Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Farewell Tour Begins at Richmond

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 40/1 to win at Richmond Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing at Richmond
“Richmond’s real slick. It’s really hard to get a hold of and hard to figure out exactly what line we’re running and where you need to put your car to get it to work. It’s been a bit of a challenge for us over the last couple of trips, but it should still be a fun race.”

Earnhardt on retiring
"I don't see myself really detaching from NASCAR. My intention is still to be involved in the sport on some level. In fact, I still have two XFINITY races to run for JR Motorsports in 2018, so even after this season is over, you've not seen the last of me on the racetrack. But more than that, I want to be a part of the future of this sport for many, many years to come."

No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives on Earnhardt's retirement

“You’ve got to look at it as a blessing, in a way. I have the opportunity to be with Dale Jr. in the last races of his career. I think that’s the way everybody feels who touches this No. 88 Nationwide car.”

“We’re going to stay focused and keep on grinding away and have some fun while doing it.”


Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, April 28, at 1:30 p.m. local time in the Richmond International Raceway media center.

ON HIS OWN TERMS: After 18 seasons and more than 600 races behind the wheel, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will bring his NASCAR Cup Series driving career to a close at the conclusion of 2017. He discussed his decision in a press conference yesterday, mentioning that he felt blessed to be able to leave the sport on his own terms. To watch the full press conference, click here.

RICHMOND STATS: Among active drivers, Earnhardt is one of four competitors tied for second with three Cup victories at Richmond International Raceway. Earnhardt most recently went to Victory Lane at Richmond on May 6, 2006, after leading 47 laps. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has one pole at the three-quarter-mile, D-shaped oval, which he earned in September 2012. Richmond is another track where the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS has shown his ability to pass, as he ranks fifth among active drivers in green-flag passes with 1,184 since 2005, according to NASCAR’s loop data statistics.

GLOVES: Earnhardt will again be wearing his blue gloves this weekend at Richmond. The 42-year-old has been wearing them during the month of April, and his No. 88 Nationwide Chevy also featured Patient Champion Tristen Cooper’s name above the passenger door last week in Bristol. The blue-accented gloves will be auctioned off through The Dale Jr. Foundation’s Driven to Give Gloves program to raise money for Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s autism research. For more, visit TDJF’s website.

HOMETOWN SUCCESS STORY: Adam Jordan, interior mechanic for the No. 88 team, grew up in Timberville, Virginia, about two-and-a-half hours northwest of the racetrack. He was working as a painter at a body shop right out of high school, and happened to meet someone who was helping a race team in the Pro Cup Series, a traveling short-track racing series a step above late models. Jordan, who didn’t have any previous racing experience, started helping the team on weekends. When the crew chief of that car moved to North Carolina to start working for a NASCAR Cup Series team, he called Jordan to come down for an interview as a painter for his team. Jordan got the job, moved to Hendrick Motorsports a few years later, and the rest is history. In 2014, Jordan and the No. 88 team won the Daytona 500, which he names as his most memorable moment in NASCAR. Jordan’s success extends to his personal life as he recently married his wife Alexa in an outdoor ceremony on the Easter off-weekend.

ICYMI, DEW-S-A CAR UNVEILED: In case you missed it, last week Earnhardt’s new red, white and blue Mountain Dew “DEW-S-A” scheme was unveiled. He will drive the patriotic No. 88 DEW-S-A Chevrolet SS at Kansas Speedway on May 13. More will be coming soon on the DEW-S-A scheme, but in the meantime, click here for a look at Earnhardt’s new ride.

NCH VISIT: On Thursday, Earnhardt, along with his wife, Amy, and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, will visit Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Stay tuned to the Nationwide 88 social media channels and hendrickmotorsports.com tomorrow for highlights from the visit.
 

2017 Season

  • 24th in standings
  • 8 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 8 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 603 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 13 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 253 top-10 finishes
  • 8,195 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 34 starts
  • 3 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 10 top-five finishes
  • 14 top-10 finishes
  • 501 laps led
 

Johnson with 82 career wins now, goes for three straight Sunday

Jimmie Johnson is 8/1 to win on Sunday at Richmond.
Jimmie Johnson on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s retirement
"Dale Jr. is a great friend and teammate. I support him 100 percent and I'm very excited for what's to come for him. I can't wait to see what he's going to be able to do in that race car to finish out his career."

