Richmond Checkered and Black Flags

NASCAR

The weekend at Richmond Raceway produced a number of highs and lows. (Photo: Getty Images)

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The weekend at Richmond Raceway produced a number of highs and lows.

Checkered Flags 

Martin Truex Jr.
Despite having what looked like win No. 5 of the season slip away through a series of bizarre events to finish the race, Truex handled things with grace. He showed frustration and disappointment, for sure, and had to grin through an awkward trophy presentation as the regular-season champion. Truex deserves a lot of credit for enduring a tough night.

Matt Kenseth
Right in the team photo of “grace under fire” was Kenseth, who was eliminated from competition when a chain-reaction crash on pit road to avoid an ambulance parked at the entrance damaged his car. Kenseth shrugged it off with his usual deadpan humor including a tweet depicting a picture of him sitting on a golf cart following an ambulance in the track’s infield. At least the fiasco didn’t knock Kenseth from the playoffs.

Kyle Larson
He won the race and that shouldn’t be ignored, even if it came under suspect circumstances with a controversial caution that set up an overtime run to the checkered flag after Truex got hit from behind by Denny Hamlin, sending him into the wall.

Joey Logano
He ended the night one position short of winning the race, which he needed to do to make the playoffs. But Logano put on an impressive run complete with the speed and strategy he needed to be in contention for Victory Lane.

Ryan Newman
Quiet and efficient has been Newman’s approach this season, and he did it again on Saturday night with a top-five finish. Remember when Newman made it to The Championship 4 a few years ago on the strength of consistent finishes? It looks like 2017 might just be the sequel to that story.

Black Flags 

Officiating
On a night when competitors were reminded in the drivers meeting to let things play out naturally on the racetrack, officials did everything but that on Saturday. Questionable caution flags and the ambulance snafu added up to not the best night of officiating in one of the season’s biggest races. Hopefully, it’s out of everyone’s system and the final 10 races to decide the title will go without controversy. Fans don’t come to watch the umpires, referees and – in the case of auto racing – officials calling the race.

AJ Allmendinger
It’s been a miserable season for Allmendinger, who’s rarely been near the top 20 let alone competitive. His frustrating campaign continued Saturday night in Richmond with problems nearly from the drop of the green flag and a 26th-place finish.

Clint Bowyer
He needed a win to make the playoffs and fell far short. Bowyer had a miscue on pit road that cost him five spots, put on a furious charge to make those positions up – including getting frustrated with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who had every right to race Bowyer hard at that point – but finally fell back to a 24th-place finish.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
There was speed in Earnhardt’s No. 88 ride for the first time in a long time. Interim crew chief Travis Mack, filling in for the suspended Greg Ives, rolled the strategy dice late and Earnhardt was leading the race. But once pit cycles worked their way through, a 13th-place finish was the best “Junior” could come up with in Richmond.

Kevin Harvick
Limped home to a 15th-place finish to end an ordinary regular season. Harvick is in the playoffs, but the spark seems to be missing from the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. Hopefully for their sake, they’ll find it when the playoffs begin next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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