Smith, Elliott Gain Ground at Richmond

4/25/2015

Breyers Chase Elliott Hunt Brothers Pizza Kevin Harvick NAPA News Race Report Regan Smith Richmond XFINITY Series

JR Motorsports drivers Regan Smith and Chase Elliott gained ground in the fight for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship after both delivered top-5 finishes at Richmond International Raceway Friday night.

Race 8 of 33: ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway

Track Specs: .75-mile oval / 250 laps

Weather:  Partly cloudy, 68 degrees

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

Smith’s finish: 3rd

Elliott’s finish: 5th

Harvick’s finish: 18th

Regan Smith

Regan Smith, Jason Burdett and the rest of the Breyers Chevrolet team got what they needed Friday night at Richmond International Raceway: a top-three finish. It could have been even better had Smith had a little more time and a little better tires.

Smith drove a heady, steady race to earn third place in the ToyotaCare 250, his third top-five and sixth top-10 finish of the season, and more importantly, jumped three spots to fifth in the season-long NASCAR XFINITY Series point standings. Over the final 112 laps, Smith made up ground on all but eventual winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up Joey Logano. Giving up third place on lap 223 to take his final set of Goodyear Eagle radials, Smith returned to the track in eighth place and started chasing.

In nine laps, he was back to third after passing JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott and Erik Jones, with only Logano and Hamlin ahead. He gave it his best shot over the final 17 laps, but came up short. The third-place run was salve for the wound that was Bristol a week earlier, where Smith had a fast car and ended up finishing 30th after a parts failure.

After getting caught up in a logjam behind Logano in the top lane on the opening start, Smith fell from eighth to 13th. It took 44 laps to regain his starting spot, and the yellow flag waved on lap 57, giving Burdett a chance to make changes.  They worked, as Smith built up a head of steam that saw him running laps as quick as the leader. It went that way for most of the rest of the race, until Smith took over third place and closed on Logano for second.

Hamlin led 248 of the 250 laps for the victory at his hometown track, with Logano second and Smith third. Erik Jones was fourth and Elliott rounded out the top five. JRM’s Kevin Harvick wound up 18th after a mechanical issue slowed his pace.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 Breyers team

“I don’t think anybody had anything for Denny (Hamlin) tonight. He was fast all day long. He’s really good here, too. I felt like we had a strong third-place car tonight, and maybe with a little help from the lapped traffic, I could have gotten up to second, but it would have been a heck of a battle to get past Joey. I’m pleased with the effort, and we gained points. We’ve got to keep chipping away at it. We had a good long-run car, and Jason and the guys did a great job with it. We had a fast car, but it seemed like we were in the wrong lane for every restart. We had one restart late in the race where we were on the bottom, and that helped a lot. The last one (restart) was a good one to have it on. We had a long-run car. The thing would get 25 laps on tires and I could count on guys coming back to me and I didn’t have to panic early in the run. That long run at the end helped us out. Where we restarted was where we ran for those 25-30 laps, and if there’d been a caution it would have been tricky. Jason and Allen and all the guys on the 7 car have been working extremely hard all year, and it’s showing in the speed we have at every track we’ve been to. Bristol was a fluke deal, we’ll move on from that and keep trying to chip away at the points.”

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, finished fifth in Friday’s ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Richmond International Raceway (RIR).  It was Elliott’s fourth top-five finish of the season, leapfrogging Chris Buescher for sole possession of second place in the championship points standings.  Elliott trails championship leader Ty Dillon by just eight points with 25 races remaining in the 2015 season.  Denny Hamlin led all but two of the race’s 250 total laps to capture his 12th career XFINITY Series victory and first of the 2015 season.

After qualifying in the 7th position, and avoiding an early race scuffle on lap one, Elliott propelled his No. 9 NAPA machine forward.  His drive-off was at its best.  He was able to carry the momentum of his Chevrolet inside the top-five for the majority of the race.  An early suggestion from the 19-year-old Dawsonville, Ga. native to his crew chief Ernie Cope was he needed to get off his brakes sooner and be able to roll through the center of each turn in an easier fashion.  In turn this would help Elliott engage back into the throttle at a quicker pace.

On lap 52, while under caution and running in the seventh position, Cope brought Elliott in for his first stop.  The NAPA KNOW HOW team changed four tires, added fuel and made an air pressure adjustment to help the defending series champion in the center of each turn.  With a tremendous pit stop by the team, Elliott jumped two spots and restarted fifth on lap 56.  As Elliott continued to speed around the .75-mile race track, he was having a bit of a freeness issue after struggling to fire off. 

