nascar at richmond: kyle larson, hendrick motorsports rob ross chastain for pole

Kyle Larson earned his first pole position at Richmond on Saturday, taking the top spot as the final driver on track.

The final round of qualifying had plenty of excitement and drama. It culminated with Larson laying down a lap at 23.042 seconds as the final car on track, denying Ross Chastain and TrackHouse Racing their first Cup pole. This is the 3rd pole of the season for the Hendrick Motorsports driver, and the 13th of his career.

“Even though I got into Turn 1 way too hard and sideways, I’m imagining that’s probably where I made up my time,” Larson said. “Just getting it in really deep, and I think getting it under control before I got to the exit probably is where I made up the lap time. I don’t know, though. It could be Turns 3 and 4. Who knows? But I felt like I got in a little deep, too deep for sure, but I think it worked out in the end.”

The pole run was a pleasant surprise for the driver of the No. 5 car. “I’m happy. It’s cool to get a pole here at Richmond. I was not expecting to do that. I didn’t think we were that good in practice, so I’m happy with the hard work everybody has been putting in on our Chevys. Now we’ll go chase another win.”

Chastain was that close to getting the first pole for himself and the team, but they will still line up on the front row tomorrow afternoon. Although he came up one spot short in qualifying, Chastain knows he has the speed to contend for the win tomorrow. His No. 1 Chevrolet topped the 20-minute practice session prior to qualifying.

Denny Hamlin has been exceptional at his home race track, and will try to become the 12th driver in history to win back-to-back races at Richmond. William Byron and teammate Alex Bowman also qualified inside the top-five today, as Rick Hendrick’s team showed plenty of speed in the session. Cole Custer and Brad Keselowski were the fastest Ford drivers, and will start the race from Row 4 tomorrow.

2022 Federated Auto Parts 400 – Qualifying Results
Pos  Driver  Team  Manufacturer
1 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2 Ross Chastain TrackHouse Racing Chevrolet
3 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
4 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
5 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
6 Martin Truex Jr Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
7 Cole Custer Stewart Haas Racing Ford
8 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford
9 Erik Jones Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet
10 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford
11 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota
12 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
13 Kevin Harvick Stewart Haas Racing Ford
14 Ty Gibbs 23XI Racing Toyota
15 Chase Briscoe Stewart Haas Racing Ford
16 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
17 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
18 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford
19 Noah Gragson Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
20 Ricky Stenhouse Jr JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
21 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
22 Ty Dillon Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet
23 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
24 Daniel Suarez TrackHouse Racing Chevrolet
25 Landon Cassill Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
26 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
27 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
28 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Ford
29 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
30 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford
31 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
32 Aric Almirola Stewart Haas Racing Ford
33 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford
34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford
35 JJ Yeley Rick Ware Racing Ford
36 BJ McLeod Live Fast Motorsports Ford

Ryan Blaney had himself a moment during his second qualifying run, and nearly put his Mustang into the wall. That affected both of his laps, but he still has a top-ten starting spot tomorrow. Martin Truex Jr had a smooth run and qualified 6th in his No. 19 Camry.

Blaney currently holds the final playoff spot by the skin of his teeth. His 19-point edge over Truex will be key if neither driver is able to win one of these three remaining regular season races. The Penske driver may have the edge in the standings, but Truex has a much better resume at Richmond.

Truex has three wins at Richmond, along with nine top-fives, two poles, and 1,285 laps led. Those three wins have all come in the last six races. In fact, Truex has finished inside the top-five in each of the last seven Richmond races. By comparison, Blaney has just two top-ten finishes in 12 career starts here, with a best finish of 7th earlier this year. Truex has gained 52 points on Blaney over the last four races.

The spotlight will obviously be on these two drivers, but there will be 34 other drivers competing for the race win tomorrow. Two of Martin’s teammates could be their toughest competition.

Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with six wins at Richmond, and Hamlin is next with four. These two also have the most top-five finishes (18 and 16) and laps led (2,113 and 1,529) among active drivers. In addition to being the defending race winner, Hamlin finished 2nd in both races last season. Kyle also has seven runner-up finishes at Richmond.

