Richmond Race Report
Matt Kenseth would lead Joe Gibbs Racing with a seventh-place finish in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Meanwhile separate accidents for Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers would leave them to finish 24th and 35th respectively.
Kenseth qualified his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota on the pole for the second consecutive week and for the second consecutive week he would also take his spot at the front of the field through the first quarter of the race. In fact, Kenseth would lead 94 of the first 100 laps. During a pit stop under caution on lap 112 NASCAR asked the 20 team to cut a small piece of metal off the car that was hanging by the right rear tire. The added work caused a slight delay leaving him to restart third. Kenseth would jump to second on the restart and hold that position through the midpoint of the race. The Dollar General Camry would regain its spot at the front of the field by lap 220. Kenseth would hold the lead until his teammate Busch managed to get around him on lap 254. The No. 20 Toyota would suddenly become tight through the center of the turns causing Kenseth to slip back to sixth until his crew could make adjustments to help it turn better again. That would come with just over 100 laps remaining when Kenseth would gain two spots on pit road and restart fourth. Unfortunately the outside lane for restarts proved problematic and he would fall back to seventh on the next run which fortunately was not long. Kenseth would come down pit road for four fresh tires and lined up ninth for the restart when several other cars elected to remain out on the track. Another caution just a few laps later would allow Kenseth to restart fourth with 57 laps to go. He would remain in the top five until a final caution set up a green white checker finish. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff made the call for four fresh tires which allowed Kenseth to restart eighth as several teams took no tires and others just two. It was a wild two-lap sprint to the finish and Kenseth managed to hang on for a solid seventh-place effort. His 140 laps led on the night led the field.
Busch qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in eighth and was able to battle for a spot in the top five through the first quarter of the race as he battled some loose handling conditions on the exit of the turns that appeared to worsen the longer a green flag run continued. With each stop the M&Ms crew was able to make improvements and Busch would run fifth as the race reached the halfway point. He would restart third on lap 240 following a great pit stop and passed his brother Kurt to settle into the second position behind his teammate Kenseth until lap 254 when he took his first lead of the day. Busch would continue to lead through the next caution, but would come out of the pits in second with 102 laps to go. When another caution came out just a few laps later Busch would elect to come down pit road for fresh tires and lined up sixth for a restart with 80 to go. He would get shuffled back on the restart when several cars in front of him slowed and then with 75 laps to go Tony Stewart would get loose into the 48 causing him to come back down the track and directly into the path of Busch. The M&Ms crew would work to repair the damage to the front end of the car, but Busch would end up a lap down. An accident just a few laps later would allow Busch to get back on the lead lap with just over 60 laps to go. He would manage to bring his damaged car home in 24th.
Vickers continued to fill in for an injured Denny Hamlin and started the No. 11 FedEx Delivery Manager Toyota on the front row alongside his teammate Kenseth. He would spend much of the first quarter of the race tracking his teammate in the second position. He would line up sixth for a restart on lap 154 and when a caution came out just a few laps later he would come back down pit road for another four fresh tires and an adjustment to help the car turn better. He would restart 20th on lap 168. Unfortunately the car did not respond as well as hoped in traffic and he would battle for a spot in the top 20 through the midpoint of the race. The FedEx Delivery Manager Toyota would continue to struggle back in traffic as he would run 23rd with 120 laps to go. The No. 11 crew would pick up several spots on pit road allowing Vickers to restart 18th with 102 to go. When another caution came out just a few laps later Vickers would come down pit road for four fresh tires, but he would get trapped outside trying to enter the pits and was ruled by NASCAR to have a commitment line violation. The penalty would leave him to restart back in 27th with 80 to go. Vickers was trying to work his way to a solid finish when he would get caught in an accident between the 5 and 55 cars. The team would get the car back out and Vickers was hoping to get a solid finish but he would lose his brakes with three laps to go and ran hard into the outside wall. He would be scored 35th.
Kevin Harvick won the race, followed by Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five. There were 11 cautions for a total of 75 laps and 10 lead changes among seven different drivers.