CP MOTORSPORTS - TOYOTA OWNERS 400, RICHMOND NOTEBOOK
EVENT FINAL NOTEBOOK - KURT BUSCH RUNS AWAY WITH OVERDUE VICTORY
The wait and frustration is over.
Kurt Busch snapped a 35 race winless streak by dominating the field in Sunday's rain rescheduled Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond International Raceway.
Busch, suspended for the first three races of the 2015 Sprint Cup series season, dominated the rain-delayed race by leading 291 of the scheduled 400 laps. The victory becomes the 26th of his Sprint Cup career and second Sprint Cup win at Richmond.
Busch believes the strength of his team is what propeled him to Victory Lane.
"Today is a great day of total team execution," Busch said. "It starts with building a fast race car back at the shop then coming to the race track and fine tuning it. Really a great effort from team communication because we felt like we were a fifth place car after practice and the way that the team looked at things. We even qualified better than we thought, and there was still this realization of 'Hey, let's continue to fine tune it. Let's not ignore the lack of speed that we don't have. Let's go for it all.' That's what Tony Gibson did along with Johnny Klausmeier, our engineer, and everybody chipped in did."
Busch was able to hold onto the lead following challenges from Stewart Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, who finished second, and fourth place finisher Jamie McMurray.
Harvick, who battled tire issues early in the race, was the only other driver within three seconds of Busch at the time of the checkered flag. Even with his early season success, Harvick still thinks about the race Richmond might have been.
"I'm just really happy for everyone at Stewart Haas Racing, especially Kurt and Tony Gibson and all those guys on the 41 car," Harvick said. "In turn I'm a little bit frustrated just for the fact that I thought we had a car that was capable of winning the race. We just got so far behind with one set of tires there and fell all the way to the middle of the pack luckily we had a good enough car to get it back. Really happy with the way things went just ran out of time there at the end."
McMurray was passed for third place by Jimmie Johnson late in the race but managed to pass Busch on a long green flag run at one point in the race. However, McMurray's speed was nowhere to be found on short green flag runs during the race which is where the race ended.
"In order for us to have a shot at winning we just had to have a long green flag run at the end," McMurray said. "The tires seemed to be a little bit inconsistent that we had this weekend. We had a set in the middle of the race that seemed to be a long ways off, and the set I got at the end seemed a little bit off. Overall we just didn't have a car that would take off for the first 25 to 30 laps. It had to go green for a while."
Tony Gibson, crew chief for Kurt Busch, missed last week's race at Bristol while he was battling Kidney Stones. Gibson has been with Stewart Haas Racing since the team's inception in 2009 believes the team made great strides to be more successful over the course of the weekend.
"We didn't have a car to win the race," Gibson admitted. "So when you don't have a car that can win the race, you have to execute and think about things that are going to be better for long run speed and that's what we did. Today we executed, we did a good job overnight making changes. Kurt is so involved in our changes that we do; he's in the loop 100 percent, and we don't do anything unless we discuss it with him. As a group we go through it. So I think that's the bond we share with Kurt that a lot of drivers don't have with their teams is how involved the driver is with our setups and the way we're going to move forward so hopefully we can win four or five more."
No. 1 qualifier Joey Logano finished fifth just ahead of Kasey Kahne in sixth. Last week's winner at Bristol, Matt Kenseth, finished seventh followed by Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr, rounding out the top ten.
Defending Xfinity series champion Chase Elliott made his second career start and finished on the lead lap in 16th place.
As the Sprint Cup series heads to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend, defending champion Kevin Harvick continues to control the Chase for the Championship points standing with a 58 point lead over six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
xFINITY RACE RECAP - HAMLIN DOMINATES FROM START TO FINISH
Denny Hamlin rebounded from a tough weekend at Bristol in dominating fashion.
Behind the strength of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Hamlin was able to drive away with a victory in Friday night's Toyota Care 250 at Richmond International Raceway.
Hamlin, who qualified on the pole, led 248 of the race's scheduled 250 laps on his way to his 11th career victory in the Xfinity series and first since 2011. The victory is also his third victory at Richmond in the Xfinity series, he has five combined wins at the track he considers his home track.
