Richmond: Last call for Chase qualifiers
You can’t win if you’re not in. Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET ABC, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio) is the final opportunity to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™.
Six competitors – Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth – have claimed top-10 berths.
Seventh-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. faces the least pressure among non-qualifiers, needing only a finish of 32nd or better in the 400-lap race to enter the postseason. Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch complete the provisional top 10 – 16, 14 and six points ahead of 11th-place Jeff Gordon.
Logano and Biffle each have a single victory giving them some Chase insurance as potential Wild Cards.
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Busch and Gordon, however, both are without victories. Two-time winner Kasey Kahne (12th) and Martin Truex Jr. (13th) hold the provisional Wild Cards.
Gordon is familiar with this year’s circumstances.
In 2012, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion entered Richmond battling Kyle Busch for the final Wild Card berth. He prevailed by three points by finishing second.
“Winning is our goal. It’s what we want to do every weekend,” said Gordon, who would overhaul Kurt Busch for 10th-place by visiting Richmond’s Victory Lane for the first time since 2000. He has two wins overall at the 0.75-mile short track and finished 11th when the series visited the Virginia track earlier this year. His 1,415 laps led rank first among active drivers.
Gordon was among drivers who tested at Richmond recently.
“We were much better the second day of the test, but we still have a weekend full of hard work ahead of us,” said Gordon.
Gordon is among five drivers who have clinched Chase berths on the final night of the regular season. Ryan Newman’s sixth-place finish in 2005 is the best among the “last in” drivers. Brian Vickers (2009), Kasey Kahne (2006) and Jeremy Mayfield (2004) also were final-race qualifiers.
Disappointment Fueled Kyle Busch’s 2013 Resurgence
What a difference a year makes.
Kyle Busch didn’t qualify for the Chase in 2012. Now, he’ll enter this year’s postseason as no worse than the No. 3 seed among 12 drivers pursuing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Busch’s fourth victory of the year in Atlanta gives the Las Vegas native at least 12 bonus points when standings are reset following Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond.
Each Chase qualifier starts the postseason with a base of 2,000 points. Drivers finishing among the top 10 also receive three points per victory during the regular campaign.
Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Dave Rogers, disappointed that the No. 18 Toyota failed to make the Chase, competed as if they were among the final 12 teams.
“We missed the Chase but we didn’t give up. We didn’t just ‘lame duck’ the rest of the year and ride around,” Busch said of last year’s final 10 races. “We actually worked hard and pushed ourselves to be better. I think we did a good job of learning … what we could do and learning how we can contend and compete and that’s what we need to focus on this year is doing some of those same things.”
Busch is a four-time Richmond winner and ranks first in average finish (6.5) in the most recent 17 races at the 0.75-mile short track.
Matt Kenseth is the provisional top seed based upon his five victories in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is making the most of his first season with JGR winning at Las Vegas, Kansas, Darlington, Kentucky and – most recently – at Bristol.
Kenseth has led 16 of the season’s first 25 races including 140 in Richmond’s spring event en route to a finish of seventh.
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson currently holds the No. 2 seed with four wins and a ranking of first in regular season points. Johnson’s momentum, however, has stalled during the past month with finishes of 28th, 36th and 40th in his past three starts.
Kevin Harvick is the remaining Chase qualifier with multiple victories (two). Carl Edwards has a single victory. Clint Bowyer is the only Chase-qualified competitor without a win in 2013.
Owners’ Chase Even More Wide Open
For the first time in the 10-year history of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the 12 cars in the owners’ Chase might not have their corresponding drivers in the drivers’ Chase.
The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota could each make history, earning a spot in the owners’ Chase while neither of their drivers makes the drivers’ Chase.
With one win apiece heading into this weekend, a victory at Richmond would guarantee at least a Wild Card spot in the owners’ Chase.
The possible rarity comes from two different 2013 scenarios for the No. 14 and 55. Throughout, the No. 55 has planned for a multiple-driver campaign for 2013, shared by Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip. The No. 14 had to move to a multiple-driver lineup because of Tony Stewart’s broken leg prior to Watkins Glen. Since the injury, sustained in a Sprint Car race, the No. 14 has been piloted by Max Papis, Austin Dillon and Mark Martin. Vickers and Martin will drive the No. 55 and 14, respectively, at Richmond on Saturday.
