Kyle Larson Scores Shocking Victory at Richmond
Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway wrapped up the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season in dramatic fashion, with a late-race caution allowing Kyle Larson to take the lead on pit road, thanks to a great stop by his Chip Ganassi Racing crew.
Martin Truex Jr., dominated the race, leading 199 of 404 laps, but he crashed in overtime. Larson, meanwhile, made a great final restart to win his fourth race of the season ahead of Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.
It was a crazy finish, as victory seemed certain for Truex until the hapless Derrike Cope banged the wall with four laps to go to set up the final caution.
Here are five things we learned under the lights at the Virginia short track:
As has been the case in recent weeks, the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing dominated the action in taking the victory. Matt Kenseth started from the pole, Kyle Busch won Stage 1, and Truex won Stage 2, all in their Toyotas.
But the caution gave Chevrolet its 10th win of the season to eight each for Toyota and Ford.
Truex, Kyle Busch and Larson will be way ahead on points when the NASCAR playoffs start next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. At that race, the 16 playoff drivers will each start with 2,000 points plus the playoff points they earned during the regular season.
That means Truex will open the playoffs with 2,053 points, Larson will have 2,033 and Larson 2,029. Seven of the 16 playoff drivers will start with 2,005 points or fewer. That will be a huge edge for Truex and the two Kyles. Little wonder why those three are among the championship favorites.
As expected, no driver who was outside of the playoffs coming into Richmond raced his way in during the final race of the regular season. That’s no surprise; the only driver to win his first race of a season in this event during the playoff era of NASCAR was Jeremy Mayfield in 2004, the first year of the playoffs. Still, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all ran well at points in the race but will miss the playoffs.
Earnhardt will miss playoffs
Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet looked better than it has in weeks, but it wasn’t enough to earn the 14-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver a playoff berth in his final season. That’s a bummer for him and for his millions of Junior Nation fans, but at least he ran up front and led laps at Richmond.
Inexplicably, on Lap 258 after a Danica Patrick spin, an ambulance came on track and stopped at the entrance to pit road just as the full field of cars was getting ready to pit. There was a pileup, with Kenseth striking the back of Clint Bowyer’s car as they both tried to avoid the ambulance. Unbelievable and a terrible break for Kenseth and Bowyer both. The contact knocked Kenseth out of the race, though he and his two fellow winless drivers, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray all advanced to the playoffs.