RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Denny Hamlin has run up front all season and he figured luck would eventually be on his side and a return to victory lane would follow.
His first victory of the season came last weekend in the playoff opener at Darlington and now he is looking to ride the momentum as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to his hometown track, Richmond Raceway, for the second playoff race on Saturday.
“We’ve got some great tracks really for these next few weeks that really suit our history and my history there,” he said. “We just hope to continue that momentum and hope to build as many playoff points as we can for the next round and the following round. ... I really feel like our team has been strong all year.”
The victory boosted Hamlin from seventh to second in the points race, 34 behind Kyle Larson, who he outran to the checkered flag. It also ended a 31-race winless streak for a driver who won 13 times combined in 2019 and 2020.
“You honestly fall victim at times when you have a lot of success, and you win a lot of races like we’ve done,” he said. “When you have a little bit of a winning drought, when you go back, it just makes you appreciate that moment a little bit more, so these guys were very, very excited."
DALE JR. RETURNS
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will make his third appearance in the Xfinity Series since he retired after the 2017 season. He's raced once each season since and finished in the top five in all three starts.
“I won’t get excited, I guess, until I’m standing there getting ready to get in the car, because if I get excited, I get so nervous and my anxiety goes through the roof, I almost exhaust myself,” he said on a Zoom call Thursday. “I’ll be worn out before I ever get to the racetrack.”
Earnhardt has won seven times at Richmond — three times in the Cup Series and four in the Xfinity Series. He now works as an analyst on NBC.
As time has passed, he said he's slowly forgotten some of the finer details of being an effective racer, and when he climbs from the car after the race on Saturday, he will scribble reminder notes to take with him back to the booth.
“That's my job as an analyst, is to sort of explain where the drivers mind is at any given moment in the race," he said. “And so that I think really, to be honest with you, getting inside this car for this one race is more about that.”
Richmond Raceway will acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorists attacks with a tribute to victims and first responders on Saturday ahead of the two races.
Fans will all be given small American flags as they enter the track, there will be a large piece of steel from the Twin Towers on display in the midway and first responder vehicles will lead the parade laps before the Cup Series race. Cars will also display a special decal in the race.
Toyota, the weekend sponsor, will also have a Wall of Remembrance honoring those lost on 9/11. Many teams will have special memorial or patriotic paint schemes to mark the day.
“I don’t like using the word anniversary tied to this,” track president Dennis Bickmeier said. “I mean, it’s kind of general terminology, but for me, I think it’s about honoring and remembering what happened 20 years ago.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Martin Truex, Jr. is an 11-2 favorite at Richmond, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. ... Richmond Raceway is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. ... Points leader Kyle Larson will start on the pole. ... Two races remain in the Xfinity Series before the 12-driver playoff field is set. ... Kevin Harvick (seventh) and Tyler Reddick (12th) are the only winless drivers in the field of 16. Harvick won nine times in 2020.
WDUN will carry live MRN Radio coverage of the NASCAR race day at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, starting with the NASCAR Xfinity Series Go Bowling 250 at 2 pm on 102.9 FM and streaming live on AccessWDUN. Coverage continues Saturday night with the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders beginning at 6 pm on 102.9 FM, AM 550 and streaming live on AccessWDUN.
NASCAR Cup Series
Richmond Raceway – Richmond, VA
Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders – September 11, 2021
Saturday Night’s Starting Line
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1. 5 Kyle Larson (P) HendrickCars.com Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
2. 11 Denny Hamlin (P) FedEx Ground Toyota 0.000 0.000
3. 19 Martin Truex, Jr. (P) Bass Pro Shops Red White Blue Toyota 0.000 0.000
4. 1 Kurt Busch (P) Monster Energy Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
5. 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford 0.000 0.000
6. 22 Joey Logano (P) Shell Pennzoil Ford 0.000 0.000
7. 2 Brad Keselowski (P) Western Star Ford 0.000 0.000
8. 12 Ryan Blaney (P) Advance Auto Parts Ford 0.000 0.000
9. 10 Aric Almirola (P) Smithfield/Tuesday’s Children Ford 0.000 0.000
10. 20 Christopher Bell (P) DEWALT Salute First Responders Toyota 0.000 0.000
11. 8 Tyler Reddick (P) Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
12. 48 Alex Bowman (P) Ally Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
13. 9 Chase Elliott (P) Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
14. 24 William Byron (P) Liberty University Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
15. 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M’s Toyota 0.000 0.000
16. 34 Michael McDowell (P) Love’s Travel Stops Ford 0.000 0.000
17. 42 Ross Chastain Moose Fraternity Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
18. 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford 0.000 0.000
19. 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
20. 37 Ryan Preece Kroger/Crest Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
21. 41 Cole Custer HaasTooling.com Demo Day Ford 0.000 0.000
22. 99 Daniel Suarez Good Sam Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
23. 47 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
24. 6 Ryan Newman Oscar Mayer Bacon Ford 0.000 0.000
25. 7 Corey LaJoie Shavelogic Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
26. 14 Chase Briscoe # Cummins/Rush Truck Centers Ford 0.000 0.000
27. 23 Bubba Wallace Door Dash Toyota 0.000 0.000
28. 21 Matt DiBenedetto Menards/Dutch Boy Ford 0.000 0.000
29. 77 Justin Haley(i) Shavelogic Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
30. 38 Anthony Alfredo # GoldenNuggetSports.com Ford 0.000 0.000
31. 43 Erik Jones Petty’s Garage Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
32. 78 B.J. McLeod(i) Keen Parts Ford 0.000 0.000
33. 52 Josh Bilicki Firetruck Scheme Ford 0.000 0.000
34. 15 Joey Gase(i) Donate Life VA Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
35. 00 Quin Houff Trucker Appreciation Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
36. 51 Cody Ware(i) 9/11 Scheme Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
37. 53 J.J. Yeley(i) FatBoy Chevrolet 0.000 0.000