident and finished 35th, parking after 240 laps.

Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR Cup race at Richmond Raceway

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RICHMOND, Virginia — Sixty-five losses in a row. Two wins in a row.

Kevin Harvick might be driving through an ultimate U-turn.

Harvick won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 400-lap race at Richmond Raceway for his second straight victory, underlining the strength of the Rodney Childers-led Ford team as the Cup playoffs approach. He finished .441 of a second in front of Christopher Bell.

After months of speculation that the veteran Harvick, 46, might miss the playoffs, now he appears to be poised to be a force in the search for a second Cup championship.

Call him Mr. August.

MORE: Richmond Cup results

MORE: Richmond Cup driver points

“It’s like I said last week (after winning at Michigan),” Harvick told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “The cars have been running good week in and week out. We were able to get the car handling a lot better after the first run.”

The victory was the 60th of Harvick’s Cup career but his first at Richmond since 2013. He ended a 65-race winless streak with a victory last week at Michigan International Speedway.

Harvick showed impressive power in the race’s third stage as teams tried various pit strategies. He held off all challengers, including Chris Buescher, who shadowed Harvick over the closing miles trying to score his first win of the year, and Bell.

Buescher was third, followed by Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Two races — at Watkins Glen, New York and Daytona Beach, Fla. — remain on the regular-season schedule. Blaney’s Sunday run kept him in front of Truex for the final playoff spot.

The race was generally placid for the first two stages. Ross Chastain led the entire first stage (70 laps) and 10 laps beyond. Logano took control in the second stage and totaled 139 laps led through the two stages.

The start of the third stage was a mess. Chastain made contact with Kyle Busch, sending both of their cars into a slide. The cars of Erik Jones and Truex were damaged in the melee.

Busch had tapped the third-turn wall early in the race but escaped with minimal damage.

Harvick passed Logano for the lead on lap 334 and then moved in front for good with 48 laps to go during a round of pit stops.

“As you look at the last nine or 10 years at Stewart-Haas and back at RCR, I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great people and be able to drive some fast cars and go to victory lane a whole bunch of times,” said Harvick, who has scored 29 wins after the age of 40. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Stage 1 winner: Ross Chastain

Stage 2 winner: Joey Logano

Who had a good race: Kevin Harvick, who seemed to be on the ropes a few weeks ago, now looks like a champ. Two straight wins and six top-10 finishes in the past eight races. … Joey Logano led 222 laps before fading in the final stage. … Ryan Blaney stayed in front of Martin Truex Jr. for the final playoff spot.

Who had a bad race: Kyle Busch bumped the wall and was knocked around a couple of times and wasn’t able to mount a challenge at the front. He failed to lead a lap. … “Super-sub” Ty Gibbs, replacing the injured Kurt Busch for the fourth straight week, finally had a sour day. Engine trouble parked him after 180 laps, and he finished last.

Next: The Cup Series moves on to Watkins Glen International in New York Aug. 21 for a 3 p.m. ET race (USA Network).

Sunday’s Cup race at Richmond: How to watch, start times, TV info, weather

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Richmond start times: The pressure is on for the top two winless drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, but the good news for Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. is that Sunday’s race at Richmond Raceway (USA, 2 p.m. ET) should offer a solid opportunity for locking into the playoffs.

With three races remaining in the regular season, Blaney is second in points but still on the bubble with 15 winners occupying slots in the 16-driver playoff grid.

Blaney showed a major uptick in performance during the April 3 race at Richmond, which he started on the pole position. The Team Penske driver led a race-high 128 laps, won Stage 1 and finished seventh – his career best in 12 starts at the 0.75-mile oval.

Truex has been much better in Virginia’s capital, winning three of the past six races on the short track. He led 80 laps during a fourth place earlier this season that was the seventh consecutive top five at Richmond for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

With Kevin Harvick’s victory at Michigan, Truex currently is outside championship eligibility, and the 2017 series champion is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Given his team’s struggles on road courses and his winless career record at superspeedways, Richmond could be Truex’s last, best hope for a win before the regular season ends at Watkins Glen and Daytona.

This will mark the second annual race for Richmond this year — and the first time since the 2004 inception of NASCAR’s postseason that the track hasn’t held a direct impact on the championship by playing host to either the regular-season cutoff or a race during the playoffs.

For more storylines to follow, check out our viewer’s guide.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway

(All Times Eastern)

START: Command to start engines at 3:10 p.m. … Green flag to wave at 3:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon … Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m. … Nick Terry of Motor Racing Outreach will give the invocation at 3:02 p.m. … Specialist Maya Rodriguez of the Training & Doctrine Band in the U.S. Army, will perform the national anthem at 3:03 p.m.

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

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 70. Stage 2 ends at Lap 230.

TV/RADIO: USA Network prerace coverage will begin at 2 p.m. MRN coverage begins at 2 p.m. and will also stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast.

STREAMING: NBC Sports

FORECAST: According to Weather Underground, it’s expected to be 79 degrees with a zero percent chance of rain at the green flag.

LAST TIME: Capitalizing on an alternate tire strategy of two pit stops in the final stage, Denny Hamlin outran Kevin Harvick and William Byron to win at his hometown track in the April 3 race.

LAST YEAR: In the second race of the 2021 playoffs, Truex led the final 51 laps and beat Hamlin by 1.417 seconds to secure advancement to the second round in the Sept. 11, 2021 race.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

Bubba Wallace re-signs multiyear deal with 23XI Racing

Ward Burton continues to chase outdoor passion after NASCAR

Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 draws international interest

Kurt Busch out for fourth consecutive race; replaced by Ty Gibbs

Noah Gragson will drive No. 42 in Cup for Petty GMS next season

Kyle Larson wins pole for NASCAR Cup race at Richmond Raceway

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RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Larson, the last driver in the final round of qualifying, ran 117.177 miles per hour and edged Ross Chastain for the pole position for Sunday’s 400-lap NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway.

Larson finished his qualifying run at about 7 p.m. ET then left the track hurriedly to travel to Knoxville, Iowa to race in Saturday night’s Knoxville Nationals sprint car race, an event he won last year.

Following Larson and Chastain, who ran 116.883, in the top 10 were Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr., Cole Custer, Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Fifteen drivers have qualified for the playoff grid entering Sunday’s race. Kevin Harvick won last week at Michigan, ending a 65-race winless streak, to fill the 15th spot.

Blaney holds the 16th playoff spot based on points.

MORE: NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup, results at Richmond

Truex is the first driver below the playoff cutline and is shooting for a win in one or more of the final three races of the regular season. Truex, who has won three times at Richmond and was fourth here in this year’s spring race, will be among the favorites Sunday.

Winning the pole delayed Larson’s planned departure for Iowa and one of his favorite races of the year.

“The schedule couldn’t have been much worse,” he said. “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.”

The cars of Keselowski, Noah Gragson, Chris Buescher, Justin Haley and Todd Gilliland failed inspection twice. Each team had a crew member ejected from the track.