RELATED: See who is in the Chase " Meet all 16 drivers CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Matt Kenseth said the race leader should not be at a disadvantage on restarts, and all the fuss about Saturday night's final restart at Richmond International Raceway was news to him. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver dominated the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond , leading 352 laps, including the final 103, en route to his fourth victory of the season and third in the past six races. Following the night's final caution period, Kenseth quickly pulled away from then second-place driver Joey Logano following the Lap 383 restart. Some, including Logano, felt Kenseth accelerated early, before reaching the restart zone, giving him an advantage as the field rolled back up to speed. "I really didn't know there was so much talk about it, to be honest with you," Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, said Tuesday during a Chase Across North America appearance at Charlotte Douglas International Airport for Charlotte Motor Speedway . The restart rule is clear, Kenseth said, noting that the race leader is expected to "start" the race at some point between the first and second lines (marked on the inside and outside walls). But when the second-or third-place drivers lay back in order to be moving faster than the leader when the race resumes, it puts the leader at a disadvantage, he said. "They want you to keep an even pace and take off somewhere in the zone and we all understand that," said Kenseth. "If you are the leader and the second place guy is two car lengths behind you because he knows when you're going to go, and this guy's on the outside of you and they get rolling toward you before you get going, I mean I'm not going to be third before I get to Turn 1. "The leader has to take some liberties to look around him and see what his competitors are doing because he is the leader, and he should not be at a disadvantage. "If the third place car is two car-lengths behind you, rolling toward that line because they know when you are going to go, that's a huge disadvantage for the leader. "As a driver, you have to do what you think you need to do within the rules to make sure you've got your car out front to try to get that win at the end." RELATED: How does Kenseth's pit crew stack up among top Chase seeds? If that means some believe he got a free pass for appearing to jump the restart, Kenseth is making no apologies. "It's not like I jammed the gas and left them 20 car-lengths," he said. "I think that you would be hard-pressed to find anybody, including the people that are complaining about it, to say that the fastest car didn't win the race Saturday night. I think that we proved that. When we had that late of a caution, I was going to make sure that I did everything I could to get to Turn 1 first." Logano, who wound up finishing third, said he believes many drivers would like a better understanding of how NASCAR will police restarts going forward, especially with the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup beginning this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway . The 1.5-mile venue hosts the myAFibRisk.com 400 Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Last weekend could make us look at it differently once again," Logano told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday. "What's OK and what's not OK? Chances are this championship will come down to a late-race restart at Homestead; or getting into the next round could come down to a late-race restart. … "There is always going to be gamesmanship but I think as a driver you want to know what you can and can't do when you're making those decisions for a restart." While NASCAR has put the onus on drivers to police themselves, the Team Penske driver said that's difficult to do, explaining, "We're race car drivers. We're not thinking about it; our job is to go out there and win the race. So we will take advantage of every opportunity there is." Seeing how far one can go before NASCAR steps in is only natural. It's not until NASCAR reacts that teams adjust and the process begins all over. "I feel like the other night the line got pushed a little bit, and it was OK," Logano said. "I think that will kind of show in the future where guys are going to go with these restarts. … Until we get clarity, we'll keep pushing it more and more; you almost have to protect us from ourselves because we'll take it to the extreme."
Check out some of the top moments from the last race before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Richmond International Raceway in this edition of Weekend Top Five.