"There's not much you could complain about. The car was flawless," Hamlin said. "This reminds me a lot of the night I had in Cup a few years ago where we led every lap but one I think, and we had a flat tire with 15 laps to go. So it reminded me of that and we were just thinking about all the scenarios in your head of how youíre going to lose it, but luckily all the cautions fell the way we needed them to and we were able to get a victory."
The win was also a monumental victory for Hamlin's manufacturer as it became the 100th win in NASCAR for Toyota.
"It's such a big weekend for everyone at Toyota, I didnít know that they had 99 wins," Hamlin admitted. "They told me before the race, 'Hey, if things go well, it's 100."
"I'm like, "Whoa, whoa. Don't, I'm very superstitious when it comes to that kind of stuff."
Hamlin lost the lead on two separate but brief occasions to Brian Scott and Elliott Sadler. Both times, however, Hamlin powered back to the top spot.
Joey Logano, who piloted the #22 Discount Tire Ford for Team Penske, finished 3.719 seconds behind the Virginia native in second place. Logano knew there wasn't much he could have done to slow down the momentum of the hometown hero.
"Start the whole weekend over maybe? He was just so fast. We had nothing for him," Logano said. "We had a second-place Discount Tire Ford Mustang and that is right where we finished. We knew he was fast in practice, and it transferred right over.
I know what it is like to be on the other end of the butt-whipping and it isn't as much fun from this side. Congrats to that team, we just didnít have a shot tonight."
Despite Hamlin's dominance, the race had its action packed moments as three members of Brendan Gaughan's team were rushed to a local hospital after they sustained burns when the pit stall went up in flames. The flames occurred due to a spark and a malfunction, according to Gaughan's crew chief Shane Wilson.
Regan Smith took the checkered flag in third followed by Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and Bristol relief driver Erik Jones and defending Xfinity Champion Chase Elliott rounding out the top five.
Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher entered the race deadlocked atop the points standing, but Buescher finished in 20th place. Dillon crossed the stripe in ninth, giving him sole possession of the points lead.
With the Xfinity series heading to Talladega Superspeedway, Dillon is now eight points ahead of the defending champion Elliott.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - QUALIFYING IS DONE, AND LOGANO IS THE ONE
ONCE AGAIN IT'S LOGANO ON THE POLE - At the end of last year's spring race at Richmond International Raceway, Joey Logano took the checkered flag in the top spot.
Once again, Logano starts from the pole position. The Team Penske driver beat out his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate turned rival Denny Hamlin, who qualified second, for his third pole since Atlanta and Martinsville.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kurt Busch positioned himself in the third spot and will start one position ahead of AJ Allmendinger, who powered his way to a fourth starting position. Busch's SHR teammate Kevin Harvick rounds out the top five for Saturday night's event.
Hendrick Motorsports rookie and Jeff Gordon's heir-apparent Chase Elliott qualified for his second Sprint Cup event and made it to the second round of knockout qualifying. Elliott will roll off the grid in 16th.
Elliott's HMS teammates have all won events at Richmond struggled in qualifying. Jeff Gordon will start 11th while Dale Earnhardt, Jr, starts in 26th. Jimmie Johnson qualified 36th, and Kasey Kahne qualified 40th.
The two drivers who failed to qualify for Saturday's race are Jeb Burton and Brendan Gaughan.
THE FINAL STANDINGS - The following is today's final qualifying list.