Lap 110, and in the fifth position, Elliott came back to pit road while under caution for a chassis adjustment, tires, fuel and help with his tire pressures.  Cope directed his squad to adjust the tire pressures so they were similar to the way the team had started the race.  The call was a brilliant one, as Elliott was able to get back after it as soon as the field took the green flag on lap 122.  Elliott applauded the call Cope made and said his NAPA Chevy really took off on the restart.

On the race’s final restart with 99 laps to go, Elliott would go from inside the top-five to outside looking in, just before his last pit stop under the green flag.  After the stop, and with four fresh tires, Elliott bounced back for a hard-fought fifth place finish, closing the gap in the championship standings.

Hamlin defeated Joey Logano, JR Motorsports driver Regan Smith, Erik Jones and Elliott to round out the top-five.

Chase Elliott, driver No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team

“We fought tight and center for the majority of the race tonight.  Denny (Denny Hamlin) really put on a show and I don’t think anyone could catch him.  You know, I was pleased with our fight late in the race, especially with the race ending on a long green-flag run.  We just have to keep digging, because it takes that type of composure to win these types of races.  I want to thank my NAPA AUTO PARTS team for hanging in there.  We’re close and I know it.  We just have to stay focused and we’ll find victory lane before too long.  Looking forward to Talladega next weekend.  Restrictor plate racing is always a blast.”

Kevin Harvick

After a promising start in Friday night’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway, Kevin Harvick and the No. 88 Hunt Brothers Pizza team fell victim to an uncharacteristic 18th-place finish. 

The night started strong for Harvick, who made a progressive climb forward from the outset of the race.  With a Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet that excelled during long green-flag runs, Harvick cracked the top five by the 100-lap mark.  By lap 121, he climbed to third and briefly challenged for the lead before settling back into third. 

Then on the 126th circuit, Harvick radioed crew chief Dave Elenz about an issue with the right front.  The issue prevented the car from settling properly into the track and created major handling issues on the No. 88.  As a result, Harvick slid from third to 18th

Under the next caution on lap 146, Harvick twice brought the Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet to pit road for the team to assess the problem.  The team was unable to determine the issue, and in an effort to not lose a lap, sent Harvick back onto the track.  He went on to finish the race in 18th

Denny Hamlin won the race and was followed to the line by Joey Logano, Regan Smith, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott. 

Dave Elenz, crew chief No. 88 Hunt Brothers Pizza team

“It was certainly a disappointing night for us.  Not how we expected to run for JRM or our partners at Hunt Brothers Pizza.  The night started off well.  We made a couple chassis adjustment over the course of the first two stops and the car really seemed to respond.  We’re still not really sure what happened to the car.  It was pretty apparent there was a major issue.  We’re going to have to get it back to the shop and have a look at it.”

 

 

No. 7 Breyers

Chevrolet Camaro

Regan Smith 

Start

8th

Finish

3rd 

Laps Completed (Led)

250 of 250 (0)

Points (Bonus)

41 (0)

Standings (from leader)

5th (-41)

Status

Running

 

 

No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS

Chevrolet Camaro

Chase Elliott

Start

7th

Finish

5th

Laps Completed (Led)

250 of 250 (0)

Points (Bonus)

39 (0)

Standings (from leader)

2nd (-8)

Status

Running

 

 

No. 88 Hunt Brothers Pizza

Chevrolet Camaro

Kevin Harvick

Start

6th 

Finish

18th

Laps Completed (Led)

248 of 250 (0)

Points (Bonus)

26 (0)

Standings (from leader)

2nd (-36)

Status

Running

Articles

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • May 23 01:00 PM ET
    Alsco 300 at CharlotteCharlotte Motor Speedway
  • May 30 01:00 PM ET
    Mid-Ohio 170Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
  • June 6 01:30 PM ET
    LTi Printing 250Michigan International Speedway
  • June 13 08:30 PM ET
    Iowa 250Iowa Speedway
  • June 20 04:00 PM ET
    Chicagoland 300Chicagoland Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After LS Tractor 200

Phoenix Raceway | 3/7/2020
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Harrison Burton #1760
2Chase Briscoe173-3
3Austin Cindric155-21
4Brandon Jones148-28
5Ross Chastain146-30
6Noah Gragson143-33
7Ryan Sieg143-33
8Justin Haley140-36
9Justin Allgaier138-38
10Michael Annett119-57