At Richmond, Martin has one win and 30 top 10s in 55 starts. He has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four Richmond starts.
Vickers has three top 10s in 15 starts, with a best finish of seventh in 2009.
Currently, the top two Wild Cards for the owners’ Chase are the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
Home, Sweet, Home: Hamlin Returns To Richmond Looking For Silver Lining
This has NOT been Denny Hamlin’s season.
After a fractured vertebrae forced the Chesterfield, Va., native to miss four races (and most of a fifth, at Talladega), Hamlin has experienced mostly disheartening results and unlucky outcomes.
He currently is mired in a streak of 11 consecutive finishes of 18th or worse, averaging a finish of 28.3. He is mathematically eliminated from Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup consideration, missing NASCAR’s playoffs for the first time in a career that began in 2006.
So, what now? Richmond, that’s what. His championship hopes now dashed, Hamlin only has pride and wins for which to race.
This weekend’s race at Hamlin’s home track just might be the cure-all for one of the sport’s biggest talents. It’s one of his best tracks, and it’ll be a long time coming – the spring Richmond race was one of the four he missed.
Hamlin has two wins at Richmond, and finishes in the top 10 in four of the last five races. And when he doesn’t finish in the top 10, it’s usually the result of misfortune. For instance, in his last start there in September of 2012, Hamlin led 202 laps only to finish 18th.
Of Hamlin’s 14 starts at Richmond, he has tallied triple-digit laps-led figures in five of them. He also boasts the highest Richmond driver rating, at 117.8.
Solid 2014 Preview For Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing
Several permanent driver changes won’t take place until 2014 but at least one – AJ Allmendinger taking the wheel of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota – already is paying dividends.
Allmendinger, running selected events in the No. 47 since mid-season, posted the team’s first top-10 finish of the year last month at Watkins Glen International. A last-minute substitute for regular driver Bobby Labonte, who broke three ribs in a bicycle accident on the eve of last week’s race in Atlanta, Allmendinger finished 14th – another solid effort for the single-car team.
Allmendinger is signed for two additional races in 2013 – at Kansas and Homestead-Miami speedways – although Labonte’s status in the coming weeks could expand the Allmendinger-JTG schedule.
Atlanta’s weekend also saw 21-year-old Kyle Larson, the current NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader, officially announced as the driver of the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet next season. Larson isn’t expected to drive an EGR entry in the remaining races but the Drive for Diversity graduate, open-wheel star and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner could appear in selected NASCAR Sprint Cup events for another team.
EGR’s current driver Juan Pablo Montoya qualified the No. 42 Chevy third in Atlanta then led the AdvoCare 500 and finished seventh. Teammate Jamie McMurray ran among the top 10 for much of the race before finishing 11th in the No. 1 Chevrolet.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.
Two top-five milestones could be reached this weekend: Carl Edwards continues his search for 100 career top fives, and Clint Bowyer’s next top five will be No. 50. … At Richmond, Kasey Kahne will make NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start No. 350. … With Kyle Busch’s win last Sunday at Atlanta, Toyota reached its 250th NASCAR national series victory. … Ryan Truex will make his second NSCS start of his career this weekend at Richmond, driving the No. 51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing. He finished 42nd in his first start, two weeks ago at Bristol. … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won his first Coors Light Pole Award last week at Atlanta, becoming the 15th different pole winner this season. There were 17 different pole winners all of last season.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series Reaches Its Millennial Race
Over 21 years ago NASCAR consolidated the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division into a national touring series, now known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series. On February 13, 1982, the newly created division held its inaugural event – the Goody’s 300 – at Daytona International Speedway with Dale Earnhardt capturing the checkered flag.
Twenty-three champions and 136 different winners later, NASCAR’s No. 2 series will host its 1,000th race this Friday at Richmond International Raceway in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. Richmond hosted the series’ second race, which Tommy Houston won.