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed Lap # # Laps -Fastest -Next
1 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 21.248 127.071 3 4 0.000 0.000
2 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota 21.294 126.796 3 3 0.046 0.046
3 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 21.326 126.606 4 4 0.078 0.032
4 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 21.332 126.570 2 2 0.084 0.006
5 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet 21.356 126.428 1 3 0.108 0.024
6 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet 21.409 126.115 2 3 0.161 0.053
7 2 Brad Keselowski Alliance Truck Parts Ford 21.424 126.027 4 4 0.176 0.015
8 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 21.459 125.821 3 3 0.211 0.035
9 1 Jamie McMurray Energizer Chevrolet 21.499 125.587 3 4 0.251 0.040
10 18 David Ragan M&M's Crispy Toyota 21.519 125.471 2 3 0.271 0.020
11 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 21.540 125.348 3 3 0.292 0.021
12 42 Kyle Larson Target Chevrolet 21.604 124.977 2 3 0.356 0.064
Qualifying Round: 2
1 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota 21.080 128.083 2 2 0.000 0.000
2 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet 21.152 127.648 2 2 0.072 0.072
3 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 21.211 127.292 2 3 0.131 0.059
4 2 Brad Keselowski Alliance Truck Parts Ford 21.220 127.238 1 2 0.140 0.009
5 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet 21.236 127.143 2 2 0.156 0.016
6 1 Jamie McMurray Energizer Chevrolet 21.262 126.987 3 3 0.182 0.026
7 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 21.278 126.892 2 2 0.198 0.016
8 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 21.294 126.796 2 3 0.214 0.016
9 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 21.297 126.778 3 3 0.217 0.003
10 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 21.303 126.743 2 3 0.223 0.006
11 18 David Ragan M&M's Crispy Toyota 21.303 126.743 3 3 0.223 0.000
12 42 Kyle Larson Target Chevrolet 21.313 126.683 3 6 0.233 0.010
13 14 Tony Stewart Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 21.358 126.416 2 7 0.278 0.045
14 55 Brett Moffitt # Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 21.359 126.410 2 5 0.279 0.001
15 27 Paul Menard CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet 21.368 126.357 3 7 0.288 0.009
16 25 Chase Elliott(i) NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 21.373 126.328 6 6 0.293 0.005
17 15 Clint Bowyer AAA Insurance Toyota 21.376 126.310 3 3 0.296 0.003
18 19 Carl Edwards ARRIS Toyota 21.390 126.227 2 7 0.310 0.014
19 40 Landon Cassill(i) Newtown Building Supplies Chevrolet 21.398 126.180 2 6 0.318 0.008
20 3 Austin Dillon American Ethanol Chevrolet 21.400 126.168 2 4 0.320 0.002
21 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet 21.470 125.757 4 6 0.390 0.070
22 51 Justin Allgaier Brandt Chevrolet 21.487 125.657 3 6 0.407 0.017
23 31 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans Chevrolet 21.512 125.511 3 3 0.432 0.025
24 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fifth Third Bank Ford 21.607 124.960 2 3 0.527 0.095
KAHNE, KESELOWSKI FASTEST IN SPRINT CUP PRACTICES - Despite being forced to serve a 15-minute penalty at the beginning of Friday's opening practice session, Kasey Kahne put down the fastest lap at a speed of 126.357 mph to lead the second practice session.
Kahne failed qualifying inspection three times last week in Bristol.
Team Penske's Brad Keselowski paced the field during the first practice session with a speed of 126.086 mph. Keselowski won the fall race last season at Richmond.
Returning from a neck injury which sidelined him from a good portion of last week's competition at Bristol, Denny Hamlin recovered to run 10th in the first practice and 5th in the final practice.
