Earnhardt Fourth in Return, Leads JRM in Richmond Playoff Opener

JR Motorsports | 9/22/2018

Brandt Dale Earnhardt Jr. Elliott Sadler Hellmann's Justin Allgaier Michael Annett Nationwide Children's Hospital News OneMain Pilot Flying J Playoffs Richmond Tyler Reddick XFINITY Series

Dale Jr. returned to the track Friday night, leading 96 laps and finishing fourth, leading the JRM contingent at Richmond Raceway.

Race 27 of 33: GoBowling 250 at Richmond Raceway
Track Specs: .75-mile D-shaped oval / 250 laps
Weather: Cloudy, 64 degrees
Race Winner: Christopher Bell

Earnhardt Jr.’s Finish: 4th
Sadler's Finish: 6th
Reddick's Finish: 7th
Annett's Finish: 14th
Allgaier's Finish: 32nd

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made quite a splash with the No. 88 Hellmann’s team in his highly-anticipated return to NASCAR Xfinity Series competition during Friday night’s GoBowling 250 at Richmond Raceway. He led a race high 96 laps and secured a stage win en route to a fourth-place finish. The effort affords Earnhardt Jr. a sixth top-five effort in eight series starts at the Virginia short track and gives him 829 total laps led at Richmond, a career best for the driver at a single track. 

From the outset of the weekend it was clear Earnhardt Jr. had shaken off any rust that remained from an almost year-long hiatus from the cockpit. He hustled into a second-place qualifying spot to start the day and fired off with one of the field’s most competitive cars.

Early in the opening stage, Earnhardt Jr. diagnosed a bit of a loose condition on throttle, but complimented the cars ability to roll and carry speed through the center of the corner. He maintained second place and engaged in a spirited duel with teammate Justin Allgaier for the top spot before settling back in behind the leader. The No. 88 briefly drifted back to fourth and then found third place for the conclusion of Stage One.

Following a pit stop for the usual four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, Earnhardt Jr. took the Stage Two restart with the Hellmann’s machine shown in third. At the 100-lap mark, with the No. 88 shown in second, Earnhardt Jr. commented to crew chief Mike Bumgarner the car was “too loose to run any harder”. But by lap 124, Earnhardt Jr. muscled by leader Christopher Bell. Out front he set sail, leading the next 29 laps and taking the victory in Stage Two.

Following the team’s second pit stop, Earnhardt Jr. would hold serve from the top spot for final stage’s restart. Again, he stretched out a sizable gap between himself and second place. Earnhardt Jr. maintained a firm grip on the lead over the next 67 laps until a caution on lap 220 shuffled the field. He rolled down pit road under the yellow flag to the attention of the crew for four tires and fuel. Then lined up for the ensuing restart on the outside of the front row in second place.

Once back to green flag racing, Earnhardt Jr. reported the tires didn’t feel right and that the car felt “out of the track”. With a car that had turned into a handful on this set of tires, the Hellmann’s machine dropped as low as fifth. But Earnhardt Jr. gained one final spot to close out a highly-competitive run in fourth place.

Christopher Bell won the race. Ross Chastain, Daniel Hemric, Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Tift rounded out the night’s top-five finishers. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver No. 88 Hellmann’s team
“We didn’t have the car at the end. Restarting on the outside was kind of tough. Just didn’t have what we needed right there. I’m glad we got to led a lot of laps and we ran real good for Hellmann’s and all the people that came out to watch us. We had fun. We’ll try and do another one next year. It’ll be with Hellmann’s again and I’m looking forward to figuring out what race that’s gonna be.” 

Elliott Sadler

Elliott Sadler and the OneMain Financial team brought home a sixth-place finish in Friday night’s GoBowling 250 at Sadler’s hometown track of Richmond Raceway. With the finish, Sadler sits fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with two races remaining before the Round of 8.

After logging a speed of 22.964 seconds in qualifying, Sadler earned a 13th-place starting position for the evening’s 187.5-mile event. Once underway, the OneMain Financial driver was able to quickly gain track position, even after reporting the handling of his Camaro was tight in the center and loose off on lap 25. Driving through the tough-handling condition, the Emporia, Va., native was able to complete three additional passes to be running in sixth place at the conclusion of Stage One.

Before Stage Two began, the OneMain Financial team made a pit stop for an adjustment, fresh tires and fuel. The quick stop put the No. 1 team in the fifth position for the start of the second stage. It wasn’t long thereafter that Sadler relayed to his team that his OneMain Financial Chevrolet had lost its forward bite. Using his veteran experience, Sadler drove through the almost caution-free stage, maintaining his track position. When the yellow flag was displayed for an incident on the backstretch, the OneMain Financial team was in the seventh-place running position. The stage then ended following the lap-148 caution.

