The Saturday night race at Richmond got off to a slow start but ended with a bang. Unlike the previous week, fans were treated to some nice weather to go along with their racing. This race last season was won by Joey Logano but it was eventually encumbered due to a post-race inspection failure. This year’s Richmond run went encumber-free and featured a great NASCAR Overtime finish.
The stage began with Martin Truex Jr. on the pole looking for his first short track win of his career. He got out to the early lead until Joey Logano ran him down and took the lead on lap 39.
From there on Logano was able to run away with the lead and hang on to it until the end of the first stage. This was Logano’s first stage win of the season. He ran very well at Richmond last spring en route to his victory, and he seemed to have the car tuned up early in this one.
Kyle Busch started the race in the 32nd position and used most of the first stage to cut through the field. By the end of the stage, he cracked the top-10 and finish the stage in the sixth position. He was the only Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver to finish in the top-10 of the first stage, even though two other JGR drivers started inside the top-10 (Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones).
Rookie William Byron put together a solid start to the race and finished the first stage in fourth. The finish earned him seven points. His teammate, Chase Elliott, was the only other Hendrick driver in the top-10 at the end of the stage, he finished seventh.
Aric Almirola also had a great first stage. He began the race back in 25th but finished up the stage running second, good for eight stage points. Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) was able to place all four of their cars in the top-10 at the end of the first stage, with Almirola leading the way.
The first stage went caution-free as all drivers did a good job of racing each other clean.
The second stage nearly mirrored the first. Once again Joey Logano put his car out front and did what he had to do to earn his second stage win of the day. With his two stage wins on the day, he earned two playoff points that will be big down the stretch when the playoffs begin.
While Logano was able to grab the stage win again, the SHR cars continued to make their charge to the front. Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, and Kurt Busch finished the second stage running second through fourth. Kevin Harvick was the only SHR driver outside the top-5, he finished the stage 10th.
William Byron had another solid run, he finished his Hendrick Chevy in the fifth position. He was the only Hendrick driver in stage two to finish in the top-10.
Just like the first stage, this one also went caution-free. With the first two stages complete in the race, the only cautions on the track were from the conclusion of both stages. This was a major change in comparison to the countless cautions that occurred during the first two stages of the race last weekend at Bristol.
The final stage is where things finally started to heat up on the track.
Many storylines played into the conclusion of this one. Joey Logano was looking to reach victory lane for the first time in a year, Martin Truex Jr. was looking to grab his first short track win of his career and Kyle Busch was looking to become the second driver to win three straight races this season.
As the sun set, the handling began to fade on the 22 car and Logano began to slip back.
Kyle Busch’s car really came alive and the Truex Jr./Kyle Busch battle was on full display once again. Just like they have over the past two season, Truex Jr. and Busch found themselves battling for the lead near the end of the race.
Unfortunately for Truex Jr., his crew struggled on the final pit stop, losing him nine positions. He wasn’t able to bounce back, finishing the race in the 14th position.
During a few caution laps, teammates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson appeared to trade paint a few times on purpose. McMurray was clearly unhappy with something Larson had done on the track.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out a late caution that pushed the race into overtime. While in the pits, Kyle Busch had a great stop and was able to get his car out in first.
On the final restart, Kyle Busch jumped out to a lead while the pack battled behind him. He was able to hold off the pack to earn his third consecutive victory of the season. Chase Elliott passed Denny Hamlin on the final restart to finish in the runner-up position for the eighth time in his short career.
Next week NASCAR travels to Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won this race last season, earning his first career victory in NASCAR’s top series.
Kyle Busch has one career win at Talladega that came back in April of 2008. He’s looking to become the first driver to win four consecutive races since Jimmie Johnson did it back in 2007.
Featured image courtesy of motorsport.com/LAT Images
“From Our Haus to Yours”