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Larson Wins Richmond; Playoff Field Finalized

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 10 2017

Kyle Larson took the checkered and yellow flags in winning Saturday night’s Cup race in Richmond, Va. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

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Kyle Larson won Saturday night’s regular-season Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finale, a race with set the field for the upcoming 16-driver, 10-race playoffs.

Larson’s win came in overtime and deprived Martin Truex Jr. of what appeared to be certain victory at Richmond International Racewaya.

The seedings and point totals for the playoffs, which begin at Chicagoland Speedway next weekend, are:

1. Martin Truex Jr.: 2,053 points

2. Kyle Larson: 2,033 points

3. Kyle Busch: 2,029 points

4. Brad Keselowski: 2,019 points

5. Jimmie Johnson: 2,017 points

6. Kevin Harvick: 2,015 points

7. Denny Hamlin: 2,013 points

8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 2,010 points

9. Ryan Blaney: 2,008 points

10. Chase Elliott: 2,006 points

11. Ryan Newman: 2,005 points

12. Kurt Busch: 2,005 points

13. Kasey Kahne: 2,005 points

14. Austin Dillon: 2,005 points

15. Matt Kenseth: 2,005 points

16. Jamie McMurray: 2,003 points

Truex had a comfortable lead over Larson when Derrike Cope hit the wall and brought out a caution with three laps left in regulation. Larson won the race off pit road after the lead-

Driver Kyle Larson issues champagne showers to crew members in Victory Lane at Richmond on Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

lap cars pitted for tires, and the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing pulled away from a restart on Lap 403.

One lap later, contact between the Toyotas of Truex and Denny Hamlin sent Truex’s No. 78 Camry into the Turn 1 wall, and the race ended under caution with Larson in the lead.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” Larson said. “That showed tonight. I can’t thank those guys enough. They were money all night long to gain spots. This win is a huge congrats to them. The Target Chevy was pretty good all night. The No. 78 (Truex) was definitely the best, but I thought I was second best for most of the runs.

“It came down to the last restart there, and I got a good start. I spun my tires pretty bad, and I was a little nervous, but we cleared him (Truex) into (Turn) 1, and I was pretty excited about that. I’m really pumped for the playoffs. We’ve got a great shot at the championship, I feel like, this year. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Truex was not quite as upbeat after the race.

“Tonight sucks, plain and simple, just the way it ended up,” he said. “You’re out there dominating like this, you know your car is not very good on restarts for a couple laps.  Caution for a guy that shouldn’t even be out there is kind of ridiculous.  I don’t know.  I don’t really know what to say about all that. It’s unfortunate the way the race ended.

“I’m madder about the caution than Denny getting into us.  We talked.  I know he didn’t do it on purpose.  He jumped on the brakes, got on the splitter.  Gave him room, but he was aggressive on the brakes.  That stuff happens. Really upset about the caution.  One to go, it sucks.  Two weeks in a row to be leading right at the end and lose it.  That’s the way it goes.  That’s racing.  Good news is we’re fast and we’re doing everything right.  We got to work on our pit road a little bit.  The last couple weeks has been a little slow. I don’t know.  It’s tough to lose ’em like that.”

Larson’s victory ensured playoff spots for three drivers fighting for berths on points – Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth. The night was particularly tense for Kenseth, who damaged the nose and radiator of his car beyond repair coming to pit road on Lap 255.

An ambulance stopped on the apron near the pit road entrance forced drivers to take evasive action, and Kenseth’s car plowed into the rear of Clint Bowyer’s Stewart-Haas Ford. Kenseth fell out of the race after 257 laps and had to wait until Larson’s victory eliminated the possibility of another first-time winner – a circumstance that would’ve eliminated Kenseth from the playoff.

“Well,” Kenseth said, “we were all just kind of coming to pit road and I saw an ambulance sitting there and so I looked left of the ambulance at the same time (Jason) Hedlesky (spotter) yelled at everyone to stop there was an ambulance just sitting there. It was an accordion effect and I just couldn’t get stopped. Not really sure why pit road was open with an ambulance parked there, but everybody stopped and I didn’t see it in time and ran into the car in front of me.”

Truex too a big swipe at whoever was responsible for the ambulance fiasco.