The first 999 races have played host to some of the most exciting on-track action in motorsports with its unique blend of veteran drivers and those trying to earn a seat in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Many competitors who honed their driving skills in the NASCAR Nationwide Series have gone on to championship-winning careers in NASCAR’s premier series, including Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski.
Below are just a few of the brightest highlights from the series’ first 999 races:
• October 31, 1982: Jack Ingram wins the first championship at Martinsville Speedway.
• October 28, 1984: Sam Ard wins his second of two championships, becoming the first two-time champion. Seven other drivers have since joined that list.
• July 2, 2010: The new NASCAR Nationwide Series car debuts at Daytona with Dale Earnhardt Jr. finding Victory Lane in the No. 3 Chevrolet carrying the Wrangler paint scheme made famous by his father.
• August 20, 2010: Kyle Busch wins the Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event two nights earlier. He would go on to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race the following evening to become the only driver to sweep all three national series events at a track in the same weekend.
• August 26, 2011: A little more than a year later, Busch returned to Bristol’s Victory Lane. This time the win marked his 50th triumph in the series surpassing Mark Martin as the all-time wins leader. Since then, Busch has added 10 more victories to his resume.
The Richmond Showdown: The Veteran v. The Young Gun
There are certainly others drivers who still have a chance to make a series run at the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, but two drivers have separated themselves from the pack: points leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon.
Hornish, who finished third in Saturday’s Atlanta race, extended his lead over Dillon from six to 10 markers. Through 24 races, he was the highest-finishing NASCAR Nationwide Series regular in eight of the events, including a victory at Las Vegas in the third race of 2013. His average finish in those eight races is an amazing 2.125. The three-time IndyCar Series champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion has a best finish of fifth at Richmond in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with a pair of seventh-place performances in six starts.
Dillon finished eighth at Atlanta to stay in close proximity to Hornish in the standings. Dillon, who won the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title, has not found Victory Lane this season, but has 15 top-10 finishes and six poles, including four that came in consecutive weeks. In four starts at the 0.75-mile track, Dillon has two top 10s – a ninth- and sixth-place finish. In the April race earlier this year, an accident ended his day early and left him 35th.
Dillon is followed by Elliott Sadler (-26), Regan Smith (-29) and Justin Allgaier (-47) in the standings. Brian Vickers (-52), Kyle Larson (-67), Brian Scott (-67), Trevor Bayne (-71) and Parker Kligerman (-118) round out the top 10.
The No. 54 Closes Gap On No. 22 In Owners’ Battle
With nine races remaining on the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule the fight for the owners’ title is just as tight as the drivers’ battle.
After a runner-up performance at Atlanta, Kyle Busch takes the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to Richmond for Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 only 11 points behind the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, having shaved the lead down from 16. Joey Logano piloted the No. 22 to a sixth-place finish at Atlanta, but Brad Keselowski will steer the Ford this weekend.
The No. 22 and No. 54 teams are so equally matched in terms of driver skill and quality of machine that every weekend the two teams are always favorites to run at the front of the pack or near the front. Through 24 races, the two teams have combined for 17 wins – No. 22 has eight, while the No. 54 has nine.
NASCAR Nationwide Series Etc.
Virginia native and current driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Elliott Sadler will run a special paint scheme this weekend honoring Jack Ingram, who won the series’ inaugural championship in 1982 and is a 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. … Ryan Reed, who made his NASCAR Nationwide debut earlier this year at Richmond, returns to the track in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 16 Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford. Supporters of the American Diabetes Association can submit images representing what A Day in the Life of Diabetes means to them for a chance to have their photos included in the paint scheme.
Youth Continues To Shine In NASCAR Camping World Trucks
With Chase Elliott’s victory at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, four different drivers under the age of 21 have won NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in 2013. Elliott also set a record as the youngest winner in the history of the series at 17 years, nine months and four days. He eclipsed the previous standard set by Ryan Blaney last year at Iowa Speedway – 18 years, eight months and 15 days.