Movement back and forth between the 2015 base rules package, the lower downforce platform used at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway , and the high drag package used by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams at Indianapolis and Michigan has concluded. But there are still a few more changes in store for teams as they prepare for this weekend's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), as well as the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that follows. A new right-side tire code awaits Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series competitors at Richmond as Goodyear officials have gone away from the multi-zone tread tire used at the three-quarter mile track earlier this year. The right-side tire for this race is a single compound built around the same compound used on the outside of the tire surface in April. The multi-zone tires have been used at several venues -- including Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte as well as Richmond . With one restrictor-plate race remaining, Oct. 25 at Talladega, teams will roll out the superspeedway package -- which consists of a slightly different aerodynamic package. While most competitors have been pleased with the reduced downforce package used most recently at Darlington, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said earlier this week that the plan to run only the original '15 package throughout the 10-race Chase remains in place. The 2016 package, he said, likely will be delivered to teams by month's end following talks with manufacturers, teams and others in the industry. No Test at Auto Club NASCAR officials have cancelled a Goodyear tire test and open team test scheduled for Oct. 27-29 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Goodyear determined it wasn't necessary to return to the 2-mile track based on tire wear results from this past season's race. And with Goodyear canceling the two-day portion of the test, teams opted not to make the cross-country trek a day before having to be in Martinsville, Virginia, for the opening race of the Eliminator Round in this year's Chase. Teams from Richard Childress Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Roush Fenway Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing were scheduled to participate in the Goodyear portion of the test. Only two open tests remain on this year's National Series Unified Testing schedule -- next week (Sept. 14-16) at Kansas Speedway and Oct. 12-14 at Phoenix International Raceway . Darlington Warnings Two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams and two XFINITY Series teams were issued warnings as a result of inspection issues at Darlington Raceway this past weekend. On the Sprint Cup side, the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota with driver Denny Hamlin failed pre-race inspection four times, resulting in a warning for the team. The No. 62 Premium Motorsports entry failed pre-qualifying inspection twice and received a warning as well. The XFINITY Series teams of series points leader Chris Buescher and the No. 17 entry fielded by owner Rick Ware were late arriving in the inspection line and will be docked 15 minutes of practice time. Buescher's team will serve the penalty at RIR. The No. 17 team is currently not entered in this weekend's event. Winning Combination This month's Century Poll asked 100 members of the NASCAR community which rules package NASCAR should move forward with as it prepares for the '16 season. Nearly 50 percent of those responding selected the low downforce with a softer tire (the package used most recently at Darlington). More than one fourth (27 percent) chose a low downforce package with more horsepower while 15 percent said different packages for different tracks would be the way to go. The Century Poll is made up of 50 members of the NASCAR garage (owners, drivers, track officials, etc.) and 50 members of the media.
RELATED: Full Richmond lineup A week after missing the cut to advance to Round 2 at Darlington Raceway , Kyle Busch earned the Coors Light Pole after topping qualifying on Friday afternoon at Richmond International Raceway . Busch topped the first (122.277 mph) and third rounds of qualifying, with his third round speed of 122.073 mph besting Joey Logano (122.017 mph) by one one-hundredth of a second, time-wise. Logano topped the second session with the best speed of qualifying -- 122.349 mph. Three of Busch's five victories at Richmond have been won from the pole. Making his 200th career start, Brian Scott (121.968 mph) will start third, followed by the JR Motorsports duo Regan Smith (121.808 mph) and Josh Berry (121.540 mph). Morgan Shepherd failed to make the 40-car field. The Virginia 529 College Savings 250 gets underway at 7:30 p.m. ET with coverage on NBCSN/Live Extra as well MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
