You would think it was Veterans Day at Richmond as the top 10 finishers were all veteran drivers. The young guns had dominated the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series so far this year, but they all had their problems on the hot, slick, Richmond International Speed-way. With the temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, the attendance was woefully low, but the hardy fans who did attend the race saw an exciting one.
Joey Logano had to change a transmission after qualifying and had to start the race at the back of the field. Working his way methodically through the field, Logano took the lead for the first time on lap 384, after restarting behind six cars that had stayed out on old tires under caution for Ryan Blaney’s contact with the Turn 3 wall on Lap 377.
With fresh Goodyear’s on his Team Penske Ford, Logano made short work of the six cars in front of him, passing series leader Kyle Larson with 16 laps to go, holding off a hard-charging Brad Keselowski. Keselowski had the faster car but had trouble getting through traffic. This was Logano’s 300th Cup Series start and is his 18th win.
The biggest surprise of this season is the lack of wins for Joe Gibbs Racing. Matt Kenseth was strong for the first half of the race, winning Stage 2, and leading the most laps, 164. Keselowski won the first stage and led 110 laps. He probably had the fastest car at the finish but ended up second.
Kyle Busch was fuming after NASCAR flagged him for a commitment line violation with 22 laps to go, dropping him to the back of the field. It was his second penalty of the day following an earlier one for speeding entering the pits. That also put him to the back of the field, and he’d finally made it back into contention when the second one ruined his day. You can’t feel sorry for Busch, as his problems were self-inflicted.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement at the end of the 2017 season and finished 30th after an incident with teammate Jimmy Johnson.
Larson maintained his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lead but all the top-10 finishers gained ground on him. Martin Truex Jr. moved ahead of Chase Elliott for 2nd in the points standing.
A couple of years ago, Cup races fielded 43 teams for each race. Since NASCAR and the team owners reached the agreement guaranteeing starting spots for the major teams, the field was reduced to 40 cars. Thirty-six cars are guaranteed a starting spot in Cup races and it won’t be surprising to see only those 36 entered for a Cup race.
Only Daytona and Texas had a starting grid of 40 cars. For the second time this year only 38 cars entered the race.