The time has arrived for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series short track Saturday night racing at Richmond International Raceway. The first idea that comes to mind when you think of short track racing is tempers flaring and cautions coming out. Last night we only saw three yellow flags all night in 250 laps, can the Cup boys equal the same thing tonight?
The command to start engines in the Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 has been given. When the green flag flies, Juan Pablo Montoya will start the race from the pole position. Regan Smith continues to show great qualifying runs with a second place starting position. A couple of names to watch from the back of the pack are Jimmie Johnson starting 30th, Tony Stewart starting 31st, and Kurt Busch starts all the way back in 36th. Keep an eye on Denny Hamlin, winner of the Nationwide Series race last night, who starts 11th.
As the drivers make their parade laps before the race, a great crowd has assembled for the race tonight. Not quite a sellout at the track, but not too many empty seats. From what I can tell as well, there are no advertisements over seats to hide them as well. A quick side note as the race was coming to conclusion; the stands did not look as full as the start of the race. A lot of people may have headed for the exit early.
I am going with the Dale Earnhardt Jr. HotPass Channel on DirecTV for the race tonight. Will comment on anything interesting that might be said. Earnhardt Jr. will start the race in 24th.
Pace car is off and we are green. Montoya gets to the bottom of the track pulls in front of Smith to lead down the backstretch. Clint Bowyer now gets past Smith and moves into the second place position. The field from fourth on back is still two by two.
Lap nine and Jeff Gordon is on the move from his sixth place starting position. Gordon goes by Smith and takes the third place position.
Fox is showing Johnson’s telemetry from the steering wheel. Why don’t they do that more often? That is a great graphic to show how the driver is working the car around the track.
Gordon’s Twitter feed is indicating that he is loose in, tight center, loose off.
Lap 30 or so, back from commercial break, and Bowyer has made the first pass for the lead.
Here is a quick update on Trevor Bayne who is at the Mayo Clinic now. Bayne indicated via Twitter that the doctors do not think his illness has anything to do with the insect bite, but more tests to determine what is going on. We wish Bayne all the best and speedy recovery.
Lap 37 and the leaders have caught the back of the field and lapping cars has begun. Earnhardt Jr. indicates on the radio he is loose in, tight off.
Lap 44 and Kasey Kahne in the Red Bull machine has made his way to the front. Second is Bowyer, Jeff Gordon third, JPM fourth, and Smith fifth.
Lap 60 and Earnhardt Jr. says he cannot put the gas all the way down on the straightaway because the car is loose.
Lap 75 and Hamlin has made it to the front of the field. A lot of cars have gone a lap down now, including Earnhardt Jr. Currently there are 25 cars on the lead lap. Leaders are picking it up and putting it down in the first quarter of the race.
Lap 78 and Brad Keselowski will short pit and take his machine to pit road for tires and fuel. Risky gamble assuming the caution will not come out.
Lap 82 and Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick short pit as well. Johnson is now in the clutches of the leader as he is about to be lapped.
Lap 86 and pit road has become a busy place with a lot of cars stopping for service. When Keselowski hit pit road, that really got the cycle started with everyone deciding to come for service. Lap 90 and Hamlin is in. Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. have pitted as well.
It looks like stops have cycled around now, on Lap 94 the top five is Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, and Kahne. No penalties during the stops. Earnhardt Jr. still not happy as he drops the F bomb on the radio.
Lap 101 and Kyle Busch has a huge lead of over five seconds.
Lap 105 and Juan Pablo Montoya got help from Ryan Newman and caught the wall on the back stretch. There is damage to the rear end of the car. Lap 108 and we get the first caution of the race for debris from the wall tapping.
Booooo, HotPass just censored Earnhardt Jr.’s channel for too much language coming out of the 88. Then we get two more F words out of Jr. Jr. stays out when the leaders pit in order to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap. Kyle Busch wins the race off of pit road. Lucky dog on the caution will be Keselowski.
Lap 116 and Kyle Busch gets us back up to speed with Bowyer in second on the high side. Busch gets an advantage of 10 car lengths off of turn two. Carl Edwards is stuck on the outside and is losing a lot of positions. The field is all jumbled up towards the middle of the pack. Edwards finally gets in line and we soldier on.
Lap 150 and the top five is Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Bowyer, and Martin. There are currently 21 cars on the lead lap.
Lap 179 and Steve Letarte tells Jr. that there may be a debris caution coming up soon.
Lap 186 and the caution is out for debris on the backstretch. Leaders will be on pit road for four tires and fuel. Kyle Busch holds the lead off of pit road with Hamlin second and Gordon third. Earnhardt Jr. is the lucky dog on this caution.
Lap 194 and we go back to speed with Busch leading the field into turn one. Gordon gets the jump on the low side over Hamlin and takes second. There is side by side racing from about fifth of sixth on back.
Leaders: 4 for 5 Lead Changes
Most Laps Led: Kyle Busch 110 Laps
Cautions: 2 for 15 Laps
Lead Lap Cars: 19
Average Speed: 104.630 MPH
Lap 200 and Jeff Gordon gets the lead from Kyle Busch. Busch continues to stalk Gordon’s bumper. Lap 204 and Busch gets the lead back.