RELATED: Full weekend schedule " Starting lineup " Live weather updates What: Federated Auto Parts 400 Where: Richmond International Raceway , 0.75-mile oval in Richmond , Va. When: Saturday, Sept. 12; 7:30 pm ET. TV/Radio: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance: 400 laps, 300 miles. Pit road speed: 40 mph Caution car speed: 45 mph Fuel window: 108 laps Competition caution: Lap 40 On the front row: Joey Logano won his fifth pole position of the season -- his second at Richmond -- putting his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford out front with a lap of 126.470 mph around the three-quarter mile track. Matt Kenseth will start his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota alongside Logano after leading the first two qualifying rounds. Penske and JGR split the first two rows with Logano's teammate, defending race winner Brad Keselowski starting third and Kenseth's JGR teammate Kyle Busch rolling off fourth. Fastest in practice: Ford and Toyota may start on the front row, but Chevrolet dominated practice. Kyle Larson paced the opening practice posting the fastest lap of the day at 125.535 mph in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet ahead of Casey Mears and Keselowski. Kevin Harvick 's No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet was fastest in the final practice ahead of Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson . Keselowski recorded the best 10-lap consecutive run of 122.138 mph in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Last year's winner: Keselowski dominated the race, leading 383 of the 400 laps and easily collecting his fourth win of the season. With Keselowski running so strong up front it really became a chase for second place, which was won by Jeff Gordon . Clint Bowyer , Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five. Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle clinched the final two Chase positions based on points standings. On the line: This is the final race to set the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff field. Five drivers -- McMurray, Newman, Gordon, Paul Menard and Bowyer -- are winless but ranked among the top 16 in points. Bowyer, in 16th, holds a 29-point advantage over Aric Almirola and is only 10 points behind 15th-place Menard. Two preseason favorites, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson , need to win the race to earn a berth. Larson was the top qualifier of those on the Chase bubble not currently locked in and will start 11th in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet. Clinch Scenarios: Regardless of who wins at Richmond , McMurray will clinch a Chase position merely by starting the race. Newman will earn a berth by finishing 31st or better, Gordon by finishing 17th or better and Menard by finishing ninth or better. If there is a repeat season winner, then McMurray, Newman and Gordon will clinch a position just by starting the race. Menard would need to finish 38th or better and Bowyer would need to finish 28th or better. First Time's a Charm: Richmond has been a gracious venue when it comes to scoring your first Sprint Cup victory. Tony Stewart (1999) and Kasey Kahne (2005) both got their first Sprint Cup victories here. Nuts and Bolts: Biffle has the most starts (26) among active drivers without a win at Richmond . ... The pole position has produced the most winners (23) of any starting position, but 78 percent of the winners here have started from a top-10 position on the grid. Clint Bowyer 's victory in 2008 from the 31st starting position is the farthest back a winner has ever come from. ... Jimmie Johnson (2007) is the last driver to sweep Richmond races in a season. ... Kyle Busch has the best average finishing position (7.3) of any driver in the field. They said it: "We don't really have anything to lose. We are on the offense. There is nothing for us to lose so we are going to throw everything we have at it and see what happens." – Aric Almirola , driver of the No. 43 Smithfield Foods Ford, who enters the race ranked 17th, 29 points out of the final Chase qualifying position.
RELATED: Practice 1 results Austin Dillon rose to the top of opening NASCAR XFINITY Series practice Thursday afternoon, edging his brother on the leaderboard at Richmond International Raceway . Dillon, a Sprint Cup Series regular running a partial XFINITY schedule, drove the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet to a best lap of 121.474 mph on the .75-mile track. He'll shooting for his fourth XFINITY win of the season in Friday night's Virginia 529 College Savings 250 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). A late-afternoon storm washed away a 55-minute final practice, leaving the 85-minute opening session as Thursday's only track time for the series. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Younger brother Ty Dillon was second-fastest in practice at 120.627 mph in another Childress-owned entry. The No. 3 Chevrolet driver enters the 25th of 33 races this season second in the XFINITY standings, 29 points behind series leader Chris Buescher . Josh Berry was third-fastest in the 85-minute session, pushing the JR Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet to a lap of 120.503 mph in preparation for just his third XFINITY start. Daniel Suarez , a Dash 4 Cash bonus winner last week at Darlington Raceway , and Ryan Truex , making his first XFINITY start since 2012, completed the top five. Defending series champion Chase Elliott was 10th-fastest in the JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet. Defending race winner Kyle Busch , who has five XFINITY victories at Richmond , was 11th-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Toyota. Buescher, the series points leader since May, was 18th-fastest in the Roush Fenway Racing No. 60 Ford. Berry also posted the best 10-lap average, edging JRM teammates Elliott and Regan Smith atop that chart. Only eight of the 41 drivers entered ran more than 10 consecutive laps. Brian Scott , preparing for his 200th XFINITY Series start, was 14th-fastest in the Richard Childress Racing No. 2 Chevrolet.
