It took truckloads of dirt… Some rain… and maybe a bit of desperation. Racing at Bristol with the “new” Next Gen car brought some of the short track action that, well maybe…, perhaps…, had been missing at Martinsville.
Richmond had a promising show with 13 lead changes traded over 7 drivers so there was some competition on the track. The cautions were light at Richmond but more so at Martinsville. Bristol did put on a show with the dirt surface but it was spread out with the rain delays. The “Dirt Race” lead changed over 6 times among 5 drivers and the cautions, including the stages and competition pit stops, totaled 14 through 89 laps.
The Food City Dirt Race at Bristol did bring a finish for the books. Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe were racing for the front and Briscoe pushed the limits on a final lap dive. The #14 Ford went loose on the rain slick dirt and touched up on Reddick’s #8 Chevy. Both cars went sideways as the #14 lost several slots. Reddick managed to correct the #8 but not before Kyle Busch drove by both in the M&Ms #18 Toyota.
Busch claimed the checkered flag at Bristol. Reddick stayed on track for the 2nd slot and Briscoe’s hard dive was rewarded with a mid-field finish.
This car still has to gain some track time and mileage. NASCAR will be reviewing the entire package from the aero to the tires. Short track racing put this car in such tight competition that the effort to pass and gain position was pressed almost flat. The dirt surface and weather at Bristol allowed some of these apparent limitations to fall away.
The speed at Darlington should bring the car back into a competitive nature. This package has advantages for speed. It will be interesting to see what changes NASCAR may put forth for a racing show when the short tracks come around again on the schedule.
This car is a major step forward. It looks good. The engineering is superb and in line with the performance across other series and in the showroom. For NASCAR, it may just be a tweak or two to make it work better from track to track.
Doubles on doubles. William Byron came into Martinsville with some momentum of an early season win. He already notched his playoff spot with a March win at Atlanta. However, there was a lot of hunger from a lot of drivers coming into the 75th year of racing at the historic raceway.
Racing was set to start with Chase Elliott on the pole. However, the weather took center stage about the time of driver introductions with cold rain and some reports of a snow flurry blowing by. The rain held the scheduled start for a bit over an hour before the track went green.
It was Chase Elliott’s race to lose while running up front for the start through the finish of stage 2. Byron, however, was on the bumper of the #9 for both stages and managed to win the race out of the pits for the run on stage 3.
Byron held on for the remainder of the race even as green flag pit stops cycled through. A late race tap of the wall by Todd Gilliland left the door open with a green-whit restart. Joey Logano made a bump move but Byron hung on to the #24 to take the win. Logano came in second with Austin Dillon coming in the third spot.
The other double beyond the second Cup win for 2022…? William Byron had also won the Camping World Series race at Martinsville on Thursday night.
At the end of the racing for Blue Emu weekend at Martinsville, William Byron came away looking for space for two Ridgeway Grandfather Clocks. Perhaps there was some old #24 magic blowing about as Jeff Gordon was around the pit and garage area and both he and Byron noted a long-time friendship. Byron spoke how Gordon would give him pointers or things to watch well before his actual driving career hit its stride. It took time, he said, but those conversations began to fall into place the more laps he ran at the “paperclip”.
Next up is Bristol – Racing on the dirt!
The Top 5 at Martinsville – The Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400
It was a weekend for Toyota at Richmond Raceway. The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series in April have carried the Toyota sponsorship for quite a while. The ToyotaCare 250 already notched the manufacturer with an Xfinity win Saturday as Ty Gibbs grabbed the checkered flag.
The NASCAR Cup Toyota Owners 400 doubled down as Denny Hamlin drove the #11 FedEx Toyota to a Sunday win.
It did not look so obvious at the start. Ryan Blaney in the #12 Penske Ford and William Byron in the Liberty #12 Chevy started out on row 1 with the drop of the green. Blaney held the lead for the stage one win with Byron right there for second.
Blaney started stage two out front but Martin Truex, Jr took over following green flag pit stops. Truex and Christopher Bell traded off but the stage 2 win went to Truex with Bell claiming second. The #19 and #20 of Truex and Bell put Toyota in the spotlight at the stage 2 half way point.
The restart for the final stage put the #19 and the #20 back into running order. A caution brought on by a triple car shot as Cole Custer and Ty Dillon touched which pushed into Austin Cindric. William Byron stays out as others pit for position on the lead at the restart.
