By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
After a spectacular afternoon at Richmond International Raceway, it was a Carl Edwards shove to move teammate Kyle Busch out of the way en route to claim his second consecutive victory of the season. Without any further delay, here are my takeaways from Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at the short track oval.
1) Back to Sunday’s a win for NASCAR
For the first time in nearly two decades NASCAR returned to a daytime spring race (last year’s race was run on Sunday due to a Saturday night rainout) and the result was one of the best races at Richmond in recent memory. Now, the lower downforce package and tire surely had something to add to this element, but the combination was beautiful. It was a wide three groove track that allowed for great side-by-side racing, including four-wide at one point. As enjoyable as the day race was, many drivers stated that they would enjoy it as a Saturday afternoon show as well, just so they could have a rare Sunday off. Either way, moving forward this race should not move from its sunny slot.
2) Chase Elliott and the rookies
Overall, Sunday was a shocking day for rookies as all of them struggled and failed to have one stumble into the top 10. That said, Elliott made some incredible restarts that even had returning three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart in awe. Elliott jumped to the outside of Stewart on a restart, with no room for error on either side, charged into Turn 1 and gained several positions. All Stewart could do was admire the move from afar, even calling it “sweet” over the team radio.
3) Inner turmoil
If one thing has become evident this season it’s that the only ones that can beat Joe Gibbs Racing IS Joe Gibbs Racing. So it should come as no surprise that with Edwards moving teammate Busch out of the way there could easily be something building at JGR. Edwards has been on a tear nearly on par with Busch since the start of the season, but with Busch being the one that brought home a title last year, one has to wonder what Mr. Gibbs is thinking or how he will handle this going forward. Busch was consciously disciplining himself in post-race interviews, not discussing the subject of his emotions about the incident – which is very un-Busch-like to the point where it is even kind of scary. Expect some carry over in some form moving forward, Busch isn’t going to let this continue going forward and become Edwards’ doormat.
4) Feel good story
Kasey Kahne. No, seriously I mean that. Kahne ended up finishing fourth at the same track where he capturedhis first career Cup win. It wasn’t late strategy or a gamble that got him his first top five in nearly a year, either. Kahne legitimately ran among the top 10 all race long. Usually the caboose on race day for Hendrick Motorsports, perhaps the longtime veteran finally hit on something that had been missing for the last year and change.
5) Near miss
David Ragan was running solidly in the top 20 on Sunday and at one point even looked like a threat to bring BK Racing its second consecutive top 15 finish (DiBenedetto finished sixth last week at Bristol). However, late contact with Greg Biffle damaged the fenders on Ragan’s Toyota and he was relegated to a 23rd place finish. With Ragan fading out of the top 20, there really wasn’t another ‘underdog’ to challenge anyone. Richmond brought out all the usual suspects and they didn’t disappoint, but Ragan nearly slipped in to spoil someone’s party. Perhaps next week he can shake things up, when NASCAR hits Talladega – the sight of Ragan’s last Cup win.
Overall, Richmond was amazing. The racing was fantastic and there was no shortage of action. Next up for the Sprint Cup Series is Talladega (as noted above). With the last restrictor plate track, Daytona International Speedway, bringing us a photo-finish, next Sunday’s trip to Talladega is one that is sure to be just as good.
Image: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images