RELATED: Full results from Richmond RICHMOND , Va. -- Josh Berry , making just his third career start in NASCAR's XFINITY Series, and his first at Richmond International Raceway , scored an impressive seventh-place finish during Friday night's Virginia529 College Savings 250 , rounding out an impressive evening for the JR Motorsports organization. Defending series champion Chase Elliott picked up his first win of the season, and teammate Regan Smith finished sixth. But the 24-year-old Berry, a Late Model standout from Hendersonville, Tennessee, garnered just as much attention as he consistently battled his way through the field in the organization's No. 88 Chevrolet. "I just struggled a little bit on restarts," Berry said afterward. "I felt like it took me four or five laps to get going. Once we did, the car was really, really good. "I've got a lot to learn (on pit road) and a lot to improve but I think each stop got a little bit better. We got blocked in on the last one, which hurt us for probably having a shot to win. "After that, we were just trying to battle back. … I'm really proud of the team; they did a great job and brought a great car here this weekend, obviously, and made my learning curve a lot (shorter)." Berry, who started fifth, was reeling in race leader Brian Scott when the fourth caution of the night appeared for an accident involving Jeremy Clements , ending a run of more than 80 laps under green. Berry came off pit road fifth. It was a scene repeated on two more occasions -- Berry racing his way back inside the top five only to lose the track position after hitting pit road. "It was a little bit frustrating, but at the same time I think it helped knowing some of those guys were going to come back to me," Berry said. "I was more frustrated with myself because I felt I could have done a better job on the restarts holding positions. I felt like some of these guys that are regulars in the series out-hustled me on those first couple of laps. … "I wish we didn't have that last caution. But usually that happens … if I'm going to run more, I've got to improve on these restarts and we'll have some more opportunities to win." It was Berry's only XFINITY Series start with the team this season, and no additional starts are on his schedule. He'll continue to compete in his Late Model entry, also fielded by JRM, through the remainder of the year. In a pair of NXS efforts last season, Berry finished 12th at Iowa and 25th at Homestead. Friday night's effort was enough to bring multiple JRM employees by Berry's pit stall after the race to offer congratulations. RELATED: Dale Jr. pleased with JRM's run at Richmond "Josh did all we asked for really," team co-owner Dale Earnhardt said. "I told him that when we came here with Jeffrey (Earnhardt) a couple of years ago, that Jeffrey was in the top-10 late in the race and had a great shot at a good finish and he did everything we asked him to do. And that's what I expected of Josh. He did a great job. "He showed his inexperience on and off pit road but with more racing and more opportunity he's going to improve there. But he did showcase his ability and show that in a good car that he's capable of running with these guys." Earnhardt Jr. said, he'd have no qualms about putting Berry in an XFINITY Series ride as soon as possible if the funding could be secured. "We'd love to get him more opportunities to race; it just really comes down to finding a partner that wants to handle the expense of taking a car to the race track on the weekend," he said. "I'm ready to race Josh every week. We've just got to find a partner that's excited to be on board with Josh."
RELATED: Full race results " Updated standings RICHMOND , Va. – Reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott was first off pit road under caution on Lap 218 of 250 and held the top spot the rest of the way in breaking a 39-race winless streak on Friday night at Richmond International Raceway . Elliott's victory in the Virginia529 College Savings 250 trimmed his deficit to 21 points behind series leader Chris Buescher , who finished 10th. Elliott's first victory of the season was also the first in 22 races for an XFINITY Series regular at Richmond . "We always want to come and give our best shot and try to win," Elliott said. "(Crew chief) Ernie (Cope) brought a great car, and the pit stops were phenomenal. "I'm just super excited to be back in Victory Lane." Yes, Elliott won the event in the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, leading a race-high 83 laps on the way to his first win at Richmond and the fourth of his career. Perhaps, the loudest noise, however, came from late model stock car star and Dale Earnhardt Jr . protégé Josh Berry , who trumpeted his presence in his maiden XFINITY race at Richmond with a seventh-place finish. During an 81-lap green-flag run from Lap 54 through Lap 134, Berry drove from seventh to second. In the latter half of the run, Berry trimmed a five-second deficit to Scott, the leader, to 2.6 seconds before Jeremy Clements ’ wreck in Turn 2 slowed the action for the fourth cation of the race. Berry repeatedly lost positions on pit road, the last time because egress from his stall was blocked by the No. 6 Ford of Darrell Wallace Jr . He lost five positions under that sixth caution and restarted ninth on Lap 226 before recovering to finish seventh. "I need to do better on restarts, I need to do better on pit road, and I think we would have had a real shot at winning that race," said Berry, who is auditioning for potential partners in hopes of running a full XFINITY Series schedule for JR Motorsports next year. "I'm just so proud of this team. They brought a great car tonight. "I sure hope I helped (my cause) tonight. I'm just a short-track racer at heart, so tonight played into my favor." Polesitter Kyle Busch came home second, 1.308 seconds behind Elliott. Brian Scott led 63 laps and finished third, followed by Joey Logano , Erik Jones , Regan Smith and Berry. "I wasn't good enough all race long," said Busch, who led 78 laps, including the first 49, before Scott took a long stint at the front. "I don't know where the long-run speed went."