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed Lap # # Laps -Fastest -Next
1 5 Kasey Kahne Great Clips Chevrolet 21.368 126.357 46 46 ---.--- ---.---
2 16 Greg Biffle Ortho Ford 21.401 126.162 32 33 -0.033 -0.033
3 19 Carl Edwards ARRIS Toyota 21.424 126.027 38 38 -0.056 -0.023
4 1 Jamie McMurray Energizer Chevrolet 21.454 125.851 44 45 -0.086 -0.030
5 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota 21.456 125.839 42 44 -0.088 -0.002
6 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet 21.466 125.780 31 36 -0.098 -0.010
7 40 Landon Cassill(i) Newtown Building Supplies Chevrolet 21.488 125.652 56 56 -0.120 -0.022
8 55 Brett Moffitt # Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 21.501 125.576 53 54 -0.133 -0.013
9 38 David Gilliland The Pete Store Ford 21.524 125.441 27 28 -0.156 -0.023
10 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Pro Services Chevrolet 21.530 125.406 13 14 -0.162 -0.006
11 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 21.538 125.360 55 60 -0.170 -0.008
12 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 21.542 125.337 43 43 -0.174 -0.004
13 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 21.549 125.296 38 42 -0.181 -0.007
14 3 Austin Dillon American Ethanol Chevrolet 21.582 125.104 58 58 -0.214 -0.033
15 2 Brad Keselowski Alliance Truck Parts Ford 21.598 125.012 38 39 -0.230 -0.016
16 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fifth Third Bank Ford 21.611 124.936 47 50 -0.243 -0.013
17 15 Clint Bowyer AAA Insurance Toyota 21.617 124.902 30 31 -0.249 -0.006
18 18 David Ragan M&M's Crispy Toyota 21.643 124.752 56 60 -0.275 -0.026
19 27 Paul Menard CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet 21.649 124.717 54 58 -0.281 -0.006
20 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet 21.673 124.579 37 41 -0.305 -0.024
21 42 Kyle Larson Target Chevrolet 21.674 124.573 16 21 -0.306 -0.001
22 98 Josh Wise Phil Parsons Racing Ford 21.689 124.487 12 12 -0.321 -0.015
23 31 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans Chevrolet 21.691 124.476 67 68 -0.323 -0.002
24 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 21.695 124.453 42 43 -0.327 -0.004
25 51 Justin Allgaier Brandt Chevrolet 21.713 124.349 43 44 -0.345 -0.018
26 14 Tony Stewart Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 21.730 124.252 54 60 -0.362 -0.017
27 25 Chase Elliott(i) NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 21.741 124.189 40 44 -0.373 -0.011
28 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 21.744 124.172 25 25 -0.376 -0.003
29 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 21.773 124.007 16 20 -0.405 -0.029
30 46 Michael Annett Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet 21.775 123.995 48 53 -0.407 -0.002
31 9 Sam Hornish Jr. Gwaltney Ford 21.777 123.984 39 43 -0.409 -0.002
32 35 Cole Whitt Front Row Motorsports Ford 21.783 123.950 27 31 -0.415 -0.006
33 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Ford 21.803 123.836 39 40 -0.435 -0.020
34 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nationwide Chevrolet 21.812 123.785 4 95 -0.444 -0.009
35 34 Reed Sorenson Dockside Logistics Ford 21.819 123.745 43 44 -0.451 -0.007
36 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet 21.833 123.666 30 35 -0.465 -0.014
37 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 21.858 123.525 44 47 -0.490 -0.025
38 83 Matt DiBenedetto Dan Bilzerian Toyota 21.874 123.434 14 16 -0.506 -0.016
39 26 Jeb Burton # Estes Express Lines Toyota 21.881 123.395 26 27 -0.513 -0.007
40 7 Alex Bowman DOC 360 Chevrolet 21.890 123.344 49 50 -0.522 -0.009
41 33 Alex Kennedy # HonorandRemember.org Chevrolet 21.988 122.794 48 49 -0.620 -0.098
42 62 Brendan Gaughan(i) Chevrolet 22.022 122.605 16 16 -0.654 -0.034
43 32 Joey Gase(i) Keen Parts/Donate Life Ford 22.174 121.764 15 58 -0.806 -0.152
44 23 JJ Yeley(i) MaximFantasySports.com Toyota 22.208 121.578 19 24 -0.840 -0.034
45 30 Jeff Green(i) Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet 22.499 120.005 2 2 -1.131 -0.291
*Required to qualify on time, (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK - GETTING READY FOR RICHMOND
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS LOOKS TO RENEW RICHMOND SUCCESS - Hendrick Motorsports and more recently their drivers Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been very successful at Richmond.
Both Johnson and Earnhardt have notched three wins at the Virginia three-quarter mile track, their last visit to Richmond's victory lane in 2008.
Johnson, who along with his three wins at Richmond, has five top-five finishes and two pole-position starts, admits Richmond success has eluded him of late but hopes to change his fortunes.
