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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Richmond

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Federated Auto Parts 400
The Place: Richmond Raceway
The Date: Saturday, September 22
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (400 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 100),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 200), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Go Bowling 250
The Place: Richmond Raceway
The Date: Friday, September 21
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 187.5 miles (250 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 
Next Race: Talladega 250
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, October 13
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.04 miles (94 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 94)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Keselowski On A Roll

Brad Keselowski earned his third consecutive win Sunday in Las Vegas and, also for the third consecutive time, hoisted the trophy without leading the most laps. His No. 2 Team Penske Ford team has obviously figured out how to be out front when it matters most. In the last five races, he’s had three victories and a runner-up at Michigan.

The Las Vegas trophy marked his team owner, and NASCAR Hall of Fame-bound, Roger Penske’s 500th win in motorsports competition.

And also historically speaking, this week’s Richmond venue has been a solid place for Keselowski. He led a dominating 383 of 400 laps when he won from the pole position in 2014. He’s finished 11th or better in the last six races and was runner-up in the spring, 2017 race while leading 110 laps.

His current winning streak puts him atop the leaderboard and advances him to the Round of 12.

Truex Looking Strong

Martin Truex Jr. reclaimed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points lead for only the second time this season, thanks to a third-place effort in Sunday’s race at Las Vegas and up-front showings in the opening two stages. It’s the first time the reigning Cup champion has been atop the points standings since a one-week turn there after he won at Fontana, Calif. in Week 5 of the season. He sits second on the Playoffs leaderboard behind Brad Keselowski with one win in the Round of 16.

His No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team arrives at Richmond for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) still looking for his first victory at the three-quarter mile track. Of his 18 career wins, none are at short track venues. He has two top-fives in 25 Richmond races.

However, Truex has looked strong at Richmond lately. This spring, he won the pole position and led 121 laps, but ultimately finished 14th. He led 198 laps in the 2017 fall race but crashed out. He led 193 laps and finished third in the 2016 race at Richmond, his best-ever showing there. He’s led 512 of his career 560 laps led at Richmond in the last four races.

Truex holds a two-point edge over regular season champion Kyle Busch in the points standings with two races (at Richmond and at Charlotte’s road course) remaining in the first elimination portion of the Playoffs.

“We’re at a point where that short track mentality at Richmond could make for a crazy night, especially with late-race restarts,” Truex said. “You know some of the guys are going to do whatever it takes to try and get locked into the next round and that could cause some havoc. You never know, but definitely need to be prepared for all possibilities.

“I agree it would be nice to not worry or depend on the Roval [new road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway] the following week to make sure you advance to the next round.”

Kyle Busch Looks To Bounce Back

Kyle Busch is the all-time winningest active driver at Richmond with five victories – a total behind only the sport’s Hall of Fame greats such as Richard Petty (13 wins), Bobby Allison (seven), Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson and Rusty Wallace (seven wins).

But this week’s Richmond race isn’t so much about historical standing as it is championship pursuit. He’s gone seven races without a win, which ties his previous long winless streak in 2018. Busch had several issues last Sunday in Vegas but still managed to rally to a seventh-place finish in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. And he’s eager to reclaim his place atop the leaderboard with a win at Richmond, where he boasts the best average finish (5.55).

Busch has 16 top-fives at the track in 26 starts, including six runner-up finishes to accompany his five wins. He won there just this spring (his third in a three-race streak), leading 32 laps and hoisting the trophy despite starting 32nd. He led laps in six of the precious eight races at Richmond.

“I love Richmond,” Busch said. “It’s one of my favorite racetracks and one of my best racetracks. I love being able to go there and, of course, we put on some pretty good races there. We won four spring races in a row and I would have loved to have made it five or more. It’s a neat racetrack and it’s certainly an excitement track and there is a lot of action that happens there.”

Highly-Motivated Harvick

One of the most disappointing finishes at Las Vegas undoubtedly belonged to the season’s winningest driver. Seven-race winner Kevin Harvick crashed out early and finished 39th, collecting fellow Playoff driver Erik Jones in his crash.

The good news for Harvick is he still maintains the season’s top driver rating (114.8 compared to Kyle Busch’s 110.6).

He has three wins at Richmond, but the last one came in 2013 before he was at his current Stewart-Haas Racing team. He was fifth in the spring there – and has finished fifth in four of the last six races at the track. He has 22 top 10s in 35 starts.