Johnson on racing at Richmond

“Winning back-to-back races is really amazing, and it does create some momentum, but Texas, Bristol and the upcoming Richmond racetracks are all their own unique entities. Like Bristol, we have had some struggles at Richmond, it’s one of those tracks for the No. 48 team and we will take it as it comes, but the momentum surely helps."

Johnson on claiming 82 Cup Series wins
“It's mind-blowing. I cannot believe that we're sitting here with 82 wins. That is such a big number. I remember as a kid traveling around the country racing dirt bikes and walking into my first Hardee's, and I thought it was a race shop for Cale Yarborough and then I realized it was a hamburger stand. I was a little disappointed, but in all seriousness, to be in this position is quite an honor.”

82 AND COUNTING: Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson scored back-to-back wins at Texas and Bristol, propelling his all-time win count to 82. Johnson, who prior to last weekend had only one career win in 30 starts at Bristol, found his way back to Victory Lane for the first time since 2010 at the half-mile track. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet SS took control of the lead for the final 20 laps for the win, which propelled the team from 11th to sixth in the point standings.

TESTING INDY
: Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s team are participating in a two-day Goodyear tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 25 and 26.

APPROACHING NEXT MILESTONE: Johnson is currently seventh on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, and his Bristol victory puts him just one win away from tying NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the list. Yarborough, a three-time Cup Series champion, won 83 times in his storied career.

RICHMOND DRIVER RATING: Johnson has the seventh-best driver rating at Richmond with a score of 90.6, according to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points.

DUE FOR A WIN AT RICHMOND: Three of Johnson’s 82 career wins have come at Richmond International Raceway. However, the No. 48 team hasn’t found Victory Lane at the track since Sept. 7, 2008. The team has been performing better at the 0.75-mile track as of late, as Johnson earned a pair of third-place finishes in the spring events at Richmond in 2015 and 2016 and hasn’t finished outside of the top 11 since September 2014.

JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION FIT FEST: Registration continues for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Fit Fest, a local community event on May 29, which will feature running, obstacle racing, mountain biking, music, food and more. Set in a festival atmosphere, the Fit Fest will take place at Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Included in the day-long event will be 5K, 8K and half marathon trail running races, a four-hour endurance mountain bike event and a Spartan Kids Race. To register, go to JimmieJohnsonFoundation.org.

RICHMOND TICKET PACKAGE
: Once again, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson will join forces with Richmond International Raceway for a family ticket package for the Sunday, April 30, event. The package includes a 15-minute Q&A with Johnson, a NASA hands-on activity and a ticket to the race. Tickets are $24 for kids 12 and younger, and $48 for adults. For more information, click here.
 
 

2017 Season

  • 6th in standings
  • 8 starts
  • 2 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 2 top-five finishes
  • 3 top-10 finishes
  • 127 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 551 starts
  • 82 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 220 top-five finishes
  • 333 top-10 finishes
  • 18,573 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 30 starts
  • 3 wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 7 top-five finishes
  • 12 top-10 finishes
  • 461 laps led
 

Chase Elliott makes 50th career Cup start at Richmond

Chase Elliott is 8/1 to win at Richmond on Sunday.
Chase Elliott on racing at Richmond
“I think it puts on a better show during the day. I prefer night racing, but these cars seem to like day racing a little better. If it’s going to put on a better show and offer more opportunity as a driver then let’s race during the day.”

Elliott on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s retirement
"Obviously I feel like in a lot of ways Dale and I have had some similarities over the years with both of our dads racing and our dads having a lot of success over the years. So, I think it some ways he's been a great person to lean on just because I think he's been through some of the same things I've seen and dealt with over the years. To have a guy like that as your teammate that you get to work with on a weekly basis that also may have seen some of the same things I have, I think it helps a lot. I'm proud to call him a friend, most importantly, and certainly a teammate. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing him end this year on a high note."


NAPA BRAKES: This weekend at Richmond International Raceway, Chase Elliott will pilot the No. 24 NAPA Brakes Chevrolet SS. In addition to this week, the scheme will grace the fenders and decklid of the familiar blue-and-yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet at Chicagoland Speedway in September.