“We have struggled at Richmond as of late," Johnson said. "Last fall our Lowe’s Chevy was decent and we got a top-10 out of it. For some reason, we haven’t been able to get a handle on it but hope the momentum we’ve had for the past few weeks will help. Richmond has been a source of frustration as of late.
Tough little track – great racing for sure.”
For the second-generation Earnhardt, Richmond is a track which produced success early in his career but nothing since his move to Hendrick Motorsports. Despite his drought, NASCAR's Most Popular Driver is still tied for second amongst active drivers in Richmond wins.
Earnhardt believes Richmond is an aggressive track which makes the racing enjoyable.
“I enjoy racing at Richmond," Earnhardt, Jr, said. "You can be aggressive and the racing is fun. Everybody’s going to be hunting for the bottom line on Saturday. The guys that get through the middle can keep that left-front working that line, are going to have good runs. I’m looking forward to getting to the track.”
As an organization, Hendrick Motorsports has accounted for 53 top-five finishes and ten victories but Johnson's 2008 triumph was the last time an HMS driver won at Richmond.
PATRICK READY FOR ANOTHER SHORT-TRACK – Danica Patrick made history with her ninth place finish Sunday night in Bristol. She now owns the record for most top-ten finishes by a female in NASCAR history with six.
Patrick has also been wildly successful on short-tracks. In addition to her ninth place finish on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway, she also scored a seventh place finish at Martinsville Speedway.
Patrick, a veteran of IndyCar, is excited about the Sprint Cup’s next stop.
“I’ve always enjoyed going to Richmond,” Patrick said. “I had fun racing Indy cars there. I liked driving the Xfinity car there. We didn’t have the greatest results, but it was still fun.”
Last September, Patrick recorded her career-best finish at the three-quarter mile RIR course when she finished 16th. It was also the first time in Sprint Cup competition at Richmond in which she completed every lap of a race.
Even with the lack of success, Patrick believes she knows what it takes to run well at Richmond.
“The biggest issue we face at Richmond is tire management – the tires fall off a lot,” Patrick said. “The cars tend to get loose in and then you’re tight in the center of the corner, and you need to carry good rolling speed. The key to running well at Richmond, in my opinion, is to be able to maintain drive off when others can’t so you can complete passes as you roll through the center of the corner.”
AMERICAN ETHANOL TO BE FEATURED ON THE #3 – As NASCAR embarks on its Third Annual Race to Green effort; Austin Dillon will drive under the banner of a fitting sponsor.
Dillon, who is an official spokesperson for American Ethanol, will run their black and green colors on Saturday night.
According to American Ethanol, corn ethanol reduces emissions by 59 percent and by utilizing ethanol E15 fuel NASCAR drivers have logged 5 million miles since switching to the natural fuel.
JONES EAGER TO CONTINUE XFINITY SUCCESS – Erik Jones, 18-year old Joe Gibbs Racing development driver, has become a certified phenom in the NASCAR community over the past season.
This season he has enjoyed success on an entirely different level. The Michigan native has won three poles in a row and finished in the top-five four weeks in a row driving the #20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity program.
This weekend Jones will be at the wheel of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota for JGR. The last time the #54 was in Richmond, Kyle Busch wheeled it to a dominant performance.
Busch, who Jones is substituting for due to multiple leg injuries, led every single lap on his way to last September’s Xfinity win.
Jones admits he will be leaning on Busch for advice this weekend but believes the car will help him adjust the most.
“JGR has had a lot of success at Richmond over the past few years,” Jones said. “I think we have a pretty good program on the Xfinity side right now to try and go and grab another win. Tackling the new track, I’ll probably pick Kyle’s brain for some information, but overall I feel like we’ll have a good enough racecar that it will make it easier on me as a driver to figure it out.”
Jones, who is a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points contender, is set to run part-time in both the #20 and #54 cars this season.
He doesn’t think switching between the two teams will have any detrimental effects on his development as a driver.