The historical perspective is good news for the driver of the No. 4 SHR Ford, but it’s been five races since his last win (at Michigan) and his fourth-place position in the points is the lowest since he was ranked fourth at Richmond this Spring.

Penske Power
Not only did Keselowski lead the three-car Team Penske parade to victory, the entire team finished among the top-five. Joey Logano was fourth and Ryan Blaney was fifth – the first collective top-five for the team this season.

All things are looking up at precisely the Playoff time they’d like it to. In addition to Keselowski’s three straight wins entering the Richmond race this weekend, both Blaney and Logano are turning in championship-contending statistics as well.

Although still working on his first victory of 2018, Blaney has six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes this season in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. His 586 laps led is tops on his team. Keselowski has led 431 laps total and Logano, who won at Talladega this spring, has led 385. Only four other drivers have led more laps than Blaney and they all have race wins.

Richmond will be a test for the 24-year old, however. His best showing in this race is 18th last year when he was driving for the Wood Brothers Racing team. However, Blaney hasn’t finished worse than 12th in a race since Daytona in July.

Logano shows up at Richmond feeling energized as well. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford has two previous wins and two pole positions at the track. He’s finished top-five in the last three races there, winning in the spring of 2017, finishing runner-up that fall and finishing fourth this spring while leading 92 laps.

It’s been a good late summer stretch for Logano, has three top-five finishes in the season’s last four races, including a runner-up showing to teammate Keselowski at Darlington. He’s led 41 percent (159 of 385 laps) of his season lap total in the last four races.

It’s Go-Time!

Four drivers find themselves in a more intense Playoff situation than they’d like – all taken out of contention in accidents during Sunday’s Las Vegas race. As they arrive in Richmond, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott, and Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin are ranked 13-16th, respectively – all facing elimination before the second round of the Playoffs if those slots hold.

The 0.75-mile Richmond track, which hosted the final regular season race for years, now becomes a vital Playoff venue. That’s all positive for Johnson and Hamlin, who have three wins each at the track. Both Elliott and Jones are looking for their first victories.

Johnson trails 12th-place Alex Bowman by six points. He is buoyed by his win total and 14 top-10s at Richmond. He is the last driver to win back-to-back races, sweeping the 2007 season. Hamlin trails Bowman by 20 points, but the Virginian has a positive relationship with the Richmond track, earning 11 top-fives there, including the three wins.

Elliott, who trails Bowman by nine points, has two top 10s in six starts at Richmond, including a runner-up finish this spring. Jones, who trails Bowman by 19 points, has one top 10 in two Monster Energy Series starts at the track.

“Obviously Las Vegas ended in a disappointing finish, so I’m looking forward to returning to Richmond where I know I can be competitive,” Hamlin said. “We’ve really got to work hard to collect Playoff points this weekend to put us back in contention, and we’re going to keep going after that win to make sure we set ourselves up to advance.”

Day Making Season Debut

Israeli driver Alon Day will be making his 2018 Monster Energy Series debut this weekend driving the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota at Richmond. The 26-year-old Tel Aviv native won the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series championship.

This will be his second Cup start and first on an oval. He started and finished 32nd at Sonoma last year, driving the same car for BK Racing. His best finish in one of NASCAR’s three premier series is 13th on the Mid-Ohio road course in the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series race there.

Maintaining Focus

Several non-Playoff eligible drivers finished the day smiling at Las Vegas. Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard finished eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively. It marked back-to-back top-10s for Newman and Menard, who were 10th and ninth at Indy a week before.

Regan Smith, who is substituting for Kasey Kahne in the Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet, was 12th – the highest finish for the No. 95 this season outside of Kahne’s fourth place run in the summer Daytona race. Corey LaJoie finished 16th – his best showing of the season and second-best Monster Energy Series finish after an 11th-place at Daytona International Speedway in the summer of 2017.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Richmond Raceway Welcomes Xfinity Playoff Opener

For the first-time ever, the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway will kick off the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs on Friday, September 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. All the action will be under the lights as the 12 Playoff drivers will take their first step in contending for the title on the historic 0.75-mile short track. Sparks will be flying, and tempers will be tested, much like earlier this season at Richmond, when Playoff contenders Cole Custer won the pole and Christopher Bell grabbed his first of four NASCAR Xfinity Series victories on the season.