I was thinking that somebody that – whoever hits the button to open pit road needs to pay attention to what’s going on on the racetrack,” Truex said. “That’s what I was thinking.  It’s not like it was a big surprise.  It didn’t happen in a split second. The emergency vehicles were riding down the backstretch next to us as soon as we came off of 2, and continued all the way until the opening of pit road, and they just left pit road open.  Somebody obviously wasn’t paying attention or wasn’t doing their job properly, and in my opinion at this level, it’s inexcusable.”

 Joey Logano of Team Penske ran one spot short of the victory he needed to make the playoff, after his April win was encumbered because of a penalty for a rear suspension infraction.

“Yeah, you said it, came up a little bit short overall,” Logano said. “Yeah, it stings a little bit. Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win, and this time it’s after a second, which overall if you look at our Richmond (record) for a season with the two races, you’d say, that’s pretty good, a first and a second.

“But just overall, obviously it stings to come up one spot short and not be able to get into the playoffs. It is what it is. It’s reality, and we will move on.”

Larson’s win was also big for his teammate, Jamie McMurray, who secured the final playoff berth.

“Yeah, the 42 team has had an unbelievable season,” McMurray said. “Kyle (Larson) has done such a great job and that team is on a roll.  Our cars have just been awesome all year long and it’s been the best season I have had, as far as the most consistent, and that just comes from them giving us really good cars.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran consistently in the top 10 throughout his final run at Richmond in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet but fell to 13th in the melee of the final restart.

“Yeah, we needed one,” Earnhardt said of a victory. “That was the only way we were going to win the race.  We weren’t going to pass the top three guys.  I mean we had speed, we could run up to fifth and sixth, but we weren’t going to get around those five guys running in front of us.  So, we had to pull that strategy and if the caution comes out while we are leading then we’ve got that track position we need.  I ran around the No. 42 and a lot of the guys tonight and I think we had the speed in the car to keep that track position once we got it. So, I think if we could have got a restart on the front row late in the race I think we would have had a shot at it.”

###

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – Federated Auto Parts 400

Richmond Raceway

Richmond, Virginia

Saturday, September 9, 2017

  1. (4) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 404.
  2. (12) Joey Logano, Ford, 404.
  3. (27) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 404.
  4. (3) Kurt Busch, Ford, 404.
  5. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 404.
  6. (10) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 404.
  7. (16) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 404.
  8. (20) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 404.
  9. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 404.
  10. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 404.
  11. (15) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 404.
  12. (17) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 404.
  13. (21) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 404.
  14. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 404.
  15. (6) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 404.
  16. (28) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 404.
  17. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, 404.
  18. (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 404.
  19. (8) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 404.
  20. (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Accident, 403.
  21. (31) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 403.
  22. (32) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 403.
  23. (19) Danica Patrick, Ford, 403.
  24. (13) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 403.
  25. (18) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 402.
  26. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 402.
  27. (29) David Ragan, Ford, 402.
  28. (26) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 402.
  29. (33) * Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 400.
  30. (36) * Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 400.
  31. (25) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 400.
  32. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 400.
  33. (35) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 396.
  34. (37) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 395.
  35. (34) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 393.
  36. (38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 388.
  37. (39) * BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Transmission, 318.
  38. (1) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, Accident, 257.
  39. (30) Landon Cassill, Ford, Accident, 33.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  99.417 mph.

Time of Race:  03 Hrs, 02 Mins, 52 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Caution.

Caution Flags:  7 for 38 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Kenseth 1-89; B. Keselowski 90-92; Kyle Busch 93-104; R. Newman 105-108; Kyle Busch 109-110; K. Larson 111-129; Kyle Busch 130-153; M. Truex Jr. 154-257; K. Larson 258-286; M. Truex Jr. 287-334; D. Earnhardt Jr. 335-347; B. Keselowski 348-353; M. Truex Jr. 354-399; K. Larson 400-404.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  M. Truex Jr. 3 times for 198 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 89 laps; K. Larson 3 times for 53 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 38 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 1 time for 13 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 9 laps; R. Newman 1 time for 4 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,42,14,20,78,22,77,4,24,41

Stage #2 Top Ten: 78,20,77,22,2,42,88,41,31,18

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 10 2017
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