In fact, of the 11 different winners so far this season in the series, seven of them are 23 or younger. Defending series champion James Buescher and Eldora race winner Ty Dillon are the “old” men at 23 with Kyle Larson, Jeb Burton, Blaney and Elliott all younger than 21 when they won races earlier this year.
Kentucky race winner Dillon was 21 when he took home the trophy earlier this year.
Current points leader Matt Crafton is the oldest winner this season at 37, with his 35-year-old teammate Johnny Sauter picking up victories at Daytona and Martinsville. Timothy Peters, who won the first race at Iowa Speedway earlier this season, is the lone remaining driver over 30 to win this season at 33 years young.
Kyle Busch, who has won at Charlotte, Dover and Bristol, is 28.
Iowa Speedway could also feature another record-breaking winner as Erik Jones, second to Peters in Iowa’s first 2013 race, is entered in the event. The Byron, Mich., native enters Sunday’s race at age 17 years, three months and 10 days.
Four-Time Champion Hornaday To Break Series Starts Record
It seems a long time ago when Ron Hornaday Jr. started the very first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from the pole in the in the 1995 Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway. Hornaday didn’t win that first race (finishing ninth) but the Palmdale, Calif., competitor has done just about everything else in the series.
Hornaday already holds records in several categories (series titles: four; wins: 51; top fives: 151; top 10s: 221; most years with consecutive poles: seven). He will add to the record book this Sunday in Iowa.
Hornaday will make his 337th career start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series when he takes the green flag, the start eclipsing the mark of 336 he shares with Rick Crawford.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Sunday’s Second Annual Fan Appreciation 200 presented by New Holland will be the seventh NCWTS race held at the track and the second consecutive season in which the track has hosted the series twice in a season. … Timothy Peters enters the race as the only repeat winner at Iowa with two wins. Should he win this weekend, he will be the first back-to-back winner of races at the .0.875-mile track. … Matt Crafton pursues his 15th consecutive top-10 finish of the season in Iowa where the points leader has a victory (2011) and six straight top 10s. …NASCAR Next member Ben Kennedy will make his second NCWTS start of his career this weekend. The great-grandson of the NASCAR founder Bill France finished 19th in his first start at Bristol Motor Speedway in August.
Labor Day Weekend Wins For Kwasniewski, Dumoulin And Ebersole
Dylan Kwasniewski scored his fifth win of the season with a victory in the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140 at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway on Monday, to extend his lead in the championship standings of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Kwasniewski, who won his third pole of the season with a fast-lap in qualifying on the historic half-mile oval, holds a 40-point lead with four races remaining. The 18-year-old driver is the reigning NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion and a member of the NASCAR Next program.
L.P. Dumoulin picked up right where he left off at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, winning the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 on Sunday and completing the season sweep of the two NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 events on the 2.459-mile road course near Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. The series returns to action at Barrie Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 7, with the second-to-the-last race of the season.
In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition, Lee Pulliam scored a sweep at Motor Mile Speedway on Friday and won one of two features at South Boston (Va.) Speedway on Saturday – as he closes in on his second straight national title. With it, he will join Philip Morris and NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Larry Phillips in that accomplishment. The NWAAS points wrap up next weekend.
Kyle Ebersole came from behind to capture his first NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour win at Langley Speedway on Saturday night with a victory in the Newport News Shipbuilding/Bayport Credit Union 150.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
- Next Race: Federated Auto Parts 400
- The Place: Richmond International Raceway
- The Date: Saturday, Sept. 7
- The Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)
- TV: ABC, 7 p.m. (ET)
- Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
- Distance: 300 miles (400 laps)
NASCAR Nationwide Series
- Next Race: Virginia 529 College Savings 250
- The Place: Richmond International Raceway
- The Date: Friday, September 6
- The Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)
- TV: ESPN, 7 p.m. (ET)
- Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
- Distance: 187.5 miles (250 laps)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
- Next Race: Fan Appreciation 200 presented by New Holland
- The Place: Iowa Speedway
- The Date: Sunday, Sept. 8
- The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
- TV: FOX Sports 1, 2 p.m. (ET)
- Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
- Distance: 200 miles (175 laps)