Once again following the stage end, the OneMain Financial team came to pit road for four tires, fuel and further adjustments. Within laps after the restart, Sadler relayed his Chevrolet’s balance had significantly improved. With the round of adjustments made in the right direction, Sadler was able to continue his run within the top five. It wasn’t until his tires began to wear that the OneMain Financial driver began to slip back. On lap 220, the caution flag returned giving the OneMain Financial team the opportunity for fresh tires and fuel. Sadler worked to hold his track position on the restart, finding himself in the sixth position as the laps began to wind down. When the race concluded, the OneMain Financial Chevrolet was in sixth place. The finish was Sadler’s 22nd top 10 of the season.

Christopher Bell won the kickoff NXS Playoff event and was followed by Ross Chastain, Daniel Hemric, JR Motorsports team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Matt Tifft to round out the top five.                                                                                                                                             

Elliott Sadler, driver OneMain Financial team

“It’s not a win, but it’s a step in the right direction. We had a solid day today and we’ll take this momentum into next weekend. I would have loved to get the win tonight, racing at my hometrack for the last time, but I’ve got some great memories and have done some good racing here. Thank you to all my partners and the fans for all of their support over the years.”

Tyler Reddick

Tyler Reddick, driver of the No. 9 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet, earned a seventh-place finish in Friday evening’s opening race of the Round of 12 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs at Richmond Raceway. The result is Reddick’s third top-seven finish in the last four races and improves the JRM driver to 11 points above the cut line with two races remaining before the playoff field is cut to eight following the NXS event at Dover International Speedway on Oct. 6.

Reddick lined up for the 250-lap event from the 14th position after advancing to the second round of knockout qualifying on Friday afternoon. From the drop of the green flag, the driver of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet methodically worked his way forward, joining the top 10 for the first time on lap 12. Reddick’s march toward the front didn’t stop there, as the 22-year-old driver took advantage of the caution-free opening stage to race up to the eighth position when the green-and-white checkered flag was displayed on lap 75, earning three valuable stage points.

While under the stage-ending caution, Reddick reported to crew chief Dave Elenz that he was fighting a tight-handling condition rolling through the corner. This information led Elenz to bring Reddick to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment, sending the Corning, Calif. native back onto the track in the eighth position for the beginning of Stage Two. Once back underway, the driver of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet maintained his top-10 position throughout a second stage that was again dominated by a long green-flag run. However, a caution with just four laps remaining in the stage forced NASCAR to end Stage Two under the yellow flag with Reddick scored in eighth. Despite ending under yellow, the result once again earned the rookie driver three valuable stage points.

Prior to the beginning of the final stage, Elenz called Reddick back to pit road for four tires and another chassis adjustment as the tight-handling condition continued to hinder the JRM driver through the corners. As a result of the stop, Reddick took the lap 158 restart from the ninth position but was quickly shuffled back to 11th following a lap 160 caution period and the subsequent lap 165 restart. Undeterred by the loss of track position, Reddick persisted through another long green-flag run before a timely caution on lap 218 provided Elenz with another opportunity to call the driver of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet back to pit road for fresh tires and adjustments.

Returning to the track in 11th, Reddick took advantage of a three-wide move off of Turn 2 to charge into the seventh position before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 225. Lining up seventh for the ensuing restart, the JRM driver once again utilized a three-wide move to drive into the top five before the tight-handling condition returned to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet.

In the closing laps, Reddick would battle with teammate Elliott Sadler before taking the checkered flag in the seventh position. The result is Reddick’s third top-seven finish in the last four races and moves the driver of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet to 11 points above the cut line with two races remaining in the Round of 12.

Christopher Bell scored the victory with Ross Chastain, Daniel Hemric, JRM teammate and owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Tift rounding out the top five.

Tyler Reddick, driver No. 9 Nationwide Children’s Hospital team

“It was a solid night all around for our Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chevrolet. We had some really good speed and were able to be mistake-free and stay above the cut line, which is really good heading into next weekend. I just want to thank all my guys on this JRM team for their hard work today. We fought hard and did what we needed to do. Now it’s on to Charlotte.”

Michael Annett

Michael Annett played the long game on Friday night at Richmond Raceway, taking his Pilot Flying J Chevrolet to a 14th-place finish in the GoBowling 250, the opening round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. The Iowa native overcame a pit-road speeding penalty on the final stop and advanced two spots in the final laps, getting past Cole Custer for the last one.

Firing off from 17th spot, Annett saved his Pilot Flying J Camaro for the longer runs. After falling back as far as 19th, Annett began advancing again after 30 laps and gained 16th place on lap 66, nine laps before the end of Stage One. In the remaining circuits, Annett moved up to 14th and was getting better when everyone else was fading fast.

On the break, Annett told crew chief Travis Mack that he was loose to start and, unless he got off the gas early, the right front tire began to chatter. Mack called his driver to pit road for four tires and fuel, but no further adjustments, and sent him back out one spot better than when he came in.

In Stage Two, Annett played the same strategy, biding his time until those ahead came back to him. By the time there were five laps left in Stage Two, Annett had just taken 15th from Brandon Jones when the first caution for a racing incident waved. Ryan Reed and Ty Majeski tangled off Turn 2, and Annett was in the area when it happened. He was also concerned about his handling, telling Mack that he started free again, got tight a lot sooner than he had the first run and had to deal with a slide on late exit at both ends.