Martin Truex, Jr was chasing on the #24 of Byron. As laps ticked by, Truex stayed on the #24 but Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin were making gains. Hamlin was running fresher tires than the rest and made better time.
At five laps to go Hamlin went by Truex and took the inside of the #24. Harvick also drove the advantage of the high side #24 and followed the #11 by. Hamlin and Harvick ran one and two for the checkers.
The racing doesn’t have too far to go for the next event. NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Series all make their way to Martinsville for the next race weekend. Blue Emu / Call 811 weekend runs late in the day Thursday through Saturday to finish under the lights at the historic “paperclip”, celebrating 75 years of NASCAR at the track.
Full Photo Gallery of the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway – April 3, 2022
Ty Gibbs is seems to be collecting early season wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Seven starts and three wins have put Gibbs in a spot of having a lead in playoff points but a second spot in the regular season standings. A.J. Allmendinger holds the lead in the season using the NASCAR math of a race win plus top 5, top 10 and stage wins. Despite the real series leading 3 wins for Gibbs, the #54 driver and #9 driver, Noah Gragson are tied 20 points off of Allmendinger.
For Richmond Raceway and the ToyotaCare 250, Ty Gibbs was driving hard for the win all day. He and team mate John Hunter Nemechek started one and two with Toyotas leading the field to the green flag. Nemechek took the stage 1 win. Gibbs was in front for stage 2. In the final laps, the #54 of Gibbs and the #18 of Nemechek were still racing for the lead. The #18 had gotten around the #54 with 3 laps to go after several exchanges over the final 50 laps. Gibbs was on the bumper of the #18 with a nudge here and tap there.
It came down to the final turn of the final lap as Ty Gibbs came into turn three underneath Nemechek and drove the #54 up into turn four forcing Nemechek onto the brakes or into the wall. The move put Gibbs out front on the front stretch for the win.
Post race, Gibbs knew there was trouble ahead. “I definitely deserve one back but we’re racing for wins” he said.
Nemechek, who is actually running full time in the Camping World Series, was noticeably put off by the last lap. “Him and I will settle it one day,” Nemechek said. “I don’t want to say too much and get myself in trouble…. Just got drove through… He didn’t even try and make the corner…”
Also noteable for the ToyotaCare 250 was a first time Xfinity starter, Rajah Caruth. The 19 year old African-American driver is an ARCA and Advance Auto Weekly Series driver racing with Alpha Prime Racing at Richmond. His first Xfinity start comes at a track he had visited as a child with his family. He finished 24th.
The Comcast Dash 4 Cash winner at Richmond (four drivers determined eligible after Circuit of the Americas) was Sam Mayer, driver of the #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet. The eligible drivers at Martinsville will be Ty Gibbs, Sam Mayer, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.
The Top 5 finishers in the ToyotaCare 250
John Hunter Nemechek
PHOTOS from the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway
A little luck and some lap traffic brought a come back win to Justin Bonsignore Friday evening at Richmond Raceway.
The Whelen Modified Tour ran at Richmond on April 1st, 2022 following the season opener at New Smyrna, Florida. A mechanical issue put Bonsignore off the race to finish last in Florida. The win at Richmond brought back some of the form for the three-time series champion.
Justin won the pole and ran well but it was Tommy Catalano that raised the pressure with a fast car and first position as the race came into the later laps. Slower traffic put Catalano off the pace which allowed Bonsignore to get back up and in position. Catalano spun slightly and with 10 to go, allowing Bonsignore to get by and lead to the finish.
Top Five at the Whelen Modified – Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150
Well… Now it’s on! NASCAR has packed the April schedule with a Virginia run on short track racing.
*OK fine… Technically, the Bristol Motor Speedway is in Tennessee. However, Bristol itself is split on the Virginia border…
Richmond is up first. Martinsville the weekend after. Bristol (yeah yeah) is on Easter Sunday. This is reversed from Spring of 2021.
So far, season points races have seen young and newer Cup stars in the victory spotlights. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have wins in non-point, pre-season events.
