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NASCAR Cup: Kyle Larson wins at Richmond, playoff field set

Kyle Larson (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Larson (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kyle Larson matched Martin Truex Jr.’s 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins tally of four Saturday night with his win of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. After an overtime restart, Larson got off pit road ahead of Truex and maintained his lead while Truex hit the wall on the final lap as the result of contact with Denny Hamlin.

“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, but 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 into (turn) one, and I was pretty excited about that. So, I can’t thank Target all of our partners enough. 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.”

Joey Logano fell one position shy of making the playoffs, taking runner-up honors in the regular-season finale.

“Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win,” Logano said. “Obviously, it stings.”

Logano won at Richmond earlier this season, but that win didn’t punch his ticket into the playoffs, as it was classified as “encumbered” by NASCAR when his car failed post-race inspection.

Ryan Newman was third, Kurt Busch fourth, and Hamlin rounded out the top-five.

Truex wound up 20th after leading 198 laps.

“Tonight is a little tough; it’s a little hard to be excited (for the playoffs),” Truex said.

With a repeat winner in victory lane, the three drivers who headed to Richmond provisionally in the playoffs by points — Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray — officially made the playoffs. Had there been a new winner other than any of those three aforementioned drivers, Kenseth would’ve been the driver on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin next weekend at Chicagoland Speedwy in Joliet, Ill.

Kenseth started on the pole and led the first 89 laps of the race. He was still running near the front before retiring from the race just past lap 250. Kenseth’s car sustained substantial damage entering pit road during a caution, as several drivers checked-up to miss an ambulance sitting a pit entrance.

“We were all getting on pit road, and I didn’t feel like I was going that fast, and there’s an ambulance parked out there, so everybody stopped,” Kenseth said. “I just couldn’t get stopped in time.”

According to Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, the ambulance driver didn’t follow instructions.

“We had a situation where a directive was given from the tower, and it wasn’t followed, and we’ll do our due diligence why it wasn’t followed and make sure that we’re prepared to never make that mistake again,” Miller said. “It is a very strange thing. The track workers are usually very, very good at following the directives, and tonight, they didn’t.”

After the race, drivers were critical of NASCAR for not closing pit road when the ambulance got in the way.

Kyle Busch and Truex were the winners of the two 100-lap stages that made up the first half of the race. Truex’s stage win was his series-leading 18th of the season and ran his playoff points tally up to 53, including the 15-point bonus from clinching the regular-season title last weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Truex took the lead from from Busch on lap 154 and led most of the remainder of the race. He lost the lead during the same caution Kenseth’s race ended, as Larson and Brad Keselowski beat him off pit road. But by 100 laps to go, Truex was back up front.

Several drivers short-pitted around lap 315, setting off a cycle of green-flag pit stops. Truex waited until lap 334 to hit pit road under green. After pitting 14 laps before Truex, Keselowski cycled into the race lead, but after Truex got his new tires, he closed on Keselowski and retook the lead on lap 354.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on September 10, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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