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Saturday Richmond Notebook

Chase Elliott tries for two important milestones at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. – With a season-best qualifying effort on Friday at Richmond Raceway, Chase Elliott is in ideal position to make personal history-not to mention achieving a major milestone for the Hendrick Motorsports organization that fields his No. 9 Chevrolets.

Elliott put his car on the outside of the front row for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the .75-mile short track, a race that will mark Elliott’s 86th start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Seven of those starts have ended in runner-up finishes, but Elliott is still searching for his first victory at NASCAR’s top level.

Also at stake is a 250th victory for Hendrick Motorsports, which has been to Victory Lane in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 249 times with 16 different drivers. Elliott would like nothing better than to contribute to that total.

“Yeah, it’s incredible,” Elliott said of Hendrick’s long run of success. “That’s a huge achievement. I can’t say I’ve helped them a whole lot to get there, but it’s been awesome to be a part of that company and to have watched it over the years; and to have watched them from the couch (winning) races.

“I would love to get number one for me, obviously, but the score of 250 will be pretty spectacular. For them to have 249 wins, if you could ever just get one to be amongst the people who have won there, I think would be pretty cool in itself.

“We have to just keep trucking forward like we have been. We’ve been struggling at some of these places and just trying to scratch and go on and get what we can and get back to the ways that I think that our teams deserves to be in.”

AUSTIN CINDRIC ENJOYS CAREER-BEST NASCAR XFINITY SERIES FINISH

All but lost in the late-race battle between race winner Christopher Bell and runner-up Noah Gragson was a career-best fifth-place finish by Austin Cindric in his first competition at Richmond Raceway.

It was also an eye-opener for the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, who started from the rear because of an unapproved pre-race adjustment to the car and drove through the field to fifth.

“That was more work than I thought I was going to have to do (Friday night),” Cindric said after the ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series event. “We were definitely a top-three car. We just needed a Cup race worth of distance to get there. Track position was pretty important. We had a great long-run car all night and definitely a car that was able to contend for the win.

“I’m really, really happy with the guys. They’ve been patient with me, and coming to this track, never having seen it before, I’m happy with the run. This is my best finish so far in the Xfinity Series and we’ll just keep going.”

The final 100 laps was something of struggle for the 19-year-old driver, after two 75-lap stages were already in the books.

“My right ankle is sore just from cramping it up so hard trying not to burn it off those last 90 laps because, for me, I didn’t know what I was in for,” Cindric said. “I had those other 75-lap runs to base off of, but you add another 25 on that and it’s a chore.

“I’m pretty happy with how it ended. Obviously, we wish we could have gotten a top-four or top-three there, but we’ll keep going.”

DANIEL HEMRIC FEELS READY FOR GIANT STEP IN RACING CAREER

Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric has 49 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 41 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series-all without a victory.

But that hasn’t stopped the 27-year-old from Kannapolis, N.C., from approaching his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut with confidence.

“I think I’m as ready as I’m going to get,” said Hemric, who drove his No. 8 Chevrolet to a respectable 22nd starting position. “Twenty-two years in the making to get to this point. “It’s cool to know that not only did I get to qualify for my Cup debut, but I get to go race (on Saturday).

“I’m pumped to know that I get to be here and do this. We’ve got a great group of guys. It’s tough when you pull a group that do not go to the race track every week and put them together and say ‘Hey, go race against these guys.’ Because these (Cup drivers) are the best in the world to do this.

“Fortunate and blessed to be here, and I look forward to what lies ahead-but just trying to enjoy it.”

— NASCAR Wire Service —