“I ran two races in the #54 already this year, so it’s been interesting going back and forth and learning the differences between the two crew chiefs and what we have to do different on my end and on their end,” Jones said. “Obviously Texas was a big momentum builder for JGR overall, for myself and our team, and I think that’s going to transfer over to the #54 team as well.”
SPOTLIGHT WEEKEND FOR TOYOTA - Toyota is the title sponsor for both the Xfinity race of Friday night and Sprint Cup race Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Friday's Xfinity race is the Toyota Care 250, and Saturday's Sprint Cup showdown is the Toyota Owners 400. It will mark the third season in which Toyota has sponsored the race weekend at Richmond.
In addition to the title sponsorship, Richmond is a home track for many of Toyota's racing personalities.
Toyota driver and Virginia-native Denny Hamlin has two wins at the short track. Crew Chief for Joe Gibbs Racing's Carl Edwards, Darian Grubb, graduated from Virginia Tech and is a native of Floyd, Virginia. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) President David Wilson also attended Virginia Tech.
Toyota Camrys have visited victory lane 13 times in Sprint Cup and Xfinity competition at Richmond.
STENHOUSE, TEAM LOOK TO GAIN MOMENTUM - Fresh off recording a fourth place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, is heading to another short-track.
Richmond is a short-track which hosted his first career top-ten finish in Sprint Cup competition back in his rookie campaign of 2013 but has also been the site of struggles for the Roush-Fenway Racing driver.
Stenhouse, Jr, believes Richmond can be a track which he can build on his recent success.
“We are coming off a great finish at Bristol, so we are definitely looking to carry that momentum into Richmond this weekend," Stenhouse, Jr, said. "I love racing at night. We struggled at Richmond last year, but we think we have a good package going into this weekend.
It’s a long race but just like at Bristol last week, if you can stay on the lead lap then you should be able to leave there with a solid finish.”
In four career starts at Richmond, the Mississippi native has an average finish of 22.5.
Stenhouse, Jr's crew chief Nick Sandler maintains consistency is key at Richmond and tracks which are similar.
“After our top-five finish, I know the entire No. 17 team is looking forward to Richmond," Sandler said. "Richmond is tough because you practice during the day, but race at night so you don’t want to over adjust. In practice we will focus on what Ricky needs overall in the car. Pit strategy and track position are key because it is so easy to go a lap down, but I think if we can stay on the lead lap like Bristol that we can leave Richmond with another top-15 finish. That’s our goal.”
The fourth place finish at Bristol for Stenhouse, Jr, was the best Sprint Cup finish of the season to date for Roush-Fenway Racing.
SPRINT CUP ENTRY LIST NOTES – There are presently 45 teams vying for 43 spots in Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond.
The most notable entry is defending Xfinity series champion Chase Elliott. He will be making his second career start in NASCAR’s premier division. Elliott will be at the helm of the #25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, the fifth entry for Hendrick Motorsports.
Elliott qualified 25th and finished 38th in his Sprint Cup debut earlier this season at Martinsville.
Reed Sorenson will pilot the #34 Front Row Motorsports entry which has been driven by Roush-Fenway Xfinity regular Chris Buescher since Atlanta.
The veteran Sorenson has 14 career starts at Richmond with an average finish of 27.86.
The #34 entry is usually driven by David Ragan, but he is substituting for Joe Gibbs Racing in the #18 Toyota while Kyle Busch recovers.
Brett Moffitt will continue to drive the #55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota while Brian Vickers is sidelined for health problems.
The two drivers who have no provisional available to them are Elliott and Ron Hornaday, entered in the #30 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet. These drivers will need qualifying to take place, and must post a speed of 36th or better in the first round of knockout qualifying in order to make the field of 43.
HAMLIN EXPECTS TO BE HEALTHY, COMPETING IN HOME STATE - Denny Hamlin only ran 22 laps of last Sunday night's rain-delayed race at Bristol Motor Speedway due to back and neck spasms. Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Erik Jones relieved the veteran driver and finished 26th.