BRAKE FOR SAVINGS: Starting May 1, save up to $50 on qualifying brake pad and rotor purchases at participating NAPA AUTO PARTS stores. Offer expires May 31.

BRISTOL REWIND: Elliott lined up second for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway after qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather. He established his running position inside the top five from the drop of the green flag and remained there throughout the race’s initial stint. Elliott went on to finish the 500-lap event in seventh and remains second in the driver point standings.

50 STARTS: This weekend at Richmond, Elliott is set to make his 50th Cup Series start. In his previous 49 starts, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native has collected 13 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s, two Daytona 500 pole awards and 527 laps led. Elliott averages a starting position of 12.4 and finishing position of 14.7. The sophomore-season driver earned a playoff berth in his first full-time season in addition to the 2016 rookie of the year title.

CHASE U: Richmond International Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway recently partnered with Elliott to bring a unique race day experience to college students called Chase University, better known as Chase U. For $24, current college students can enjoy a ticket to the Cup Series race on Sunday, April 30 at Richmond or on Sunday, May 7 at Talladega, with an exclusive college pre-race party and an appearance by the driver of the No. 24 himself. Chase U was launched by Elliott in October 2016 and was an immediate success bringing college students out to the racetrack. The college program combines all the elements of a perfect race day experience with live music, great food and beverages and tailgate games. The Chase U ticket package is available to all college students with a valid student ID and includes a grandstand ticket and access to the exclusive Chase U pre-race party.
 

2017 Season

  • 2nd in standings
  • 8 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 2 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 169 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 49 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 13 top-five finishes
  • 23 top-10 finishes
  • 527 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 3 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 0 laps led
 
- Hendrick Motorsports

Two-time Richmond winner Kurt Busch is 50-to-1 this week

Kurt Busch is 50/1 to win at Richmond on Sunday.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Mobil 1 Advanced Protection Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

How much does a short-track move, like what Ricky Stenhouse did to Kyle Busch at Martinsville, pushing him out of the way at the end of the stage, open everybody’s eyes? 
“I think that moment at Martinsville is a perfect definition to the stage racing. It creates opportunities for many different things to happen, whether you’re a lapped car or you’re the leader. Short tracks, superspeedways, road courses – those are the three types of tracks that I thought would be impacted the most by stage racing. At the mile-and-a-half racetracks, we get a little bit spread out, yet there are still certain things you do because certain mile-and-a-halves chew up the tires, big-time, compared to other mile-and-a-half tracks, so the pit strategy still gets sprinkled in. I think what happened at Martinsville is a perfect definition of what the stage racing was meant to do.” 

Why do you like racing at Richmond so much, and why do you think it suits your driving style? “There are things you have to do on a short track to work on conserving the tires. Also, making sure you are good on the short run, making sure you are good on the long run, because restarts have become so much more important over the last couple of years. You don’t know if you are going to have a long run to finish the race or if you are going to have short run. You’ve just got to be ready for everything and, it seems like, at the short tracks, the preferred lane on restarts is becoming more and more important. You hope you are on the inside lane when it comes down to one of the final few restarts and, that way, you are able to gain positions instead of having to be on the defense. Richmond is a fun track. They used to call it the action track. That was when the groove would widen out and get to two, three lanes wide. We always hope to get back to that and it’s a matter of finding the right tire and the right downforce combination to allow the cars to race competitively, side-by-side, in safe situations. That is what we want to do – put on a good show.” 

What is the hardest thing to figure out at Richmond? 
“For me, it’s turn four. The races I’ve won there, I had a good car on the exit of turn four. Races I’ve lost or ran poorly, my exit of turn four wasn’t that good. It’s really a tough corner to get good traction put down.”

Chassis No. 973: Kurt Busch will pilot Chassis No. 973 in Sunday’s Richmond 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Built new for 2016, Chassis No. 973 debuted at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in May, when Busch finished third. It was scheduled to race in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, but Busch was forced to a backup car after making contact with the outside retaining wall in final practice. Chassis No. 973 was repaired and raced in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, when Busch was in position to score a top- 10 finish, but contact from behind on the final lap of the race would see him take the checkered flag 16th. Chassis No. 973 next raced at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn in August, when Busch rallied for a 12th-place finish after battling a loose-handling racecar from the start of the race all the way to the checkered flag. Chassis No. 973 was most recently utilized at Kansas in October, when it was pulled off the truck as a backup car. Busch had to start from the rear of the field, but persevered and brought home a 13th-place finish. Since then, the car has received chassis updates and the body has been updated for 2017.