Lap 236 and the caution is out, of course Fox is at commercial, Newman gets payback from JPM by wrecking him in turn three. Newman said earlier on the radio that there is going to be problems after the race. Leaders hit pit road and Hamlin wins the race off, followed by Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. David Regan was the lucky dog.
Lap 144 and we go back to green flag racing with Busch beating Hamlin to the start line even through Hamlin was the leader. No black flag yet. Somehow now Martin Truex Jr. is now leading the race. I am not sure how Kyle Busch did not get a black flag. I have Tweeted to @NASCAR for an explanation.
Lap 151 and I have not given an update on Earnhardt Jr. lately. Junior is up to 12th now after battling various conditions all night. Seems like they have made improvements to the car and they are beginning to move forward.
Lap 255 and we get a caution after Johnson gets into the back of Joey Logano and sends him into the turn two wall. Leaders are in for stops. Kahne wins the race off with Edwards second. Various strategies this stop with some cars taking two tires. Tony Stewart is the lucky dog for this caution.
NASCAR has warned JPM to stay away from Newman.
Lap 266 and we get the green flag we get the green flag with Matt Kenseth leading. Kenseth did not pit on the caution. Caution is out for a spin in turn one by Casey Mears. Jeff Burton is the lucky dog on this caution.
NASCAR did not respond to my black flag question from earlier. I still do not understand why the black flag was given to Kyle Busch. He beat the leader to the line and that is the only car that cannot be passed prior to hitting the start finish line. Just a shake your head moment, and even the Fox broadcast did not provide an explanation. It should not matter that Busch gave positions back. I see a great debate looming over the restart this week.
Lap 270 and the green is out and Kenseth is the leader with Kahne now getting into second off of turn four. The field is a little jumbled from the last restart and strategies from the pit stops. As a side note, Fox missed the restart.
Lap 275 and Hamlin now jumps to the lead.
Lap 278 and we get another caution. Keselowski gets involved with Landon Cassill and he goes for the spin. Keselowski stays off the wall and will continue on. Cars form the 10th spot on back hit pit road. Paul Menard is the lucky dog on this caution.
Lap 284 and we get the green flag again with Hamlin hauling it back into turn one. Lap 187 and Kyle Busch takes the lead from Hamlin.
Lap 292 and the caution is out for Keselowski again. Keselowski shot up the track and bumped another car and spun on the front stretch. At this point, it is time for Keselowski to call it a night. The cautions are getting annoying. Jimmie Johnson is the lucky dog for the caution. Leaders are in for tires and fuel. Newman wins the race off of pit road with Busch being second.
Lap 299 and the green is out. The field is jumbled for cars staying out on the last caution. Edwards leads the field back to speed with Junior on his outside. Burton now jumps to second.Lap 301 and the caution is out with Jeff Gordon in the backstretch wall. Multiple cars involved when they were racing three wide. Kenseth got spun upward into Gordon by Bowyer. It looks like at least 10 cars got some piece of the action in the wreck. Leaders stay out on this caution. Dave Blaney is the lucky dog on this caution.
Lap 314 and we finally get the green with Burton leading the race into one. Three cars are all racing for the lead going back into one, Busch is up to second. Lap 316 and Busch is going to take the lead from Burton with an outside pass.
Lap 350 and the top five is Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Truex Jr., Kahne, and Burton. The racing has kind of strung out at this point, and we are waiting for the last pit stop to come. Someone is going to short pit and then it will get interesting.
There are 35 laps to go and some cars can make it to the end, and some cannot. Busch continues to lead, and you can move Burton up to fourth at this point. Busch has just over a two second lead at this point.
With 30 laps to go Truex Jr. has a tire go down, and then has to come back in for a missing lug nut. They are now saying it is a broken stud on the hub.
With 15 laps to go the top five is Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Kahne, Ragan, and Edwards.
With 10 laps to go now there have been no changes in the top five. Some cars are now hitting pit road for a splash of fuel. With five laps to go we have the same top five.
The checkered flag is out and Kyle Busch sees his fuel hold out and gets his second win of the season. The top five is Busch, Hamlin, Kahne, Ragan, and Edwards.
I found the first half of this race to more exciting than the second half. I still cannot figure out how Busch was not penalized earlier in the race for beating the leader to the start finish line on a restart. More on that later this week.
Indy 500 coverage starts tonight. Be sure to stop by for all month long for updates and commentary on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Final Race Stats:
Leaders: 10 for 16 Lead Changes
Most Laps Led: Kyle Busch 236 Laps
Cautions: 8 for 60 Laps
Lead Lap Cars: 9
Average Speed: 95.278 mph
Time of the Race: 3:12:49
Winner: Kyle Busch
Lowest Position During the Race: 21st
Best Lap: 124.321 mph
Average Lap Time: 28.33 Seconds
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Darlington is up next week!