Ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR race weekend at Richmond Raceway, here’s a roundup of interesting news and notes from around the sport.
Show Us What You Got
It’s been more than a week since NASCAR dropped the hammer on RFK Racing with a massive L2-penalty after Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 team was found to have improperly modified something on the car that originated from a single-source supplier.
In that week, no one from NASCAR or RFK Racing has gone on the record to say exactly what RFK Racing did.
“Obviously must have been pretty, pretty severe for that type of penalty,” Kevin Harvick said last Saturday at Circuit of The Americas. “But, I know it’s a priority of the garage to try to keep this process clean. And it’s better for everybody if it’s clean.”
Harvick would like to see NASCAR return to a practice it had in the past, displaying illegal parts or modifications in the garage for all teams to see what they should not do.
“If it was that big a deal, I think it should be it should be public, right?” Harvick said. “I think it should be like it used to be, just sit it out here. It should just be on display.”
Elliott Tops Points
Without winning a race or doing anything really flashy through the first six races, Chase Elliott heads to Richmond Raceway with a 13-point lead over Ryan Blaney.
Elliott is the only other driver aside from Ross Chastain to have four top 10s this season.
He’s one of six drivers in the top 10 in points to not have a win yet.
If Elliott were to win Sunday’s race, he and his father Bill Elliott would join the Pettys (Lee, Richard, Kyle), the Earnhardts (Dale and Dale Jr.), the Allisons (Bobby and Davey) and the Jarretts (Ned and Dale) as the fifth father-son combo to win a Cup Series event at Richmond
Richmond First Timer?
Not since 2001 has the NASCAR Cup Series seen three first-time winners through its first six races in a season. That year, it was Michael Waltrip (Daytona 500), Elliott Sadler (Bristol Motor Speedway) and Kevin Harvick (Atlanta Motor Speedway).
In 2022, it’s been Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Chastain.
What are the odds that a fourth could breakthrough this weekend at Richmond Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)?
Historically, not great.
The Virginia short track has only produced five first-time winners in its 130 Cup races. The last two were Kasey Kahne (2005) and Tony Stewart (1999).
There are 11 drivers entered this weekend looking for their first career Cup Series win — Harrison Burton, Landon Cassill, Ty Dillon, Todd Gilliland, Corey Lajoie, J.J. Yeley, B.J. McLeod, Tyler Reddick, Garrett Smithley, Daniel Suárez and Cody Ware.
Comparing Chastain’s Top-3 Streak
Ross Chastain’s win at COTA on Sunday came after weeks of him and Trackhouse Racing banging on the door of victory lLane.
The 29-year-old has strung together four-consecutive finishes inside the top three. He leads the series in top-five finishes while eight drivers are tied with two top fives each. Chastain’s start is impressive, but it barely puts a dent in similar streaks in the past few years.
Just last season, defending champion Kyle Larson produced a stretch of six straight top-two finishes at one point, including three-consecutive victories.
In 2018, Kyle Busch put together a seven-race stretch of top-three finishes starting with Race No. 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He also had three consecutive wins. In 2015, fresh off his first Cup title, Harvick began the season with five-straight finishes of first or second, including two wins. Through the first 11 races, Harvick had eight top-two finishes.
JR Motorsports Still Considering Cup
Kelley Earnhardt Miller, the co-owner of JR Motorsports, told NBC Sports this week that “the window is not closed” for a potential move up to the NASCAR Cup Series for the team.
Co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., JRM was in the mix to potentially make the jump in 2022 when a slew of charters were up for grabs. Ultimately, it didn’t come to pass.
Earnhardt Miller told NBC Sports “it’s all about timing.”
If JRM did make the move, current co-owner Rick Hendrick would have to divest from the team, as one organization can’t own more than four cars in the Cup Series. This means the team would likely have to find a new partner to compete at NASCAR’s top level.
“We have a good track record, we’ve got a great brand in JR Motorsports, we’ve got a great personality with Dale Jr.,” Earnhardt Miller said. “He really wants to participate and be in the Cup Series. So, you know, in the perfect world, we would either be majority (owner) or not have a partner but, you know, the world’s not perfect.”
Xfinity Dash 4 Cash Begins
The first opportunity for Xfinity Series drivers to win the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus will be this Saturday at Richmond. Last weekend’s race at Circuit of The Americas was the first qualifier, locking in race winner A.J. Allmendinger, Austin Hill, Noah Gragson and Sam Mayer.
Of these four, Gragson is the only one with a Xfinity Series Richmond Raceway win. He has also posted two top fives and four top 10s since he started competing at Richmond in 2018.
Did you have any idea that Dale Earnhardt once drove a No. 7 Wrangler car in the Xfinity Series?
If you didn’t, you found out this week when JR Motorsports revealed Justin Allgaier’s throwback paint scheme for the May 7 Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway.
Allgaier’s No. 7 Chevrolet is a tribute to the No. 7 Oldsmobile Earnhardt piloted in 1984 in three races for owner Ed Whitaker, including the spring race at Darlington.
After last year’s NASCAR Cup race at Circuit of The Americas was rain-shortened by a torrential downpour, there was really no where to go but up ratings wise for the second race on the road course. Thankfully, it was a warm, sunny day in Austin, Texas as Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win.
The Cup race, which aired on Fox, had an 2.18 rating and average of 3.731 million viewers. Last year’s race, held in late May, aired on FS1 and had an average of 2.36 million viewers.
The rating for COTA was basically flat from last year’s sixth race, held at Atlanta (3.768M). The COTA numbers and the 4 million+ viewers for last week’s race at Atlanta are impressive given they took place during the height of March Madness.