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The Starting Grid: Racing at Richmond International Raceway
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman breaks down Richmond International Raceway for Sunday's Toyota Owners 400.
No. 22 team penalized following Richmond win
NASCAR on Thursday issued an L1-level penalty to Team Penske's No. 22 team for a rear suspension violation discovered during teardown at the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. The penalty carries multiple consequences, which includes making Joey Logano's win at Richmond on Sunday encumbered. The encumbered win is the first for a victorious Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team since NASCAR adopted that policy in 2016. What that means is Logano cannot use the Richmond win as consideration for an automatic playoff spot. Should Logano still make the postseason, the five playoff points that come with a victory would not apply for Richmond . The official race record will still list Logano as the winner. Additional penalties are a $50,000 fine and two-race suspension for crew chief Todd Gordon, and the loss of 25 driver points and 25 owner points. The violation was under Section 20 of the NASCAR Rule Book. According to the penalty grid NASCAR issued, the No. 22 team did not adhere to the following: the Truck trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mating surfaces must be planar and must be in complete contact with corresponding mating surfaces at all points and at all times. In a statement, Team Penske announced it would not appeal the penalties. "We understand and accept the penalty that was communicated to us today by NASCAR following last weekend’s victory by the No. 22 car at Richmond ," the statement read. "We are disappointed by the notice, however, we do not plan to appeal the penalty. The No. 22 team remains focused on competing for wins as we work toward the NASCAR Playoffs and a Championship. Race Engineer Miles Stanley will serve as Joey Logano's crew chief this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, while Greg Erwin will help call race strategy on Sunday.” Other penalties issued Thursday include: • The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has an unsecured lug nut in a post-race check Sunday at Richmond International Raceway . Crew chief Mike Wheeler was handed a $10,000 fine after one lug nut was found to be improperly secured. The infraction was noted after driver Denny Hamlin recorded a season-best third-place finish in the Toyota Owners 400.
Best in-car audio from Richmond International Raceway
Relive the best in-car audio from the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway .
Richmond penalty report: No. 22 team faces encumbered win
The No. 22 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team of Joey Logano was hit with a penalty following its win in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway . Denny Hamlin's crew chief Mike Wheeler was also fined.
Richmond brings back red stripes on track walls
Photo credit: Richmond International Raceway BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond Richmond International Raceway announced Wednesday a retro look ahead of its first NASCAR weekend of 2017 on April 28-30, painting the exterior walls with red and white stripes. The classic look will pay homage to the roots of the Virginia facility, which hosted its first race on the .75-mile track in September 1988. Before that, NASCAR series competed on the .542-mile fairgrounds oval with alternating red and white paint adorning the metal guardrails. "I've always been fascinated by the historical racing images of the red and white on the wall at Richmond ," track president Dennis Bickmeier said in a news release. "Our longtime fans have often shared their fond memories of the red stripes, so it is a great day when we can reconnect with our history on the track. The red stripes unite our past with our future. We hope fans will have an awe-inspiring moment as they walk into the track for our Toyota race weekend." Sherwin-Williams, the official paint of NASCAR, is providing materials for the track makeover. The look will be in place in time for the Richmond's first NASCAR weekend of the year, with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday, April 30, and the ToyotaCare 250 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series the preceding day. It's the second track this year to adopt a vintage look for its retaining walls. Atlanta Motor Speedway debuted a red, white and blue striped appearance ahead of its NASCAR tripleheader weekend last month. Darlington Raceway reintroduced the red and white stripes -- an initiative first promoted by longtime series sponsor R.J. Reynolds -- ahead of the 2009 Southern 500. Below is a look at the red striped walls in 1988. (Photo credit: ISC Images & Archives/Getty Images)
Larson, Jones lead final practices at Richmond
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond FINAL PRACTICE: Full results " Top 10-lap times A fast lap of 119.074 mph put Kyle Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at the top of the leaderboard in Saturday's final practice at Richmond International Raceway . The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader turned 84 laps in the 50-minute session, more than any other driver in the field. Furniture Row Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. (119.016 mph) and Erik Jones (118.702 mph) were second- and fourth-fastest, respectively. Both drivers have recorded top-five speeds in all three practices (Truex's No. 78 Toyota led the opening practice, while Jones' No. 77 Toyota topped the second session). Sandwiched between the Furniture Row wheelmen in third was Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson, whose No. 48 Chevrolet clocked in at 118.801 mph. Johnson's teammate Chase Elliott rounded out the top five with a fast lap of 118.452 mph in his No. 24 Chevrolet. After battling a car issue in Saturday's opening session and coming up 31st on the leaderboard, Kurt Busch nabbed the sixth-fastest speed in the field in his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford during final practice. The XFINITY Series is on track at Richmond next for the ToyotaCare 250 race (1 p.m. ET, FS1). PRACTICE 2: Full results " Top 10-lap times Earlier in the day, Erik Jones wheeled his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota at 120.714 mph, nabbing the top spot on the speed charts during Saturday morning's opening practice at Richmond International Raceway . The Monster Energy Series rookie, who topped the leaderboard early in the 55-minute session, was second-fastest in Friday's lone practice to his teammate Martin Truex Jr. Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick was second on the leaderboard Saturday, his No. 4 Ford clocking a fast lap of 120.048 mph. Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard was third-fastest (120.005 mph) in his No. 27 Chevrolet, while JTG Daugherty Racing's Chris Buescher ranked fourth in the field (119.973 mph from his No. 37 Chevrolet). Friday's practice leader Truex Jr. completed the top five with a 119.941-mph lap in his No. 78 Toyota. Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth was 11th-fastest in the field in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who announced his retirement from full-time racing after 2017 on Tuesday, was 10th on the leaderboard. In the middle of the 55-minute session, Kurt Busch radioed his team that he thought his No. 41 Ford was "on seven cylinders" and brought the car into the garage for examination. He returned to the track a little over 20 minutes later and told his team that he thought they "fixed it, whatever it was," ending the session 31st on the leaderboard. The following teams were held for the first 15 minutes of Saturday's opening session due to infractions: No. 1 of Jamie McMurray (failing LIS twice), No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (failing LIS second time through) and No. 21 of Ryan Blaney (failing template twice). &lt;/p&gt;
Kenseth, Keselowski win Stages 1, 2 at Richmond
RELATED: FAQ for race format " Updated stage points STAGE 2: Brad Keselowski nabbed his first stage win of the year on Sunday afternoon at Richmond International Raceway , winning Stage 2 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' Toyota Owners 400. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford led 37 laps in the caution-free stage. Pole-sitter and Stage 1 victor Matt Kenseth, who led all 100 laps of Stage 1, placed second in Stage 2 in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, leading 63 laps. Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick was third in his No. 4 Ford, while Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was fourth. Kyle Larson and his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet completed Stage 2's top-five finishers. Both Keselowski and Kenseth received race points and the race winner will earn 40 points and five playoff points at the race's conclusion. STAGE 1: Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth led all 100 opening laps of Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway , giving his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota the Stage 1 win. This marks Kenseth's first stage win of the season. Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. drag-raced to the start-finish line for the runner-up spot in Stage 1, with Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet prevailing by .006 seconds. Truex Jr.'s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota ended up third. Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five, respectively. The top 10 finishers in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 receive race points. The race winner will receive 40 points and five playoff points at the conclusion of the Final Stage.
Larson wins at Richmond ; Allgaier takes Dash 4 Cash
RELATED: Results " Standings " Detailed breakdown " SHOP: Winner gear RICHMOND , Va. – Justin Allgaier had the best car in Saturday's ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Richmond International Raceway . Kyle Larson isn't very good at Richmond —and isn't bashful about saying so. Nevertheless, when two late restarts played out at the .75-mile short track, Larson was the race winner in overtime, and Allgaier was a disappointed second, consoled only by the $100,000 check he collected as the winner of the XFINITY Dash 4 Cash bonus as the highest finishing series regular. "It's a bittersweet day, I'll be honest with you," said Allgaier, who finished second to Larson despite leading a race-high 157 of the 254 laps. "I'm really dejected—I won't lie to you. That's going to hurt for a long time." What stung so badly for the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet occurred in the final 15 laps of the race. Allgaier was leading, and teammate Elliott Sadler was closing fast on fresher tires, thanks to an aggressive pit call under caution on Lap 184. But NASCAR had to call a caution on Lap 239 of a scheduled 250 when the engine expired in BJ McLeod's Chevrolet. Allgaier hit pit road along with the other lead-lap cars, including Sadler, whose only option was a set of 17-lap scuffed tires. Ty Dillon took the lead out of the pits on a two-tire call, but Dillon jumped the restart on Lap 246, mashing the gas before he reached the restart zone. After a five-car wreck involving William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Brennan Poole, Harrison Rhodes and Kyle Benjamin slowed the field on the restart lap, and Dillon was sent to the rear of the field because of the restart infraction, Larson had the lead at Allgaier's expense and controlled the overtime restart on Lap 253. Restarting in the inside lane, Larson cleared 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 Larson in the lead. "I'm not good at this place, so a win is pretty neat," said Larson, who will start 18th as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader in Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (on FOX at 2 p.m. ET) at Richmond International Raceway . "I still have to work on myself for long runs. I'm terrible on long runs. "I was OK today, but (on Sunday) the competition is a lot harder. The drivers are better. Just have to be patient. Struggled in Happy Hour (final practice), so we’ll see how we are (on Sunday)." Polesitter Daniel Hemric ran third, followed by Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney. Sadler retained the series lead by 41 points over Allgaier, but the driver of the No. 1 Chevy was frustrated, too. Sadler had race leader Allgaier in his sights, having closed the gap from 3.5 seconds to a couple of