After saying he would dominate the Federated Auto Parts 400, Denny Hamlin did just that and advance to the next round of the playoffs
If you want to know just how good drivers are in NASCAR’s Premier Series, you have to look no further than the Federated Auto Parts 400. It was the first time they saw Richmond Raceway this year after the April 19 event got called off. So with no practice or qualifying, one might have expected a little mayhem, but that wasn’t the case. Without a single race-related caution and myriad of lead changes, Brad Keselowski made the last pass at Lap 353 and cruised to the win.
Keselowski predicted that he would dominate this race, and he backed it up, leading 192 laps. The victory was the fourth of the season and 34th of his career, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts. However, what mattered the most was automatically moving on to the Round of 12 that begins two weeks from now.
“I’m just going to enjoy tonight,” said Keselowski. “You know, it’s hard to win a Cup race. These guys are really good. You know, a race like tonight I think easily gets sold as there weren’t any wrecks, what was going on. These drivers are just good. These cars all drove so bad with that little bitty spoiler on them, a lot of horsepower, and you had guys with new tires and old tires sliding around, and it’s so easy to get in trouble and to wreck. These drivers are just freaking good, and they didn’t do that. And to win a race against drivers that are this good is pretty cool. It’s something I’m very proud of, and I’m going to try to soak it up.”
With his 12th place finish, Denny Hamlin also has qualified for the next playoff round. On the flip side, William Byron (-3), Cole Custer (-8), Matt Dibenedetto (-25), and Ryan Blaney (-27) trail Clint Bowyer for the last spot. For DiBenedetto and Blaney, a win would lock them in, but that may be their only path to race at Las Vegas on Sept. 27. Nine spots open with one race to go.
“Well, we lost some track position. It just seemed like once the track rubbered up, we just weren’t any good,” Hamlin said. “We couldn’t get off the corner good, couldn’t get in the corner. Just nothing was really very good with it. I want to thank everyone from FedEx Cares for putting this car on the race track. This definitely means a lot to people I spoke to last week with the National Urban League, so thank you everyone. We will move on to the next round and go have some fun next week and see how we do.”
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 PRERACE NOTES
-> Kyle Busch failed prerace inspection twice and will go to the back of the field. The first was for a body measurement, and after that was corrected, the right-rear tow was off. From an official scoring standpoint, he started sixth. Busch remains winless in 2020. Christopher Bell will join Busch at the back for unapproved adjustments.
-> Richmond Raceway named the pedestrian tunnel the Jimmie Johnson Champions Walk.
-> According to Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, starting with Dover, right-side windows will no longer be mandated for 750hp races, 1.1-miles, or less.
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 RACE BREAKDOWN – STAGE 1
(No race-related cautions)
LAP 1 (of 400): Last week’s winner Kevin Harvick (pole), and Joey Logano on the front row for the Federated Auto Parts 400. All playoff drivers will start in positions 1-16. Harvick jumps out to the lead.
LAP 30: Competition Caution. Chase Elliott took the lead at Lap 21. Race off pit row: Hamlin, Bowman, and Elliott pick up one spot while Keselowski loses two. Timmy Hill gets the first Lucky Dog of the evening. Restart Lap 38.
LAP 80: End of Stage 1. Clean and green throughout. Denny Hamlin took command at Lap 39 and held on for the stage win, his eighth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the only non-playoff driver in the top-10. Kyle Busch used the competition caution and a fast car to go from the back to P13. Then he picks up five more spots on pit row.
Race off pit row: Logano (+1), Harvick (+2). A Dillon (-2). Hamlin and A Dillon nabbed for speeding, sent to the back of lead lap cars. It was Hamlin’s third speeding penalty of the year, and sixth for Dillon. Daniel Suarez gets the free pass. Logano took the lead out of the pits with Hamlin to the rear. Restart Lap 90.
LAP 121: New leader, Brad Keselowski. Matt DiBenedetto is the first to make a green flag stop at Lap 140. Working on a two-stop strategy, Harvick was next as cars began to trickle in.
LAP 185 (50 to go in stage): Austin Dillon took the lead on Lap 182. Kevin Harvick penalized for a commitment line violation, and Jimmie Johnson was speeding on green-flag stops. Only 16 cars on the lead lap at this point.
LAP 235: End Stage 2: Brad Keselowski took the lead at Lap 218 and wound up taking the green-white checkers. Race off pit row: Keselowski maintains his lead. Truex and Logano each pick up a spot while A Dillon loses two. Matt Kenseth was the only non-playoff contender in the top-ten. Cole Custer back on the lead lap with the Lucky Dog. Restart Lap 245 (155 laps left in the race). Keselowski shoots out to a one-second lead over Logano.
RACE BREAKDOWN – FINAL STAGE
LAP 300 (100 to go): Green flags pit stops well underway, and Kurt Busch took the lead with Matt Kenseth right behind. However, both had yet to come in for tires and fuel. Logano inherited P1 when they did at Lap 308. Keselowski was back in front by Lap 317 and opened up a three-second cushion.
LAP 337: Cars on the two-stop strategy started to come in for service, but Austin Dillon missed the entrance to pit row and lost some spots regaining speed and coming around a second time to do it. With 50 to go, Austin Dillon took the lead, but it lasted just one trip around the track as Keselowski jumped back in front. Ten laps later, he had a three-second lead, and he would cruise to victory. He bested runner-up Martin Truex Jr. by 2.568 seconds.
STAGE 1-2 TOP 10 FINISHERS – LAPS 80 / 235
1 – Hamlin, A Dillon, Logano, Keselowski, Harvick, Bowman, Truex, Elliott, Stenhouse, Bowyer
2 – Keselowski, A Dillon, Truex, Logano, Elliott, Ky Busch, Ku Busch, Almirola, Kenseth, Harvick
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