Richmond Raceway is a 0.75-mile paved oval short track with 14 degrees of banking in the turns. The Go Bowling 250 race will be a true test for the competitors, totaling 250 laps broken up into three stages – Stage 1 and 2 will be 75 laps each and the Final Stage will be a 100-lap shootout.

Prior to Richmond Raceway being selected as the track to host the Playoff opener this season, Kentucky Speedway held the position hosting the first races of the 2016 and 2017 postseasons.

In 2016, the inaugural Playoffs opened at Kentucky and Elliott Sadler, then a Playoff contender, took the checkered flag in impressive fashion. It was his only win of the Playoffs that season, and he ultimately went on to make the Championship 4, but finished runner-up in the final standings to Daniel Suarez.

Then last season, Tyler Reddick won the first race of the 2017 Playoffs at Kentucky Speedway. It was his first career Xfinity Series victory and he did it while on a part-time schedule driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, not eligible for the title.

Much like Kentucky, Richmond is one of many tracks on the schedule that any driver can win at. For example, in the last seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the famed short track, there have been seven different winners – Christopher Bell (spring 2018), Brad Keselowski (fall 2017), Kyle Larson (spring 2017), Kyle Busch (fall 2016), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (spring 2016), Chase Elliott (fall 2015) and Denny Hamlin (spring 2015). Could we see an eighth? Possibly, only two former winners included in the streak are entered in this event – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Christopher Bell.

Top Seeds: Justin Allgaier and Christopher Bell Are Out Front Early

Being the top seeds in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs can have its perks. For instance, both Playoff standings leader Justin Allgaier and second-place Christopher Bell are more than 20 Playoff points ahead of their nearest competition heading into this postseason opener at Richmond Raceway on Friday (September 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

JR Motorsport’s Allgaier won the regular season championship last weekend at Las Vegas and now heads into the Playoffs as the No. 1 seed, seven points ahead of second-place Bell. This is Allgaier’s third consecutive season making the Playoffs. The veteran from Illinois completed the 2018 regular season with five wins, 15 top fives, 21 top 10s and an average finish of 8.7.

“You got to keep racing these races the same way,” said Allgaier as he looks towards the Playoffs. “You got to go for wins, you got to go for stage wins. You got to get those bonus points because it is so challenging right now to keep the speed every week and execute.”

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell is right behind Allgaier in the standings and isn’t showing signs of letting up. Bell’s 2018 rookie season has been electrifying to say the least, as the Oklahoma native has captured four wins, 14 top fives, 16 top 10s and an average finish of 10.7.

Expect both top-seeded drivers to continue their recent success this weekend at Richmond. Allgaier has made 15 series starts at the 0.75-mile short track, posting three top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 14.6. Plus, he finished eighth in the fall Richmond race last season. Despite all that, Allgaier may have his work cut out for him this weekend as Bell has taken to Richmond rather quickly. In two series starts, the Joe Gibbs Racing Sunoco rookie has posted one win (earlier this season), two top 10s and an average finish of 3.5.

Best Of The Rest: Third To 12th In The Playoffs Are Separated By Just 11 Points

With their big points lead, a lot of the attention this opening weekend will be paid to the top two seeds on the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff leaderboard, but let’s not forget the next 10 drivers (from third to 12th) are only separated by 11 points as the series heads to Richmond Raceway for the first race of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. All a driver must do is win and they are automatically moving on to the next round making, these next three races crucial to the drivers in this tight Playoff points battle. Only eight of the 12 drivers will move on to the next round.

Mid-Pack Attack: Feel safe to assume the NASCAR Xfinity Playoff standings will most likely shuffle following Richmond, as the series has five drivers currently all within one point of each other heading into the Playoff opener.

Elliott Sadler (2,011 points – No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently in third, 28-points back from his JRM teammate Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and only eight points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft, the first spot outside of the cutoff for the Round of 8. This is Sadler’s third consecutive season making the Playoffs (2016-2018). In 2018, he’s still looking for his first win but has accrued 13 top fives, 21 top 10s and an average finish of 8.6 – best among Playoff contenders. The Emporia, Virginia, native has made 30 series starts at his home track (Richmond), posting six top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 13.2. He finished fifth in the 2017 fall Richmond race and third at the short track earlier this season.