car-lengths before McLeod’s engine blew. "I'm proud of the guys for taking the chance we did, and we definitely had the race won," said the Virginia native, who finished seventh on the set of scuffed tires. "It's heartbreaking. We really wanted to win here at our home track, in front of our home fans." Notes: Larson led 10 laps--the final 10... Allgaier won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus for the second time this season, having also taken the prize at Phoenix, where he also won the race… In his XFINITY debut, Kyle Benjamin ran consistently in the top 10 until he had to return to pit road to tighten lug nuts after what should have been his final stop. Mired in traffic, he was a victim of the Lap 246 incident and retired from the race in 32nd-place, seven laps down… Astute pit strategy helped Dylan Lupton to a 12th-place, lead-lap finish in his first XFINITY start of the season… Darrell Wallace Jr. finished sixth for the sixth time in eight races this season. His other two finishes are a pair of 33rds. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Dale Jr. opens up at Richmond after retirement announcement
RELATED: Dale Jr. announces retirement " Reactions " Relive every Dale Jr. win RICHMOND , Va. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he had some concerns about how the bombshell news he dropped on the NASCAR world this week would be received, worried that it would be upsetting, met with a mix of emotions. He seemed relieved by the generally positive feedback and strong outpouring of support after making his decision to retire from full-time driving at season's end. With that part behind him, Earnhardt turns his attention to getting "back to my routine" this weekend at Richmond International Raceway , site of Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM Radio) for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. But his at-track habits might take on a more freewheeling approach, with little to lose in the 28 points-paying races left in his career. "The team, the guys, they all and myself we would love to win some races," Earnhardt said Friday after opening practice at the .75-mile track, where he is a three-time premier-series winner. "I'm going to say 'a race,' but 'some races' would be great going out in your last season to get some victories. We just want to go to Victory Lane one more time, just to get that experience one more time would be awesome for me and I think the guys would love it, for sure. "But, I certainly did feel a lot more relaxed now. I don't know whether it's because I finally got to tell everybody and let everybody know what we are doing, get that over with, but I certainly felt real relaxed today in the garage during practice. I felt like there was less pressure from somewhere and a large amount, a lot different." Earnhardt, 42, announced Tuesday that 2017 would be his final year driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Sunday's race will mark the unofficial start of his farewell tour, which is sure to come with a heaping helping of tributes and parting gifts. Earnhardt sits 24th in the series standings with just one top-five finish in the eight races so far this year, leaving him in need of a victory or momentous rally in the points to assure a playoff berth. Reaching the postseason by either method might require some risk-taking, something Earnhardt said is a ripe possibility. Earnhardt related the tale of his former crew chief Steve Letarte, now an analyst with NBC Sports' broadcast team. Letarte had announced before the 2014 season that he would mount one final campaign with the No. 88 group before making the transition to the television booth the following year. With his plans in place and a firm sense of direction, Letarte and Earnhardt picked their spots for well-calculated gambles and combined for their most successful year together -- four victories, including the driver's second Daytona 500 win, his first grandfather clock trophy from Martinsville Speedway and a season sweep of both Pocono Raceway events. "He called that whole season completely different," Earnhardt said. "He was more aggressive and I think it was because he had the freedom to be that way. He was like, 'What if it doesn't work?' And a lot of times it ended up working out. We won both of those Pocono races on pit calls that he made. We didn't just outrun everybody. There are things he did in the middle of the race that we might not have done had he not had his mind made up what he was doing and 'Hey, this is my last hurrah, we are going to go for it' kind of attitude. "I noticed that whole year he was a much easier going, approachable. I mean he's pretty damn likable, but he was much more likable and easier to be around. Everything rolled off his back, we didn't get frustrated as easily and I am anticipating that being similar for me." Also in the no-pressure department: The search for Earnhardt's replacement in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Tuesday's announcement included a note that Hendrick Motorsports would reach that decision at a later date. XFINITY Series rookie William Byron, a top Hendrick prospect, demurred earlier Friday when asked about the organization's soon-approaching driver vacancy, saying only that he was eager to get his chance to race in NASCAR's top division. For Earnhardt, he remains an interested party invested in the team's success, now and after his departure. He said he wouldn't demand to be included in the discussions to find his successor, but said he'd value the opportunity to offer his input. "I can't read their minds, but I'm sure they all have a direction that they want to go and they have ideas," Earnhardt said of Hendrick Motorsports' management team. "There are just things about the company that I'm not quite as in touch with that they are that will help them make that decision. They probably have everybody in the world telling them what they ought to do and they don't need me, but if they ask for it I'm certainly wanting to be involved in that. "I want the team to have more success. I want it to be … I said this every offseason: Every offseason is a chance to be better than you were the year before. It's an opportunity to make those personnel changes and those hard decisions. It's a chance to do it, the things you can't do in the middle of the river, in the middle of the season."
Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. get together late at Richmond
RELATED: Results " Stage results RICHMOND , Va. -- A little contact is customary in short-track racing. But the heavy contact that led to the derailment of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s first race since setting his retirement plans in motion came from an unexpected source -- a teammate. Neither Earnhardt nor Jimmie Johnson -- his Hendrick Motorsports stablemate -- saw each other before Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet swept up the track to broadside Earnhardt's No. 88, compounding an already frustrating Sunday at Richmond International Raceway . Both continued on, with Johnson leading the four-car Hendrick charge in 11th place, but Earnhardt faded to a 30th-place finish in the Toyota Owners 400, two laps down. "I was running the top (groove) right against the fence and really wasn't watching the mirrors," Earnhardt said. "I didn't even know he was there or anybody was coming. T.J. (Majors, his spotter) was giving me pretty good warning about guys getting on my inside, but otherwise when you're running the top, you don't have to worry about it. Everybody kind of takes care of you, but Jimmie didn't know we were there. "It was an explosion, but the car held up pretty well. It knocked the sway bar arm off it, so we ran the last bit of the race without a sway bar hooked up, but wasn't a great day." Johnson, a winner in the previous two races, also remarked about the severity of the impact. After the checkered flag, Johnson sought out Earnhardt on pit road for a team debrief and to apologize for his part in the collision. "Trying to figure out if I didn't hear it being told to me or if it wasn't told to me," Johnson said. "Just feel terrible, obviously. Man, I'm surprised our cars even kept rolling after that because I just bodyslammed him in the wall, and I could've easily not heard the clear or something else happened, I don't know. But it's the last thing you want to have happen with a teammate." RELATED: Johnson takes on Twitter haters Earnhardt started 12th and dropped back in the order with an off-cycle stop for tires. He rallied, but a speeding penalty in the 67th of 400 laps knocked him to 27th when the field reorganized. Earnhardt was busted in Section 15, the next-to-last segment on the .75-mile track's pit road. "I was pretty conservative, but they said we sped," Earnhardt said, further explaining that the team adjusts its tachometer to allow for pit road's curvature near the exit. "We're real aggressive with our (tachometer) lights. We maybe need to be a little more conservative so that we can get through a couple of these races without issues like that. But all I can do is run the lights like the dash is programmed. I really don't have a speedometer in there to help you." With his car struggling to advance on set-up savvy alone, Earnhardt and crew chief Greg Ives opted to gamble with a late green-flag run. Ives kept his driver on the track as other front-runners came in for pit service under green; that strategy moved Earnhardt as high as second in the running order, but on old tires with his team keeping its fingers crossed for a timely caution period. That yellow flag flew, but for his incident with Johnson. "Just luck this year is just awful," said Earnhardt, who also spun out 13 laps later after his car developed a tire rub. "I don't know what else we need to do. I mean, we're out there just taking care of ourselves and running along, and something seems to always bite us." RELATED: Junior frustrated in Richmond Earnhardt remained stuck back in 24th place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points, recording his fifth finish of 30th or worse in the nine events so far this year. With 27 races remaining in his final full season, Earnhardt said his goals for the immediate future might be more modest. "Greg (Ives) told me last week we weren't looking at (points) anymore, we were just going to try to win a race," Earnhardt said. We're so far back. If you're sitting 15th, 16th, 17th, you probably can't help but look at points then. We're sitting so far back, we've just got to get this thing to where we can finish. I'm just going to concentrate on trying to get about five or six races put together in a row -- top 15s -- and see what the points look like after that." The same could be said for Hendrick Motorsports, which rode the high of back-to-back victories for Johnson in the previous two races -- Texas and Bristol -- into Richmond . Sunday, none of the four Hendrick drivers finished among the top 10 -- Kasey Kahne took 22nd with Chase Elliott 24th -- nor did they collect any stage points for running in the top 10 at the two intermissions. "It's a competitive sport," Earnhardt said. "You get written off one week and then you're back in the conversation the next. None of our cars were really that fast, so we'll probably come back here with a different idea, a different direction on all our set-ups and see if we can't figure something out. We've got the equipment and the resources to run in the top five, but it's shocks and springs and set-ups that just didn't pay off today." </p>