Championship Battle Begins at Richmond International Raceway

The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Field Set Following the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Championship Battle Begins at Richmond International Raceway
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Field Set Following the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

On a weekend when most sports news was centered around the start of the 2017 NFL season, the stars of NASCAR were all abuzz about the kickoff of the 2017 Championship season at Richmond International Raceway.

 

Virginia 529 College Savings 250

Championship Battle Begins at Richmond International Raceway
Brad Keselowski celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Friday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

While not racing for a championship, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski knew that his No. 22 Penske Racing machine was a superior part of the 40-car field during Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 race.

Championship Battle Begins at Richmond International Raceway
Kyle Busch leads the field to the wave of the green flag in Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

While the No. 18 of Kyle Busch led the way during the start of this 250-lap race, he struggled to stay at the top as fellow Cup Series drivers Ty Dillon and Brad Keselowski found their way to the top of the pack.

The No. 3 of Ty Dillon took the Stage 1 win, but it was Keselowski who amazed fans with his powerful move to the top, where he took home the Stage 2 win after passing Busch on the final circuit (Lap 150). This dominating lead continued for the final caution-free 89 laps to grant Keselowski his second XFINITY Series victory this season.

“We weren’t quite where we wanted to be on the short runs, but good enough to be right there,” said Keselowski. “We just hung on in the long runs and we were able to pounce for the lead ahead of Busch. I’m happy to get another win in this series. It was truly a great night at Richmond and I am proud of my whole team.”

Keselowski wasn’t the only driver with a reason to celebrate following Friday’s race, as XFINITY Series points leader Elliott Sadler, who rolled home in fifth place, clinched the regular-season championship.

Championship Battle Begins at Richmond International Raceway
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, wraps up 2017 XFINITY Series Championship following race at Richmond International Raceway.

“We’re getting ourselves in playoff form,” said Sadler, who locked up the title with one race left in the regular season. “We’re fired up and ready to go to Chicagoland.”

 

Federated Auto Parts 400

Championship Battle Begins at Richmond International Raceway
Kyle Larson celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

While one NASCAR championship was decided this weekend, a field of 16 drivers would find out that they would officially make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2017 playoff field following Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

A member of this elite club was Chip Ganassi driver Kyle Larson, who took home the illustrious win at Richmond.

Championship Battle Begins at Richmond International Raceway
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Hurricane Harvey Relief Toyota, leads Denny Hamlin at the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

After the No. 20 Hurricane Harvey Relief driver Matt Kenseth took the Cup Series field to the wave of the green flag, the No. 18 of Kyle Busch got his revenge for Friday’s XFINITY Series debacle by taking the lead and Stage 1 win.

Much like his earlier XFINITY Series performance, Busch once again gave away his lead to fellow hard-charger and regular-season champ Martin Truex, Jr., who took home the Stage 2 win. While Truex had a comfortable lead over young Kyle Larson as the laps wound down in this race, a caution on lap 397 of 400 turned what looked like another comfortable win for Truex into an unexpected but hard-fought victory for Kyle Larson, who also cemented his place in the Cup Series playoff field.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” said Larson. “That definitely showed during this race. I can’t thank these guys enough and this win is a huge congrats to them.”

Larson’s victory also ensured playoff spots for three other drivers who were fighting for these illustrious spots: Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth.

While each of these young drivers have helped each other in clinching a position in the Cup Series playoffs, which will begin in Chicago, it will be every man for himself for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all the latest in NASCAR news.

About Ellen Richardson 163 Articles
Ellen Richardson is the author of Behind The Wheel for RacingJunk.com. This automotive sports junkie has a passion for telling an athlete's story while also covering various racing activities. Find out more about her at ellennrichardson.wordpress.com or follow Ellen on Twitter at @ellennrich or Instagram at elnrich33.
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