Cole Custer (2,011 points – No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) is currently in fourth in the standings following Las Vegas, 28-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and only eight points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft, the first spot outside of the cutoff for the Round of 8. This is Custer’s second appearance in the postseason (2017, 2018). Custer’s sophomore season (2018) in the Xfinity Series has been notable posting 11 top fives, 21 top 10s and five poles. His average finish this season is a career-best 9.2. The California boy has made four series starts at Richmond, recording two top 10s and an average finish of 9.8; including winning the pole and finishing sixth earlier this season.

Tyler Reddick (2,010 points – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently fifth in the standings in his Playoff debut, 29-points back from his JRM teammate Justin Allgaier in the standings lead and only seven points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft in the first spot outside of the cutoff for the next round. Reddick enters the postseason having posted one win (season opener at Daytona), four top fives, 14 top 10s and an average finish of 14.7. Reddick has made just two starts at Richmond clutching his best finish earlier this season (11th).

Ross Chastain (2,010 points – No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) is coming off his first career Xfinity Series win last weekend at Las Vegas and in doing so jumped to sixth in the Playoff standings, 29-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just seven points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft. Chastain will be making his postseason debut and will be back in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this weekend with crew chief Mike Shiplett – the same car/team that won the fall Richmond race last season with driver Kyle Larson. In 26 starts this year, Chastain has collected one win, two top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 15.8. Chastain is no stranger to Richmond; the Florida native has made seven series starts on the Virginian short track, putting together an average finish of 22.6. He finished 16th in the Richmond race earlier this season.

Daniel Hemric (2,010 points – No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is currently in seventh, 29-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead, and only seven points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft. This is Hemric’s second consecutive postseason appearance (2017, 2018). Hemric finished the regular season with 12 top fives, 16 top 10s and two poles. His average finish is a 9.9. Heading into this weekend at Richmond, watch for Hemric to be a strong contender, in his three series starts at the short track he has tallied two top fives and a pole. Plus, he finished fourth in the fall Richmond race last year.

Back of the Standings: Brandon Jones currently sits in the eighth and final transfer spot; which has the challengers behind him feeling the pressure to run well in this first round as just eight drivers have the opportunity to move on to the Round of 8 in the next three races (Richmond, Charlotte Road Course and Dover).

Brandon Jones (2,006 points – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) is currently in the eighth and final Playoff transfer spot, 33-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just three points ahead of RCR’s Matt Tifft in ninth – the first spot outside the cutoff. This is the second-time in Jones’ career he has made the Playoffs (2016, 2018). Jones enters the postseason with two top fives, 12 top 10s and an average finish of 13.7. The Georgia native, Jones, has made five starts at Richmond posting his best finish (10th) at the 0.75-mile track earlier this season.

Matt Tifft (2,003 points – No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is currently in the ninth position in the standings – the first spot outside the Round of 8 cutoff, 36-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just three points back from Brandon Jones in eighth. This is the second straight year Tifft has made the Playoffs, and the Ohio native heads into Richmond having gathered four top fives, 13 top 10s and an average finish of 14.0 this season. Tifft has made four series starts at Richmond and in each one he has gotten progressively better, recording his career-best finish at the short track earlier this season (fourth).

Ryan Truex (2,003 points – No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) is making his NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff debut in the 10th seed, 36-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just three points back from Brandon Jones in eighth. Though this is the first time for Truex, it is the third consecutive season the No. 11 Kaulig Racing team has competed in the postseason. Truex finished 2018 with one top five, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 13.6. The New Jersey native, Truex, will need to win or move into the top eight in the Playoff standings to move on to the Round of 8. Advantageously, he has made six series starts at Richmond, tallying one top five and three top 10s; including a seventh-place finish earlier this season.

Austin Cindric (2,001 points – No. 22 Team Penske Ford) makes his postseason debut as the 11th seed, 38-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and five points back from Brandon Jones in eighth, the final transfer spot for the Round of 8. Cindric’s Sunoco rookie campaign this season has had its ups and downs, but the youngster from North Carolina has finished the regular season with three top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 18.7. Cindric made his series track debut at Richmond earlier this season; starting third and finishing fifth. Since 2010, the No. 22 Team Penske Ford team has won at Richmond four times; including this race last season.