Austin Cindric made his NASCAR Cup points debut in the #2 Penske Ford and won the Daytona 500. Defending Cup Champion Kyle Larson grabbed a win at Auto Club Speedway in California. Alex Bowman took Vegas making 7 career Cup wins. Chase Briscoe also notched his first Cup win with a checkers at Phoenix. William Byron added to his two previous wins (2021, 2020) with a victory in Atlanta. The most recent success came at Circuit of the Americas as Ross Chastain placed his first Cup win.
Oddly enough, Chase Elliott is currently leading the points with no wins but “top finish position” math adds up. Elliott is, oddly enough, the lone Hendrick driver without a win but is certainly making the effort.
Early season racing has focused on speed, drafting and shaking down the “new generation” car in race conditions. One exhibition short track outing gave a clue but the Virginia sweep will find all the tight pack nuances of how these bigger brakes and sequential shifting play out. The tight quarter pit stops will also make the teams hit all the new marks for tires and fuel.
NASCAR Cup features runs at all three tracks. The Xfinity Series runs at Richmond and Martinsville but skips the “dirt race” of Bristol. Camping World Trucks skip Richmond but run Martinsville and Bristol. Richmond Raceway also will host the Whelen Modified Series with the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150 to fill out the Toyota Owners / Toyota Care weekend.
Xfinity will be on race number seven coming away from Circuit of The Americas. AJ Allmendinger grabbed the road course win. Ty Gibbs has two wins so far with Austin Hill and Noah Gragson holding one each. Cole Custer also has an Xfinity win but is running points in the Cup series. Gragson barely has a points lead in the series.
Camping World Trucks will be running their fifth race of the season at Martinsville. Chandler Smith and Corey Heim have one win. Zane Smith has two wins from Daytona and COTA. The math of finish positions and a win has Chandler Smith currently on top of the points going into Martinsville.
Also, Richmond and Martinsville invite fans to the tracks on race week for “Charity Laps”. For Richmond Raceway on March 30, register and drive your car on the track with funds benefiting the Henrico Firefighter Foundation. For Martinsville on April 6, your car on the track benefits Vet Tix (Organization supplying sport and entertainment for United States Veterans).
Another highlight for the season in Virginia is Martinsville Speedway celebrating 75 years of NASCAR racing history at the track. The honors are reflected with a special anniversary display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. However, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 weekend at Martinsville is just beyond. We have Richmond Raceway first up for April short track racing. The Whelen Modified race is a welcome return at Richmond with series runs there peppered back to 1990. Modified racing made a NASCAR sanction first for Virginia and Richmond way back in 1948.
It’s time. April is NASCAR in Virginia. Also – Don’t forget to check your short tracks, too. Home tracks, dirt tracks and drag strips are all coming alive this month! Go racing!
The chips fell on the side of Tony Stewart this weekend. He wasn’t driving but had his hand in it from Phoenix to Gainesville.
Stewart-Haas driver Chase Briscoe clocked his first Cup win at Phoenix in the Ruoff Mortgage 500. NHRA driver Matt Hagan notched a win at the Gatornationals for Tony Stewart Racing.
For NASCAR, this new car is still presenting itself. Drivers are still finding the limits and pit crews are still rolling with one lug instead of five. However, for Phoenix the Cup race played out with several drivers keeping their performance running well throughout. Race winner Briscoe was top 10 in both stages one and two. Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Tyler Reddick were top 10 at the finish and the stages also.
The Xfinity race held similar even though the car is much the same as the previous season. Noah Gragson, Trevor Bayne and Brandon Jones were top five for the stages and the finish with Gragson taking the final win.
This weekend, of course, NASCAR is back at it in Atlanta. NHRA takes a little time before they go 4-wide in Vegas the first of April. What is big this weekend is IMSA getting back at it after the ROLEX 24 back in January. Mobil 1 – Twelve Hours of Sebring is on this week.
Virginia is looking ahead for April and NASCAR at Richmond and Martinsville. This weekend, another track with big NASCAR history gets officially under way. South Boston Speedway is on with their Danville Toyota opener. There is no wait necessary to catch real late model racing action. SoBo always has a show and NASCAR AAPWS National Champion and track Division Champion Peyton Sellers is set to defend the titles.
Racing doesn’t have to wait for the NASCAR Cup circus to come along. Great racing tickets are going to be hitting the weekly series short racks throughout Virginia and the USA with weather going into Spring. Don’t wait – Go Racing!