Hamlin expects to be healthy enough to compete in Friday night's Xfinity race and Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. He boasts the highest driver rating amongst all active Sprint Cup competitors.
“Obviously, getting out of the car on Sunday was a very tough decision, and Erik did an admirable job under difficult circumstances," Hamlin said. "After treatment this week, I feel close to 100 percent, and I’m confident that I’ll be good to go this weekend in Richmond."
The Virginia native has had plenty of success at both of the Sprint Cup series stops in his homestate, Martinsville and Richmond. He has seven wins combined at the tracks in his home state with two victories coming at Richmond.
"It’s a great track for our team, and one that means a lot to me personally," Hamlin admitted. "Hopefully we can go out there and compete for the win on Saturday night.”
Hamlin has started from the pole twice, led 1,390 laps and finished inside the top-five seven times in 17 career starts in the capital city short-track.
He also has won twice at Richmond in Xfinity series competition.
GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES - NASCAR and Xfinity series teams will once again use the same tire compounds this weekend in Richmond as in Bristol.
The left side tire code is the same code which teams ran last September. The right side tire code, however, is new to teams and will be the first time they have run this code.
The left side code is D-4632, the right side code is D-4644.
The right side tire is a Goodyear multi-zone tread tire, which means there are two very different makeups in the same tire. The inside two inches of the tire is the same as what teams have previously run at Richmond while the outside ten inches are made up of a compound supposed to assist teams with grip and stability.
The tires have been tested previously by Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart amongst others.
Sprint Cup teams will have five sets of tires for qualifying and practice session and ten sets for the race. Xfinity teams will have five sets of tires which have to last throughout the weekend's entirety.
XFINITY SERIES ENTRY LIST NOTES - There are 41 teams on the entry list for the spring Xfinity race at Richmond, the Toyota Care 250.
The winner of this race last year, Kevin Harvick, will once again pilot JR Motorsports' #88 Chevrolet. Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones will switch seats as Hamlin will drive Joe Gibbs Racing's #20 Toyota, and Jones will drive JGR's #54 Toyota. Joey Logano will pilot the #22 Discount Tire Ford for Team Penske.
Brennan Poole will remain in the DC Solar #42 Chevrolet for H-Scott Motorsports.
Dylan Lupton will be in the #25 entry for Athenian Motorsports, and Johanna Long will attempt to qualify in the #03 for Affarano Motorsports. This event is Long's first race attempt since the 2013 Xfinity series finale.
“I can’t wait to get back to the track,” Long said. “Mike Affarano and everyone at Affarano Motorsports has worked so hard to get the cars ready. Everything’s in place except the sponsorship. Hopefully, we’ll have a strong run and people will see how much potential this team has and will come onboard to sponsor us.”
KNOW YOUR RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY HISTORY - Richmond International Raceway, once known as the Virginia State Fairgrounds, is a .75 mile, D-shaped, asphalt race track which is just outside Richmond, Virginia.
The first Sprint Cup race ever held at RIR happened on April 19th, 1953 and Lee Petty emerged victorious. Petty Enterprises has the most wins as a team at the Virginia track with 15.
Like many other tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, Richard Petty holds the record for most wins at the track with 13. David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace are all tied for a distant second with six victories.
Richmond was the site of 3-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart's first career win back in 1999. RIR was also the host of Sprint Cup veteran Kasey Kahne's first trip to victory lane.
“It’s not one of my favorite tracks; it is my favorite track," Stewart said. "It’s the perfect-sized track for a Cup race. The other short tracks we run – Bristol and Martinsville – they’re cool in their own right, but there’s a lot of congestion at those two tracks. But at Richmond, it just seems like that extra quarter-mile, and that three-quarter-mile shape, and how wide the groove gets there, allows for good racing."
While Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 36 victories at RIR, Ford is not far behind with 31 victories. Ford also enters the weekend boasting a three race Richmond win streak including a sweep of last year's races by the Team Penske tandem of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
The deepest a driver has started in a Sprint Cup field of 43 and emerged victorious is 31st when Clint Bowyer scored a victory back in the Spring of 2008.