Ryan Reed (2,000 points – No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford) enters his third consecutive career postseason in the 12th and final Playoff position, 39-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and six points back from Brandon Jones in eighth – the final transfer spot to the Round of 8. Reed finished the regular season with two top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 16.5. Despite the statistically down year, Reed has reason to be optimistic heading into Richmond, the California native has made 11 series starts at the historic short track posting an average finish of 13.9; including a ninth-place finish earlier this season.

NBC Analyst and Former Xfinity Series Champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Returns To Racing

No big deal, it’s just the 15-time most popular Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and on top of all that, now a world-wide NBC Sports Network Analyst and TV show host Dale Earnhardt Jr. making his stock car racing return this weekend in the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway on Friday, September 21 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

At the conclusion of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. decided to retire from full-time racing competition and instead pick up the headset and microphone in the NBC Sports booth and become a NASCAR TV analyst, to fans’ delight. Now for the first-time since the 2017 championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will climb back into a racecar and compete in one of NASCAR’s national series.

Earnhardt will strap into the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet with crew chief Mike Bumgarner calling the shots from the pit box. Earnhardt has made seven series starts at Richmond Raceway, accumulating four wins (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2016), five top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 6.7. Surprisingly, Earnhardt’s last NASCAR national series win came at Richmond back in 2016.

Earnhardt’s Xfinity career has seen 139 starts, two titles (1998, 1999), 24 wins, 67 top fives, 91 top 10s and 10 poles.

Sports Car Star Katherine Legge To Make First Oval Xfinity Start

IMSA sports car star Katherine Legge will attempt to make her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on an oval race track this weekend at Richmond Raceway. Legge’s previous stints in the series have all been on road courses, and this weekend the British competitor is looking to expand her resumé driving for JD Motorsports in the No. 15 Chevrolet on the historic 0.75-mile short track.

If Legge makes the Go Bowling 250 field, she will become just the ninth different female competitor to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Richmond Raceway; joining Diane Teel, Patty Moise, Johanna Long, Danica Patrick, Shawna Robinson, Alli Owens, Erin Crocker and Tammy Jo Kirk. In addition, Legge would become the first female international competitor to compete in the series at Richmond, as she hails from Guilford, England.

This weekend will be Legge’s third series start. Her previous two were run at Mid-Ohio and Road America; where she finished 30th and 14th, respectively.

The best finish by a female competitor in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Richmond Raceway is 15th and the record is held by three competitors – Johanna Long (2013), Patty Moise (1988) and Diane Teel (1982).

The all-time best finish by a female competitor in each NASCAR national series are: Monster Energy Series – Sara Christian’s fifth-place finish at Heidelberg in 1949; NASCAR Xfinity Series – Danica Patrick’s fourth-place finish at Las Vegas in 2011 and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Jennifer Jo Cobb’s sixth-place finish at Daytona in 2011.

Chip Ganassi Racing Grooming Some Of The Sport’s Next Best

Facts are facts, and the fact is over the last three seasons no team has produced more first-time winners than Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR). This past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ross Chastain became the fourth new driver Chip Ganassi Racing has taken to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Xfinity Series; which is 33.3% of the series total (12) over the past three seasons (2016-2018). Chastain joins Alex Bowman (2017), Tyler Reddick (2017) and Justin Marks (2016) on CGR’s recent first-timers wins list.

Impressively, each driver has capitalized on their opportunity and successes with CGR, Alex Bowman was a part-time driver and now currently races for Hendrick Motorsports full-time and is in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; Tyler Reddick was also running part-time before his first win and now is full-time with JR Motorsports contending for the title in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and even Justin Marks continues to run part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity Series and also competed in the 2018 Daytona 500 for Jay Robinson Racing finishing 12th.

Much like the aforementioned drivers, Ross Chastain’s recent success has parlayed into a much better seeding in the Xfinity Playoffs heading into this weekend at Richmond than had he not won. He would have been 12th, but instead he is currently sixth in Playoff standings only 29-points back from the standings lead.