On his pit stop at the break, Mack made air-pressure and track-bar adjustments to help the handle and put some tape on the grille to go with four tires and fuel, maintaining his race position for the restart on lap 158. An early caution for a spin in Turn 4 allowed Annett to communicate that the changes had shown immediate improvement in his forward bite.

Annett again set his pace and waited for his car to come to life, while others were burning theirs up. He locked into a battle with Spencer Gallagher, Jones and Reed for 16th, and by lap 189 he took the spot from Ryan Sieg. That left Reed as the next target, and Annett was within five lengths when the caution waved yet again on lap 218. After reporting that his car was way too tight while off the gas, Mack took a big swing with adjustments on the final stop to help Annett get through the center. After a quick stop that gained a spot on pit road, Annett was hit with a speeding penalty in Section 11, near the end of pit road. That meant he had to start at the tail of the field with just 25 laps left in the 250-lap race.

Annett took the penalty and fired off at the rear, only to have the caution wave one lap later. That gained valuable ground for the Pilot Flying J driver, and he made good use of it. Restarting 16th with 14 laps remaining, Annett passed Gallagher with 10 to go and stalked Custer, who was involved in the last caution, into the final lap before pulling off the pass and finishing 14th.

Christopher Bell won the race, followed by Ross Chastain, Daniel Hemric, JRM team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Tifft. JRM’s Elliott Sadler, in his final race at his home track, finished sixth, just ahead of teammate Tyler Reddick.

Michael Annett, driver No. 5 Pilot Flying J team

“That was a pretty good run for us tonight. We got it dialed in for the final stage and were just letting the guys who used up their stuff come to us, and then we got that speeding penalty on our final stop. The changes that Travis Mack and the guys made were good, and we were able to maintain. It’s all about building right now; we’ll take what we learned here and use it these next six races.”

Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier and the BRANDT Professional Agriculture team led laps and spent much of Friday’s GoBowling 250 racing inside the top five at Richmond Raceway, but a late-race incident forced the team to retire early, resulting in a 32nd-place finish. The JR Motorsports driver now sits third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings with two races left in the Round of 12 for the playoffs.

Qualifying in the fifth position, Allgaier’s Chevrolet showed strength at the drop of the green flag, moving into the lead on lap 8. He continued to pace the field during the first stage and radioed to crew chief Jason Burdett on lap 27 that the BRANDT Camaro was plowing through center and was loose off. The No. 20 of Christopher Bell closed in on Allgaier and a battle ensued, but Allgaier was ultimately able to hold him off. Soon it was the vehicle of Daniel Hemric who challenged for the lead, taking the top spot away on lap 46. A long green-flag run caused the No. 7 Chevy’s tight-handling condition to worsen and Allgaier began to lose positions on the track. When the green-and-white checkered flag waved on lap 75 for the end of Stage One, the Illinois native was scored in the fifth position.

During the stage-ending caution, Burdett called Allgaier to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment. He started Stage Two from the fourth position on lap 86 and worked his way into third. Holding steady in that spot, Allgaier reported on lap 96 that the BRANDT Chevy was still tight through the center of the turns, but was better on entry and exit. Again, the BRANDT Chevrolet’s handling began to fade as a long green-flag run unfolded and eventually Hemric passed him to take over the third-place running position. Allgaier was running in fifth when the caution came out on lap 147 for a wreck, forcing NASCAR to end Stage Two under yellow-flag conditions. Once pit road was open, the team made a stop for another track-bar adjustment plus four tires and fuel.

Allgaier took the green for the final stage in seventh on lap 159 and was up to sixth just 10 laps later. He continued to improve his position, advancing to fourth by lap 188. Allgaier again was plagued with a tight-handling condition and had dropped back to sixth when a caution came out on lap 219. Getting the opportunity to pit, the team called the Illinois native down for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Allgaier was battling for position after the lap-226 restart when contact from another car sent the No. 7 Chevrolet into the wall. He made it back to pit road but the damage was too severe, causing an early end to the race for the No. 7 BRANDT team. Allgaier was scored with a 32nd-place finish.

Bell won the first race of the 2018 NXS Playoffs and was followed by Ross Chastain, Hemric, JRM team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Tifft to round out the top five.

Justin Allgaier, driver No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture team

“Man, I hate that our night ended that way. We were able to lead some laps there early and it looked as though we were going to be able to get a solid finish with our BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevy, but it just didn’t work out that way. Now we just need to focus on having strong finishes these next two weeks so we can advance to the Round of 8.”  

Articles

image

XFINITY Series Schedule

XFINITY Series Standings

After Ford EcoBoost 300*

Homestead-Miami Speedway | 11/17/2018
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick (P)40400
2Cole Custer (P)4035-5
3Daniel Hemric (P)4033-7
4Christopher Bell # (P)4026-14
5Elliott Sadler2255-1785
6Matt Tifft2254-1786
7Justin Allgaier2251-1789
14Michael Annett632-3408