Doug Turnbull: Logano Somehow Wins Ahead of Flaring Tempers at Richmond
In A Nutshell: Short tracks often bring out the best racing and thus, sometimes, the worst tempers. This was very true in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway Saturday. Joey Logano led multiple times, but scooted past a furious battle between Matt Kenseth (5th, 35 laps led), Jeff Gordon (2nd, led 143 laps), and Brad Keselowski (4th, led 117 laps) to win for the 2nd time this season, the first time in his career he has won multiple races in the same year.
Kenseth struggled most of the race, but his car came to life late, culminating with his passing Gordon with 38 laps to go. The race seemed in hand until Jimmie Johnson (32nd) lost a tire and left debris on the track on lap 369 of 400, bringing the field to pit road for fresh tires. The ensuing restart saw Kenseth maintain his lead while his teammate Denny Hamlin (22nd), normally a Richmond ace who had been subpar all night, get spun. Kenseth held court again on the following restart, but the caution again flew on lap 386, when new No. 30 driver J.J. Yeley (40th) lost an engine. Then things got crazy. The final restart again saw Kenseth stay in the lead, but Gordon stayed low and close while Keselowski got an incredible run on the outside. Kenseth had to drive his No. 20 wide and defensively to stave the assaults from both drivers, swinging high and nearly pinching Keselowski in the wall. The three’s lost momentum in their racing each other allowed Logano to catch up and then drive under them and take the lead and the win.
Kyle Busch (3rd) had been a non-factor all night, but got fresh tires on the final caution and passed a ton of cars and eventually Keselowski and Kenseth place better than he should have. After the race, Keselowski brake checked Kenseth on the cool-down lap and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (7th) and A.J. Allmendinger (6th) got a piece of it, causing damage to all three cars. Then Keselowski made a point of exiting his car in the pits and gesturing to Kenseth, objecting to the way Kenseth drove him. There also was a melee in the pits as Marcos Ambrose (18th) and Casey Mears (19th) had a heated argument. When Mears appeared to try and pull Ambrose aside, Ambrose gave him a right hook in the left eye and the crews broke it up. The beginning and middle portions of the race shaped up to be a regular event, with Keselowski and Gordon in control for most of the race, but never for any long periods at one time.
The lead changed hands quite a bit. Goodyear tire failures seemed like they would be the race’s biggest story again, but the thrilling finish and hot tempers after knocked that down a notch. Right-front tire failures on Clint Bowyer (43rd), Cole Whitt (41st), and Reed Sorenson (42nd) caused big fires, as the hot rubber wadded up and hit the even hotter brakes and ignited. Sorenson had to be pulled from his car by a member of the No. 5 pit crew. Johnson ran in the top 10 most of the race, but also got foiled twice by tire problems. The top 10 were Logano, Gordon, Ky. Busch, Keselowski, Kenseth, Allmendinger, Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex Jr. Gordon maintains a five-point lead with Kenseth in the standings, neither of them having won this season.
RaceTweet: Logano dives past angry herd of leaders to win Richmond and pretty much clinch spot in Chase. Keselowski angry again. Ambrose and Mears need a timeout.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Joey Logano – He should not have won, but he did. For the second-straight race, a driver takes his second win of the season and Logano was not the likely candidate to do so, as he had never even led a lap before at Richmond. But he hung in the top 10 or top 5 all night, leading some laps here or there (46 total), and still shouldn’t have won. On the final two restarts, he spun the tires and did not get going well at all. But the second time he did that, he was able to recoil and catch Keselowski, Kenseth, and Gordon. He dove below their intense battle and the rest is history. Now the pressure is even more so off this team and they can prepare for the second-straight Chase for the Sprint Cup appearance.
North Korean Missile Dud of the Race: Clint Bowyer – He would need help from his sponsor AAA by the end of the night. Bowyer started the race 3rd, but spun pole sitter Kyle Larson out at the beginning of the opening lap. Whether his fault or Larson’s, Bowyer’s night was a disaster, as he had two different fiery tire problems, the last of which dooming his night to a last-place finish. Bowyer is normally a threat on short tracks, but Saturday, the short track at Richmond was a threat to Bowyer.
You Can Comeback, But You Can’t Stay Here: Brad Keselowski – Keselowski was a front-runner most of the race, but fell back on the last long green flag run, almost slipping out of the top 10. New tires and adjustments on the final pit stop allowed the No. 2 Ford to slice through traffic and almost win its second race of the year. That wasn’t to be, but that was great driving and superb adjustments by crew chief Paul Wolfe.
Wheel of Misfortune: Justin Allgaier – The results don’t show what a good run this rookie had for his Harry Scott Motorsports No. 51 team. He had managed to be the top-running rookie most of the night, hovering near the 15th spot. He even got as high as 11th on the final runs, but fell of the pace at race’s end and finished 21st. Good runs are few and far between for teams of this stature, but Allgaier showed promise, which could be a momentum-booster for Talladega next weekend.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: A.J. Allmendinger – The JTG-Daugherty Racing team impresses again. Allmendinger drives the No. 47 Toyota out of nowhere to somehow finish 6th. He had been in the top 20 most of the night, but seemed to capitalize on the multiple restarts at the race’s end to gain some spots. Allmendinger got off to a rough start in 2014, but has only one finish outside the top 20 since the team’s 8th-place team at Fontana five races ago.
Ghost Driver: Tony Stewart – The No. 14 was a non-factor all race long at Richmond. The three-time winner at the track never really got out of a funk and finished 25th, one lap down. Stewart has struggled this season, though he does have four top 10s and a pole. The only race that he has led laps was that pole-winning race at Texas, where he finished 10th. He sits 15th in points.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: Brad Keselowski – His post-race comments and anger toward Matt Kenseth just don’t make sense. He says he is upset with Kenseth for racing him in a way that took them both out of contention. Kenseth had his hands full and had to do something to keep both Keselowski and Gordon at bay. He looked like a sitting duck. Keselowski more just seemed mad that Kenseth kept him from winning. Either way, this is a strange opinion from a driver that is regarded as one of the most aggressive in the sport. Just like his actions toward Kurt Busch at Martinsville a few weeks ago, Keselowski’s here seem to be a contradiction to his past opinions. As much as showing emotions and tempers is exciting and well-liked, “Bad Brad” may need to chill from making himself a lightning rod so often.
NNS RaceTweet: Kevin Harvick dominates again and holds off teammate Chase Elliott, to win yet another NNS race at Richmond. At least it wasn’t all just about Cup drivers.
Georgia On My Mind: Chase Elliott continues to impress in the Nationwide Series. Now getting a crack at a track where he has raced before, Elliott placed 2nd behind JR Motorsports teammate Kevin Harvick, who led 202 of 250 laps. Elliott does this after back-to-back wins and now holds a 19-point lead on his other teammate Regan Smith in the standings. Elliott may take a step back this coming weekend, as he embarks on just his 2nd-career restrictor plate race at Talladega, where Smith has won before. Ryan Sieg had issues through the evening and finished four laps down in 26th, his 2nd-straight poor finish after crashing at Darlington. In the Cup Series, David Ragan was lunch meat early in the event and finished four laps down in 30th. Reed Sorenson’s tire fire doomed him to his season-worst finish of 42nd and second-straight DNF. Ragan and Sorenson sit 31st and 32nd in points, respectively, separated by one point.
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