Chastain will be back in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Richmond Raceway. Chastain has been dominant when behind the wheel of the No. 42 and under the tutelage of crew chief Mike Shiplett; in their two starts together Chastain has been out front for 78.2% of his laps completed, including bringing home the win in Vegas. If he were to win again this weekend, Chastain would guarantee himself a spot in the Playoff’s Round of 8.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Richmond Raceway Fast Facts: The NASCAR Xfinity Series has held 69 races at Richmond, producing 37 different pole winners and 34 different race winners. … Kenny Wallace leads the series in series starts at Richmond with 36, Jeff Green leads all active drivers with 33. … Kyle Busch leads the series in Richmond poles with six and Kevin Harvick leads the series in Richmond wins with seven; neither are entered this weekend. … A total of 14 Xfinity Series races have been won from the pole or first starting position at Richmond; the most recent was Denny Hamlin in 2015.

First-Time Winners At RR: Richmond Raceway has been the home to six drivers’ first career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins – Robby Gordon (2004), Kyle Busch (2004), Jeff Purvis (1996), Bobby Hamilton (1989), Butch Lindley (1982) and Tommy Houston (1982).

Xfinity Series Debuts: Two drivers will be making their series debuts this weekend at Richmond, Conor Lane and Mason Diaz. Lane is from Port Richey, Florida, and has been competing in the ARCA Series part-time. He will attempt to make the Go Bowling 250 driving the No. 27 Chevrolet for his own team, Cody Lane Racing, with crew chief Timmy Silva on the pit box. Joining Lane in an attempt to make his series debut this weekend will be Mason Diaz out of Manassas, Virginia. Diaz will be driving the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet with crew chief Adam Brenner calling the shots from pit road. Diaz has mainly cut his teeth running CARS Super Late Models but does have one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start last season at Martinsville; he started ninth and finished 23rd.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Enfinger Locks Himself into the Round of 6

After three overtimes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Grant Enfinger was able to fend off the field and capture his first win of the season and his spot in the Round of 6.

This was Enfinger’s second career win.

Prior to the race at Las Vegas, Enfinger was in eighth in the Playoff standings before he guaranteed his spot in the second round after holding off Johnny Sauter in the World of Westgate 200 by 0.142 seconds.

Enfinger joins 19-year old Justin Haley as the only two drivers locked into the next round.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ next race is at Talladega Superspeedway. Sauter leads the series standings by 17 points. Noah Gragson is sitting in the second position followed by Brett Moffitt and Matt Crafton.

Right now, Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen are below the Playoff cut line.

Playoff drivers at Las Vegas:

Grant Enfinger won the World of Westgate 200 after starting in the third position. He led 40 laps and won Stage 2. He accumulated six Playoff points.

Johnny Sauter finished second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He started sixth and led 21 laps.

Justin Haley rounded out the top three at Las Vegas after starting 12th.

Ben Rhodes finished fourth, fighting back from starting at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments. He led four laps.

Matt Crafton also started at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and finished fifth. He led four laps.

Brett Moffitt finished 11th after starting ninth. On the final overtime restart, Moffitt ran out of gas after a red flag on the track to give up the first position.

Stewart Friesen finished 17th as a result of multiple incidents on the track throughout the night. He started in the second position and led 17 laps.

Noah Gragson started from the pole at Las Vegas, led 33 laps and won Stage 1. Unfortunately, Gragson encountered issues throughout the race, forcing him to finish 18th.

Last Chances At ‘Dega

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off for three weeks before they head to Talladega Superspeedway for a last chance at making it to the Round of 6.

Of the six drivers who have not yet won in the Playoffs and clinched their spot in the next round, only one of them has ever won at Talladega in their career.

Johnny Sauter won at the superspeedway in 2013 after starting 24th. Grant Enfinger won in 2016, his first career win, but has already clinched his place in the Round of 6 with a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sauter has nine starts at the track with three top fives and five top 10s. Sauter has an average driver rating of 86.1 at the track.

Noah Gragson is heading to Talladega Superspeedway for only the second time in his Truck Series career. Last year, he started eighth and finished 14th.

Brett Moffitt has never visited Talladega, before so his first time at the track will also be his last shot at securing his place in the next round of the Playoffs. He is the only Playoff driver who has never been to Talladega.

Matt Crafton has 12 starts under his belt at Talladega, the most of any driver in the series. He has not yet won at the track but has one top five and four top 10s.

Ben Rhodes will hit the track for the third time of his career. Unfortunately, both of his previous starts resulted in an early exit from the race due to a crash.