Two Earnhardts will be competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the first time in over a decade as Jeffrey Earnhardt will pilot the No. 32 Ford for Go Green Racing at Richmond International Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Sept. 12 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The start at Richmond will be the 26-year-old's first in the sport's premier series. He has made 66 starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (including six starts this season) as well as 10 career starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The announcement was first made on NBCSN's "NASCAR America." "I'm really excited to get this opportunity and thrilled that CorvetteParts.net is sponsoring my debut in Sprint Cup ," Earnhardt said in a team release. "The Keens have been very good to me and having their company be part of an important day in my career is pretty cool. I appreciate everyone at Go Green Racing for making this happen and look forward to doing my best to make it a good debut." Jeffrey and his uncle Dale Earnhardt Jr . have never raced against one another in the Sprint Cup Series. They have, however, raced against each other a handful of times in the XFINITY Series. Jeffrey made one start for the Dale Jr.-owned JR Motorsports in 2013 in the XFINITY Series at Richmond . Jeffrey's father, Kerry Earnhardt, has seven career Sprint Cup starts and drove one full XFINITY Series season in 2002 for owner Armando Fitz in the No. 12 Chevrolet. He had 72 XFINITY Series starts over 10 years. Kerry Earnhardt also drove full time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2006, finishing the season 22nd in the standings.
RELATED: See all 43 cars " Starting lineup RICHMOND , Va. – Prodigious qualifier "Front Row Joe" Nemechek has an heir apparent. Call him "Front Row Joey" – as in Logano. The driver of the No, 22 Team Penske Ford won his fifth Coors Light Pole Award of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and his second straight at Richmond International Raceway , edging Matt Kenseth for the top starting spot in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). In the third and final round of Friday's knockout time trials at the .75-mile short track, Logano covered the distance in 21.349 seconds (126.470 mph) to earn the 13th pole of his career and his 10th front-row starting spot in 26 races this season. Kenseth, who led each of the first two sessions but fell just short in the money round, toured RIR in 21.368 seconds (126.357 mph), claiming his spot on the outside of the front row by a mere .001 seconds over Logano's teammate, Brad Keselowski (126.351 mph). Kyle Busch (125.950 mph) qualified fourth, followed by David Ragan (125.827 mph), the fastest of a gaggle of drivers who can earn a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup only by winning Saturday night's final regular-season race. "It's nice to have a good starting spot here," Logano said. "If you're up front you can take care of your tires better through the first part of the race. That should help us, with the first pit stall, and we'll go let it rip." Kenseth was disappointed at not being able to sweep all three rounds, a failing he attributed to missing his mark in Turns 1 and 2 on the decisive lap. "I didn't get 1 and 2 right," Kenseth acknowledged. "I got a little too aggressive getting back to the gas, and that messed up my center and my exit, and I knew I left all the time there and we weren't really set up to run a fast second lap. "That was kind of it. I feel bad I kind of messed that up, but hopefully we'll have a fast car (on Saturday) night, and we can keep it up front.” Kevin Harvick , Carl Edwards , Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson — all race winners this season — qualified sixth through ninth, respectively. Three other drivers who must win to make the Chase — Tony Stewart , Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon — will start 10th through 12th. " Richmond ’s been a difficult track for me in the past," Larson said. 'We've always just been kind of average here. But I feel like our car is way better than it has been in the past. We came here and tested a couple times this year, I think, for Goodyear tire tests, and the last one I thought we got a lot better — both myself and the cars. "So I think we’ll be OK in the race. It's just tough to get to that next step of leading laps and winning races." Timmy Hill and Josh Wise failed to make the 43-car field.