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Race Weekend Review – September 21-22, 2018

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway
Kyle Busch starts last and finishes first ahead of the rest of the Big Three

Richmond, VA, Sept. 22/18 (GRW): Kyle Busch was at his best here at Richmond, starting from the back row and working his way forward through the field to the front. He took the lead on lap 287 of the 400-lap race, passing Brad Keselowski for the lead. Keselowski retook the lead briefly on lap 328 during the pit stop sequence in the third and final caution but Busch was back in front by the time the green fell.

“That was too close for my comfort,” said Busch. “I thought we were a little bit better than that on the long run. I know Harvick, that’s kind of his specialty, but we had a really, really good race car tonight. The M&M’s Camry was awesome. The guys did a great job coming back from a dismal qualifying effort and prepared a really good race car here for us tonight. And, being able to start dead last and come up through the field and win this thing, that’s right Rowdy nation. All for you baby.”

MENCS NHMS BuschKyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Federated Auto Parts 400 (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images/NASCAR)

This win was Busch’s 50th win in the Cup series, tying him for wins with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson and putting him 11th on the list of wins by all Cup drivers. Of the current roster of active Cup drivers, only Jimmie Johnson, with 83 wins, has more.

Keselowski managed to regain the lead a few laps later and he held off Busch for 14 laps but it was too much for his tires. He “burned the rear tires off” in his struggle to stay ahead and, after that, he started falling back over the final 37 laps, finishing down in ninth place.

Meanwhile the other two of the Big Three had moved forward; Kevin Harvick finished in second place, 0.8 seconds behind Busch with Martin Truex right behind him. Chase Elliott had gained several spots in the closing laps to come in fourth ahead of Aric Almirola in fifth.

Truex has found new speed now that he is into the playoffs and, here at Richmond, he led 163 laps, the most of any driver. In addition, Truex won both of the first two Stages. Kyle Busch, despite his start from the back, led for 92 laps while Keselowski led 67 laps and Harvick 40 laps.

This Richmond race often sees a lot of crashes and cautions but this time, aside from the two yellows to end the first two Stages, there was only one caution, on lap 327, when Jeffery Earnhardt and Matt Kenseth got together.

The next race, and the final race in the initial playoff Round of 16, will be at the new road-course configuration, the ‘Roval’, at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Given that many drivers came to grief during the testing session there earlier this year, most of the drivers are a bit apprehensive about their prospects on the Roval. Keselowski and Busch don’t need to worry because they have a lock on moving forward to the next round by virtue of their wins but for most of the other 16 playoff drivers, a DNF might see them eliminated.
The next race is the Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday, September 30.

Click HERE for the results of the Richmond MENCS race.

NXS NHMS BellChristopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, leads the field during the Go Bowling 250 (Sean Gardner/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Annual GoBowling 250 at Richmond Raceway
Bell holds off Chastain for the win

Richmond, VA, Sept 21/18 (GRW): Christopher Bell started from the pole but he did not seem to have the fastest car here. Early in the race he was struggling to stay up with the leaders but late in the race he did get past Matt Tifft for the lead coming off the fifth and final caution with 14 laps to go in the 250-lap race and he held on from there to checker. In these final few laps, Ross Chastain in the No. 42 Ganassi car charged forward from fourth and almost caught Bell, finishing half a second behind him. Meanwhile Tifft had dropped to fifth, behind Daniel Hemric and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“I tell you what, that’s pretty cool,” said Bell. “It’s not very often you get to win with a car that’s not a winning car. So, we’ll take it.”

The battle between Bell. Tifft and Chastain should have been the story of the race but there was an elephant in the room – Earnhardt Jr. He was making a one-off return to the race track in one of his JRM team cars to fulfil an outstanding contractual obligation. Unlike some other retired drivers, he made convincing comeback, qualifying on the front row alongside Bell and running near the front from the start. He passed Bell for the lead on lap 124 and he led for 96 laps mid-race, winning Stage 2. He lost the lead to Tifft coming off the second-last caution on lap 222 and in the closing laps he had dropped to fourth by the finish. A strong performance by a retired driver who was giving no signals of plans to return to the track again.

This race was the first race in the seven-race Xfinity Series playoffs. Justin Allgaier, who went into the playoffs as the favourite based on his five regular season wins to Bell’s four had a disappointing race. He qualified fifth fastest and he was able to run in the top five through the first two Stages. He had fallen back out of the top ten when he was involved in crash with Cole Custer on lap 227 which knocked him out of the race leaving him finishing in 32nd place. Custer was able to continue and he finished in 15th place.

Ryan Preece, who has had some great results in the KBM No. 18 car this year, was back for this race but things did not go as well. He qualified in 12th place and finished 18th. It is expected that this will be Chastain’s last start in the Ganassi car; look for him in the No. 4 JD Motorsports entry in the remaining races.

The next race, the second race in the playoffs will be at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ‘Roval’ next Saturday, September 29.

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity Series race at Richmond.

Pintys Lacroix NHMS

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Visit New Hampshire 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Lacroix scores a dominant win on the ‘Magic Mile’

Loudon, NH, Sept 21/18 (GRW): Kevin Lacroix had only won once before this year but he dominated the 100-lap race at the NHMS mile oval to take the win over Peter Shepherd III. Donald Theetge, who had run the Xfinity race here earlier this year to gain experience on this fast track, was third.

Cole Powell, who has had prior experience here in a NASCAR Modified racer, had won the pole for race and finished fourth ahead of D.J. Kennington. Powell led the first ten laps of the race until Lacroix took the lead on lap 11 and led all the remaining 90 laps.

The race saw only one caution which came on lap 45 of the 100-lap race. This gave Andrew Ranger a chance to attack for the lead. Ranger stalked Lacroix from the restart all the way until a mechanical problem (track bar) ended Ranger’s race on lap 75.

Despite scoring a win at Jukasa in June, bad luck struck Lacroix in full force at many other races. He suffered mechanical issues at three different races – Autodrome Chaudiere, as well as the road courses at Toronto and Trois-Rivieres. Lacroix also led 281 laps in Edmonton only to lose to L.P. Dumoulin.

“It was one of those races when the car was so good you don’t have to push hard to get to the front” Lacroix said. “I’m super happy to get back to victory lane because it’s been a long time I feel. I got two wins on the ovals and nothing on the road courses; it feels a little weird but I’m really happy to get here.”

The leaders in the points race finished seventh and eighth, Alex Tagliani coming in ahead of L.P. Dumoulin. This result closed Dumoulin’s lead down to just four points ahead of Tagliani (488 points to 484). Powell is still third in the points, 19 points back of Lacroix. Unless they both drop out of next week’s finale, the race for the series championship will likely go to one of Lacroix or Tagliani depending on who get the better results at Jukasa.

The next race will be the finale of the Pinty’s Series season at the Jukasa Motor Speedway next Saturday night, September 29.

Click HERE for the results of the Pinty’s race from New Hampshire.

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