Stewart Friesen, like Gragson, is making his second start at Talladega. He started third but ended up finishing 17th last year.

Last season, seven of this year’s eight Playoff drivers competed at Talladega. But, only three of them competed as a Playoff driver (Crafton, Sauter and Rhodes). Enfinger, Gragson, Haley and Friesen all competed, but not as Playoff contenders. Enfinger finished fourth, Crafton finished ninth, Sauter finished 12th, Gragson finished 14th, Haley finished 16th, Friesen finished 17th and Rhodes finished 23rd. Brett Moffitt did not compete in the Playoffs last year, or at Talladega.

Crew Chief Spotlight: Jeff Hensley

For 15 years, Jeff Hensley has been a crew chief for at least one race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He has 344 races in the series under his belt with 14 wins. He was also a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for 15 years and has 11 wins in that series. In 1989 and 1992, Hensley was crew chief for Chuck Brown in the K&N Pro Series East for a pair of races.

His most recent win came last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he was the crew chief for Grant Enfinger, who won the World of Westgate 200, after many quick decisions from the pit box.

Not only was this an exciting win for the No. 98 team because it locked them into the next round of the Playoffs, it was also special because it gave ThorSport general manager (and spotter for Enfinger’s No. 98 Ford) David Pepper a win in his 500th start.

Hensley has 90 top-five finishes in the Truck Series and 185 top 10s.

Heading into the next race for the series at Talladega, Hensley has led drivers there 12 times to three top fives and six top 10s.

The last two years, Hensley has been crew chief for Enfinger. In previous years, he was crew chief for drivers such as Mike Skinner (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008), Ron Hornaday Jr. (2011, 2012) and fellow Playoff driver Johnny Sauter in 2014. He led Sauter to one win, two top fives and six top 10s.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

Breaking Records: Something interesting to note about the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Talladega is that of the 12 races run, there have only been eight different winners at the track. Four drivers have won twice at the Talladega. They are Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch, Parker Kligerman and Timothy Peters. Of those four drivers, Kligerman is the only driver that didn’t win back-to-back.

If Johnny Sauter or Grant Enfinger win at Talladega, they will be the fifth driver to win two or more races.

2006 Mark Martin Ford
2007 Todd Bodine Toyota
2008 Todd Bodine Toyota
2009 Kyle Busch Toyota
2010 Kyle Busch Toyota
2011 Mike Wallace Chevrolet
2012 Parker Kligerman Toyota
2013 Johnny Sauter Toyota
2014 Timothy Peters Toyota
2015 Timothy Peters Toyota
2016 Grant Enfinger Chevrolet
2017 Parker Kligerman Toyota

OEM Battle: The battle of the manufacturers continues as Chevrolet still leads the pack with 662 points and eight wins. Toyota is 23 points behind Chevrolet in second with seven wins. Ford is in third place, back 58 points with three wins. One of those wins came last weekend as a Ford went to Victory Lane for the first time since Eldora. Last season, Toyota took home the manufacturers’ championship with 856 points.

Remaining Five: There are only five races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs before a champion is named at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. Talladega Superspeedway is the longest oval with a length of 2.66-miles and 33-degree banking in corners. Martinsville Speedway is the shortest track on the circuit. It is a 0.52-mile asphalt oval with 12-degree banking in corners and an 800-foot frontstretch and backstretch. Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile asphalt oval with 20-degree banking in turns one and two and 24-degree banking in turns three and four. ISM Raceway, the second-to-last track the Truck Series will visit, is a 1-mile dogleg oval outside Phoenix, Arizona. ISM also marks the last cutoff race. Lastly, Homestead-Miami Speedway is a 2.5-mile, four-turn oval with 18-20-degree banking in corners.

Rhodes Wants Redemption: Last season, Ben Rhodes was eliminated after the Round of 6 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. He made it into the Round of 6 after Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala were eliminated from the Round of 8. But, Rhodes was unable to clinch a spot in the Championship 4 after finishing ninth at Martinsville, 18th at Texas and 20th at ISM Raceway. After a 23rd-place finish at Talladega last season, Rhodes was still in Playoff contention after winning the Playoffs race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now that Talladega Superspeedway is the cutoff race for the Round of 6, Rhodes hopes that the results will be different than last year. Right now, he is sitting below the cutoff line but a win would assure that he sees the next round.