NASCAR Sprint Cup Recap: Six Takeaways from Richmond

Image courtesy of @NASCARONFOX.

Nobody could catch Kurt Busch on Sunday afternoon as he pulled away from teammate Kevin Harvick to take his first win of the season at Richmond. Busch led 291 laps on Sunday, a career-high in a single race for the No. 41 driver.

Stewart-Haas showed off its muscles with a 1-2 finish, but that good fortune wasn’t enough for Tony Stewart or Danica Patrick. Let’s take a look at all that and more in the takeaways from Richmond.

 

Toyota Owners 400 Top 20 Results

  1. Kurt Busch
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Jimmie Johnson
  4. Jamie McMurray
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Kasey Kahne
  7. Matt Kenseth
  8. Jeff Gordon
  9. Clint Bowyer
  10. Martin Truex Jr.
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Kyle Larson
  13. A.J. Allmendinger
  14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  15. Paul Menard
  16. Chase Elliott
  17. Brad Keselowski
  18. Justin Allgaier
  19. Carl Edwards
  20. Aric Almirola

1. Kurt Busch Will Be a Contender in the Chase

Since his return from suspension to start the season, Kurt Busch has been sensational. Outside of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, Busch has been one of the cars to beat every time he gets to the track. The only driver who has more points over the last six races is Harvick, who has 223 in that span compared to 222 for Busch.

When the Chase finally arrives after the next Richmond race, Busch will put pressure on Harvick for a championship. That’s not a terrible situation for SHR, which will need numbers against Hendrick and Team Penske in NASCAR’s postseason.

2. Chase is Ready for the Show: He won’t be a full-time Sprint Cup driver until next season, but Chase Elliott showed vast improvement in his second start. Last year’s Xfinity champion finished 16th at Richmond just two days after pulling off a top-five finish at the lower level.

Elliott’s goal coming into the afternoon was to simply complete every lap on the short track. He did more than that on Sunday. Look for the No. 25 to put on a similar show at Charlotte during the Coca-Cola 600 in just under a month.

3. Smoke’s Season Imploding

Already off to the worst start of his career, Tony Stewart didn’t help matters on Sunday. The No. 14 machine spun out after contact with Junior, which also caused a potential rift between the two drivers.

Richmond was supposed to be a track where Smoke got back on track before Talladega. Instead, he now heads to the superspeedway with another disappointing result.

4. Three Up

Jamie McMurray – Welcome back, Chip Ganassi Racing. The two-car team came into the season with heightened expectations for Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. Both had strong runs on Sunday, but McMurray now has three top-10 results in his last four races and competed for a win all day in Richmond.

Clint Bowyer – One week after finishing 12th at Bristol, Bowyer navigated his way to a ninth-place result in Richmond. His short-track success helps Michael Waltrip Racing, but Bowyer will need to keep it up in Talladega to truly contend for a spot in the Chase.

Martin Truex Jr. – We’re used to seeing Martin Truex Jr. up near the front, but he just keeps getting the job done. Following an unfortunate finish at Bristol, Truex secured his eighth top-10 result through nine races. He’ll be in Victory Lane before the season is over.

5. Three Down

Carl Edwards – This was supposed to be the season Carl Edwards competed for a title. It was supposed to be another massive season for another driver swapping teams like Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick in 2013 and 2014, respectively. It hasn’t been anywhere close to those expectations. Instead, Edwards was lucky to pull out his sixth top-20 finish in Richmond. Something’s not clicking for Edwards, and it’s a strange sight to see after the move from Roush Fenway.

David Ragan – Days after reports surfaced that David Ragan will be moving over to Michael Waltrip Racing, he put on a lackluster performance in Richmond. Ragan finished two laps off the pace at a track where Kyle Busch typically demolishes in the No. 18 car.

Danica Patrick

The short track fun for Danica Patrick came to an abrupt end at Richmond. One week after taking another top-10 finish at Bristol for her second of the season, Patrick came away 25th on Sunday. She finished ahead of SHR owner Stewart, but that’s not saying much these days.

6. Three Tweets from Richmond

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