Quick Hits on Richmond
Anticipation was high heading into Richmond. It was the second consecutive short track race, the third of the season and the first to be run at night under the lights. Unfortunately, the race didn't live up to the hopes of many. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the last 20 laps deluded many into believing they'd watched a great race.
Kevin Harvick led the field from the pole and it became evident early on that passing, at least near the front of the field, would be difficult. It became evident early on that once again Kyle Busch was the class of the field. He took the lead on lap 31 and kept it until lap 132, leading a race high 101 laps. He easily won the first stage and continued to show he was the man to beat. A pit road speeding penalty forced him to restart at the back of the pack.
Busch spent the ensuing laps charging through the field but even with a car as strong as his was, he was unable to move all the way to the front. Richmond may be a short track but it certainly raced like a mile-and-a-half-track prior to the 2019 rules package. Clean air ruled; drivers could catch the car in front of them but could rarely pass. At one point in the race, Mike Joy pointed out that the first side by side battle for position was taking place back in 13th. When the night ended, Busch had only been able to make it back to 8th place.
The last 20 laps saw Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano chase down Truex. Based on what the previous 380 laps looked like, there was no reason to believe either could take the lead and indeed, that was the case. Logano did take second from Bowyer but again, he could only make it to Truex' bumper. Perhaps egged on by Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon pretending there would be a dramatic last lap pass for the win, many on social media raved about what a great race they saw. Prior to that, the overall sentiment seemed to be disappointment in how non-competitive the race had been all night.
Eight cars were sent to the rear of the field due to failing inspection. Denny Hamlin was the only one of those drivers able to finish in the top 10, finishing 5. For the second week in a row Paul Menard (10th) and Ryan Newman (9th) had strong runs. Chris Buescher was in the top 10 for a lot of the night but for the second consecutive race had nothing to show for it, finishing in 22nd.
Kyle Larson continues to have a horrible season. He dealt with a severe tire rub after making contact on a restart then later had a tire blow, sending him into the wall. He finished 37th, the first car out of the race.
After an off-week for Easter, the series travels to Talladega. It's a place where no one ever knows what will happen but it's also a place where almost anyone has a chance to win or at least get a much needed top or top 10 finish. Right now there are a lot of teams and drivers in that category. It's also a place where it's possible for someone other than a Gibbs or Penske driver to win and the series needs that. Nine races is the longest start to a NASCAR season to see only two teams win all the races. That might be great if you're a fan of those teams but the series and its fans need to see others take the checkers at some point. Hopefully Talladega is the place for it to happen.