It has been a rough season for Kyle, especially in recent weeks. With his driving future still unsettled, the two-time Cup champion has not finished inside the top-ten since the first week of June. In fact, Kyle’s last eight finishes are 30th, 21st, 29th, 20th, 12th, 36th, 11th, and 36th. He starts 29th tomorrow. The good news for the driver of the No. 18 Camry is that he is already locked into the playoffs.

Should the playoff field be expanded should there be more than 16 race winners in a season? Not so fast, says Kyle. “I don’t think so, there still should be some sense of urgency with the race within the race. We already have that with stages, too, where there are actually three races within a race with stages. It’s just a matter of being in that top 16. We all know what the rules are and the results will speak for themselves. I think this format gives you a sense of urgency.”

nascar at richmond: kyle larson, hendrick motorsports rob ross chastain for pole

Chase Elliott can clinch the regular season championship tomorrow if he is able to accumulate 58 points in the race. The regular season champion gets more than just a trophy. There are an additional 15 playoff points on the line, which is the equivalent to three races wins. Chase entered this weekend with 25 playoff points, so clinching the regular season title would boost that to 40 points.

Elliott didn’t have the same results as his three teammates, and starts 23rd tomorrow. He understands the importance of track position at a place like Richmond. “In the spring, I really felt like we had a better car than where we finished. Strategy didn’t quite work in our favor, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow. Passing is going to be tough again, so I really feel like getting good track position is going to be important.”

Chase has four top-five finishes at Richmond, but has never won here. Two of his teammates (Larson and Bowman) have won here, and Byron nearly won earlier this year but finished 3rd after leading 122 laps in the race. The Hendrick organization has won five of the last eight short track races, with Joe Gibbs Racing winning the other three.

Kevin Harvick is another driver to keep a close eye on tomorrow. He has won at Richmond three times in his career, and finished runner-up in the race earlier this year. He starts 13th tomorrow and has finished inside the top-ten in seven of the last eight races here. After finally getting back to victory lane last week, he could be in line to make it two in row tomorrow.

With Harvick snapping his 65-race winless streak last week at Michigan, there are several other drivers hoping to end a drought tomorrow and possibly punch their ticket to the playoffs. Chris Buescher is riding a 218-race winless streak, and his teammate Keselowski has not won in 49 races. Erik Jones has not won in 103 races but has been running well all season and starts 9th. Blaney and Truex are in the midst of 33 and 31-race winless streaks.

Bubba Wallace just missed out on advancing to the final round of qualifying and will start 11th tomorrow. The driver of the No. 23 Toyota signed a multi-year extension with the 23XI Racing organization on Friday. Bubba has finished 25th or worse in seven of his eight starts at Richmond, but he has a ton of momentum this weekend. Wallace has finished 3rd, 8th, 5th, and 2nd in his last four races.

“I’m proud of the team and what they’ve been able to do and how we’ve been able to attack each and every race,” Wallace said. “We’ll continue to do what we do, just like we’ve been doing these last four or five races, and it seems to be working. I can’t really tell you what it is, but it’s working. Toyota has always been strong here at Richmond. We missed the boat the first race here but we’re really confident in what we’re bringing tomorrow.”

nascar at richmond: kyle larson, hendrick motorsports rob ross chastain for pole

Kurt Busch will miss his fourth consecutive race tomorrow as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms suffered during his crash in qualifying at Pocono. Ty Gibbs continues to fill in for the 2004 champion, and has done so admirably. Gibbs earned a top-ten result at Michigan last week after finishing 16th and 17th at Pocono and Indianapolis, and will start 14th tomorrow.

Toyota has won six of the last eight Richmond races, and the pole sitter has not won in the last ten races here.

The stage is set for the final short track race before the playoffs. Two wildcard events (Watkins Glen, Daytona) will determine the playoff field after today, which makes winning this race incredibly important for several drivers. Coverage for the Federated Auto Parts 400 begins at 3:00 ET on USA Network.


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