Martin Truex Jr edges Denny Hamlin for a playoff victory in the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday.
Richmond Raceway was the battleground for the second race in the opening round of the 2021 Cup Series playoffs. Some short-track action just to add some drama in the early rounds. The racing at Richmond Raceway has provided dramatic moments that have ended the championship hopes of many teams. However, it is a great place to try to steal a win and advance if a driver plays his cards right.
Hamlin Leads the Field to the Green Flag
Denny Hamlin kicked off the night race by jumping out to a comfortable lead. Hamlin led the opening 32 laps as the race was put under the competition caution. Kurt Busch and his team had an excellent stop, and they were able to take the lead on pit road. Busch dropped back to third on the restart, and Denny Hamlin retook the lead.
Three laps later, Kurt Busch had a tire failure causing him to spin hard into the first turn wall. Coming out of the caution, Hamlin continued to lead. The rest of the first stage ran green and Denny Hamlin was able to pick up the win.
Hamlin Sweeps First Two Stages
Coming out of the stage break, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin battled for the top spot. Elliott was able to win the battle and grabbed his first lead of the night. It was not over for Hamlin.
Hamlin battled back and passed Elliott after the two made green-flag pit stops. Once more, the second segment ran green all the way through.
With no issues, Denny Hamlin swept the stages with another win.
Martin Truex Jr Edges Denny Hamlin for a Playoff Victory
Once more, Denny Hamlin brought the field back to the green flag, but it was Martin Truex Jr’s time to shine.
Staying right behind Hamlin on the restart. Truex Jr. made the pass for the lead seventeen laps into the final stage with 170 laps remaining in the race. Truex Jr. led the field through two green flag pitting cycles. He exited pit road with an eight-second lead over Denny Hamlin and only 49 laps remaining.
Hamlin was able to shrink the gap to close out the race, but it was not enough. Martin Truex Jr. seals his bid for the second round of the playoffs and wins at Richmond Raceway.
Joe Gibbs Racing has Strong Showing
It was a strong showing for the team of Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. dominated the entirety of the race. The two finished first and second but were also followed by Christopher Bell in third. Kyle Busch bounced back after an ugly race at Darlington and claimed a ninth-place finish. This team looks forward to Bristol Motor Speedway to close out the opening round.
Elimination Race at Bristol is Next
With only one race remaining in the opening round, there is still plenty of drama to unfold. Right now, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch are tied at the cut line. Tyler Reddick sits five points back, and William Byron is 18 points back. These two can still race their way in, but for Byron, it will take some luck as well. On the top side of the cut line, Aric Almirola sits three points up, and Kyle Busch sits eight points up. A Saturday night race at Bristol Motor Speedway can and will become hectic. With how close the standings are, we could see a two or even a three-driver swing to close out the opening round.