NASCAR’s “Old Guys” Rule At Richmond

With the laps winding down, it looked like William Byron was going to win his second race of the year and extend the number of races won by drivers under 30 years of age. Stage 2 winner Martin Truex, Jr. had made his bid to close on young Byron but his tires were giving out, lapped traffic cane into play and he couldn’t get any closer than 2 seconds behind.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to Victory Lane – the grizzled veterans who at one time were 17 seconds behind suddenly came to life and winless Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick drove through the traffic that plagued Truex like a hot knife through butter.

Pedal as hard as he might, Byron was being passed by cars with fresher tires trying to get a lap back at the end of the race. Those cars pushed Byron out of his preferred line and those precious seconds may have spelled his doom. At one point, there were but 10 cars on the lead lap but the pit strategy that put Byron into the lead also allowed 6 more drivers to get past him when it mattered most.

Hamlin and Harvick passed Byron with ease and saw them finish 1-2 with Byron a disappointing thirds and Truex in fourth. I am not sure any more laps would have enabled Harvick to get past Hamlin. Getting to his bumper perhaps but Harvick almost assuredly would need to use the chrome horn to get past Hamlin.

The win snapped a 12 race drought for Hamlin and gave Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota the win for the race day sponsor, Toyota.

Harvick had to be pleased with the position he found himself in and maybe, just maybe, this will be a turning point for the team.

As much a disappointment the day was for Byron, it also stung for polesitter Ryan Blaney who won Stage 1 and led every lap at that point. Blaney got shuffled back in the pits and never was able to retake the lead. He got as close as third but his car wasn’t the same in traffic as it was in clean air. Penkse is bringing fast cars for Blaney but he hasn’t been able to close the deal yet. He may still sit at the top of the points board but he needs to figure out how to win.

In one of the oddest moments of the race, Kyle Busch was hit with a drive through penalty for having tape on his grill. Evidently, no tape can be applied to certain areas of the grill and this was in an unapproved area. Oddly, his crew chief said the tape had been on there for 200 laps so why NASCAR suddenly noticed it was weird. But that’s NASCAR for ya.

Good on ya, mate!
  • Denny Hamlin (P1) started lucky 13.
  • Kevin Harvick (P2) might be able to point to this race as a turnaround.
  • William Byron (P3) had a strategy that played out well, even if he didn’t win.
  • Martin Truex, Jr. (P4) ran out of tires.
  • Kyle Larson (P5) hasn’t gotten the new car quite to his style yet.
  • Christopher Bell (P6) led 63 laps.
  • Ryan Blaney (P7) led 128 laps but would rather have the win.
  • Kyle Busch (P9) recovered after a pit road penalty.
  • Austin Dillon (P10) rounded out the Top 10.
So you had a bad day
  • Kurt Busch (P35) had problems early and that was that.
  • Bubba Wallace (P26) just never really got going.
  • Austin Cindric (P20) was minding his own business until the 41 and 42 shared theirs.
  • Ross Chastain (P19) ran well the first 2 stages.
  • Joey Logano (P17) isn’t as fast as Blaney. Yet.
Next up: Martinsville

Martin Truex, Jr. is the defending spring race winner and has three wins here out of the last 6 races. That’s hard to bet against.

Ryan Blaney has the best average finish in the past 6 races.

William Byron has been strong here recently as well. Teammate Chase Elliott led the most laps in October and won the Fall 2020 race while teammate Alex Bowman won here in the Fall of 2021.

This could be a nice rebound race for Kurt Busch to nab a Top 10 and look for brother Kyle to challenge for a win.

Drive fast, turn left and keep the shiny side up!  Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below!

Read more of Chuck Abrams’ Check In articles here.

(Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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