Richmond Race Report
Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth earned top-five finishes to led Joe Gibbs Racing in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, while late-race contact and a resulting spin kept Denny Hamlin from joining his teammates in the top five and leaving him to finish a disappointing 22nd.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota 19th and was patient through the opening green flag run of the race while crew chief Dave Rogers called for adjustments to help his Camry turn a bit better as the sunset and the track cooled. He would restart 11th on lap 107 following a round of pit stops. He would gain a spot to enter the top ten and was running ninth at lap 140 and had moved up to seventh by lap 160. The M&Ms crew would gain another spot on pit road allowing Busch to restart sixth on lap 171 and he was into the top five before the halfway mark. He would drop back to ninth before a caution on lap 227 as he struggled on the exit of turns. He would restart ninth on lap 238. Busch struggled with the handling on his M&Ms Camry on the next run and dropped back outside of the top ten and was running 14th at lap 275. Busch would bring the car back down pit road on lap 300 and lined up 15th for the restart with 95 to go. He would gain several spots and following a pit stop he would line up 10th for a restart on lap 376. Unfortunately he would get hit from behind by the 51 car causing him to get into the 11 bringing out a caution. Another caution would follow with 15 laps to go and crew chief Dave Rogers would make the call to give up some track position to bring the M&Ms Camry down pit road for fresh tires. It turned out to be the right call as Busch restarted 16th with nine to go and gained eight spots on the opening lap. He would go on to gain five more spots over the course of the final laps to earn an impressive third-place finish.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota in 12th and was patient through the early going as the team made adjustments to help his Camry turn better in each corner. He would enter the top 10 on a lap 107 restart thanks in large part to a tremendous pit stop by his No. 20 crew. Kenseth would find that the car would move to the tight side on the next run and he would drop back outside of the top 10 to run 13th on lap 135. The Home Depot crew would gain him another couple spots on the next round of pit stops and he restarted 11th on lap 171. He would continue to hold that spot at the halfway mark and was running 12th when the next caution came out on lap 227. The Home Depot crew delivered again and Kenseth was ninth on the lap 238 restart. He would gain a spot to run eighth at lap 275. He would come down pit road on lap 300 for fresh tires and adjustments and lined up sixth for the restart. The Home Depot/Husky Camry would come to life about midway through the next long green flag run and Kenseth began to climb his way toward the front of the field. He would take his first lead of the night with 39 laps to go. He would manage to maintain the lead over the next 35 laps including several late restarts, but with the car at its best several laps into a run the shorter runs between restarts proved challenging. Kenseth would restart first with nine to go and managed to hold off several contenders for several laps before contact caused him to get just loose enough to allow Joey Logano to get past him. Kenseth would lose a bit of his momentum and dropped a few spots over the final laps before finishing fifth.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota from the 28th position after rain on Friday cancelled qualifying and forced the field to be set based upon lap times from the weekend’s first practice session. He showed patience through the early going while battling a mostly loose handling race car especially on the exit of the turns. He restarted 14th on lap 107 following a round of pit stops. He would battle in 16th as the race went past the 150 lap mark. The FedEx crew would gain Hamlin a couple spots on pit road and he restarted 14th on lap 171 and was up to 12th by the halfway point. He was running 11th when a caution came out on lap 227 and his pit crew continued to excel picking up another four spots on pit road allowing him to restart eighth on lap 238. He would grab another couple spots at the drop of the green flag to run sixth at lap 250 and was into the top five by lap 265. Hamlin would come down pit road under caution on lap 300 and lined up seventh for the restart. The handling on his FedEx Camry would suddenly change however and Hamlin dropped back outside of the top ten on the next run. Crew chief Darian Grubb would make adjustments to bring the car back to Hamlin’s liking and the 11 car lined up eighth for a restart on lap 376. Unfortunately shortly after the green flag he would get hit from behind by the 18 who was pushed into Hamlin by the 51 car. The contact caused Hamlin to spin and he was forced to pit for tires and repairs. He would go on to a disappointing 22nd –place finish.
Joey Logano won the race followed by Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Kenseth rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 66 laps and 20 lead changes among eight different drivers.