All photos courtesy of NASCAR via Getty Images
After a week that left fans questioning the future of NASCAR following the retirement announcement by the sport’s most popular driver, the young guns did their part to prove that the excitement hasn’t fizzled out during this weekend’s events at Richmond International Raceway.
Despite past struggles at the D-shaped .75-mile short track, Kyle Larson finally found his way to Victory Lane in Saturday afternoon’s ToyotaCare 250 XFINITY Series race. Despite the No. 21 of Daniel Suarez picking up the pole for the 187.5-mile race with a pole speed of 117.981 MPH, Suarez’s effort would fall flat after Suarez would be collected in a five-car pile-up near the tail end of this race.
Along with defeating the pole-winner Suarez, Larson also took down the best car in the 40-car field.
After winning Stage 2 of Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 the No. 7 of Justin Allgaier continued to stay at the top of the field. That is until the final 15 laps of this race. While leading this race NASCAR decided to drop the caution flag on lap 239 when the engine in BJ McLeod’s Chevrolet expired leaving fluid on the asphalt surface. Along with the other lead-lap cars, Allgaier surrendered the lead to hit pit road to pick-up fresh tires. Stage 1 winner Ty Dillon would take the lead from the JR Motorsports driver, but quickly lose this lead after jumping the restart on lap 246.
After restarting in the inside lane, the No. 42 of Kyle Larson would clear Allgaier off Turn 2 and crossed the overtime line before a wreck on the backstretch caused the seventh and final caution and froze the field with Monster Energy Cup Series young gun in the lead.
Following the final restart Larson would retain the lead and pick up his first checkered flag at Richmond International Raceway.
“I’m not good at this place, so a win is pretty neat,” said Larson. “I still have to work on myself for long runs, but we managed to pull this off today.”
Although Larson would take the race win from Allgaier, this XFINITY Series regular had another reason to celebrate after picking up the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash Bonus for the second time this season.
“It’s a bittersweet day, I’ll be honest with you,” said Allgaier.
Allgaier will have a chance to redeem his second-place finish next weekend at one of NASCAR’s most popular superspeedway’s – Talladega Superspeedway.
Toyota Owners 400
The Kyle Busch vs. Joey Logano Drama Continues
From one NASCAR young gun win to another, 26-year-old Joey Logano raced his way from last to first to pick up his first win of the season in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.
After a post-qualifying transmission change, the Team Penske driver would be forced to start this 300-mile race from the rear.
While pole-sitter and Stage 1 winner Matt Kenseth would dominate most of what seemed like another NASCAR snooze fest, things would get a lot more interesting when another well-known Penske driver would charge to the lead. The No. 2 of Brad Keselowski proved that he had one of the faster cars in the field after blowing by Kenseth during the restart of Stage 2 and not looking back for the next 110-laps.
Despite picking up this stage win and having a dominate car, Keselowski would experience difficulty getting through traffic during the final laps of this race, which gave a hard-charging Logano a chance to not only drive through the 38-car field, but take the race lead away from his teammate.
In fact, Logano and Keselowski both made the smart decision to stay on the track after NASCAR waved the caution flag on Lap 367, which led the two Team Penske drivers vulnerable to the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
That is until the final caution on lap 377 brought Logano and his favorite nemesis, Kyle Busch, to pit road. Of the cars that came to pit road, Logano was first off and lined up behind the six cars that stayed out — those of Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., David Ragan and Cole Whitt. Although Busch felt his entry into pit road was completely legal NASCAR officials handed the No. 18 driver a penalty for a commitment line violation, which would send Rowdy Busch to the rear of the field.
On fresh rubber, Logano made short work of the cars in front of him and passed series leader Kyle Larson for the top spot with 16 circuits left, which eventually led to his second win at Richmond International Raceway.
“The caution came out and the boys gave me a great pit stop, which gave us good track position to pass the cars that stayed out,” said Logano. “I also knew the No. 2 of Keselowski was so much faster than everybody, and I had to get out there as quick and as far as I could. I think he was catching me by a couple tenths a lap, but I gave it all that I could inside the car and I’m proud of the effort that this entire team gave. We executed under pressure and brought a fifth-to-10th-place car home to Victory Lane.”
In spite of a well-deserved victory, Logano’s celebration would once again be overshadowed by the ongoing drama that continues between he and Kyle Busch. During Logano’s Victory Lane celebration, on-site media would attempt to obtain a comment from Busch, but would be blown off by the often hot-headed driver as he stormed down pit road. Though he could have taken a turn to ruin his competitor’s time to shine, Busch instead decided to go pout in his motorhome.
Despite winning this race, this NASCAR young gun continues to sit behind the young driver who was part of the rumored list of drivers that could take over the famed No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports seat following the 2017 season. Monster Energy Cup Series point leader Kyle Larson will continue to do what he can to hold onto his point lead following next weekend’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all your NASCAR coverage.