Richmond International Raceway Notes of Interest:

 Kurt Busch has career totals of 29 wins, 21 poles, 126 top-five finishes and 246 top-10s in 584 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s Richmond 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. His most recent NASCAR Cup Series win came in February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in the season-opening Daytona 500.

 Sunday’s Richmond 400 will mark Busch’s 33rd career NASCAR Cup Series start at Richmond. Busch has two wins, six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s at the .75-mile oval. Additionally, the 38-year-old driver has led 806 laps, has an average starting position of 17.4, an average finish of 16.1, and has completed 98.3 percent (12,592 of 12,816) of the laps he’s contested there.

 Previous Winner – Busch owns a pair of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories at Richmond. The first came in September 2005, when Busch started fifth and led 185 laps en route to victory. Busch scored his second Richmond victory in April 2015. He turned in a dominating performance, leading six times for a race-high 291 laps, to score his first win of the 2015 season.

 In addition to his pair of victories at Richmond, he has two runner-up finishes at the Virginia short track. The first came in September 2009 while his most recent runner-up finish came in September 2013.

- True Speed Communication

Kevin Harvick using 2016 Richmond Chassis: Fifth-place, twice

Kevin Harvick is 7/1 to win at Richmond on Sunday.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

What makes Richmond unique to you? 
“Richmond has been a very successful racetrack for us as we’ve gone through the years. We finished both races in the top-five last year at Richmond so I think, as we go back this year, we’re going to shoot to be a little better than we were last year. We’ll try some different things. It’s been a very good racetrack for me in the past and I’m looking forward to going back. I like the short, flat tracks.” 

Is back-to-back short tracks a good thing for the No. 4 team this time of year? 
“I think short-track racing is something that we all enjoy any time we get to go do that. I don’t know if having back-to-back short tracks is good or bad for us. I think right now we are fortunate to be on the side of things going well. We’ll just show up and race again.” 

Do you have a favorite win at Richmond? 
“I remember the ones I lost more than I do the ones I won. I think the first one where Ricky Rudd and I were racing in 2001 was pretty cool. But I think, as you look back at the last one, we won in 2013 as part of a green-white-checkered finish and I think we came from seventh to win, so I didn’t really expect to win that one. I think the other two were probably fairly strong nights for us.”


Chassis Information:
Chassis No. 4-899: Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion built on Chassis No. 4-899 in the 400-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Built in 2014, Chassis No. 4-899 made its debut that September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, where it started sixth, led 79 laps and finished fifth. Since its debut, Chassis No. 4-899 has started on the front row three times, including twice from the pole position, and recorded four top-five finishes, six top-10s and led 686 laps through nine NASCAR Cup Series starts.

 Earning It Since 2014: Harvick is in his 17th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his fourth at StewartHaas Racing (SHR) with crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm. In their first three seasons together, Harvick and Childers combined to produce 12 victories, 11 poles, 54 top-five finishes and 75 top-10s; led 5,815 laps; won the 2014 Cup Series title; finished runner-up in 2015 to champion Kyle Busch and eighth in 2016. 

 Points Position: Harvick arrives at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway ranked ninth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings with 239 points after a third-place finish Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. He trails leader Kyle Larson by 121 points. 

 Leading Laps: Through the first eight NASCAR Cup Series events of 2017, Harvick ranks first in laps led with 433 of 2,642 total laps contested – more than 16 percent. He leads Martin Truex Jr. by one lap. 

 Harvick in the NASCAR Cup Series at Richmond: The Richmond 400 will mark Harvick’s 33 rd career NASCAR Cup Series start at Richmond. Harvick has three wins (September 2006 and 2011, and April 2013), one pole (September 2005), 11 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s at the .75-mile oval. The 41-year-old driver has led 1,050 laps, has an average starting position of 14.7, an average finish of 10.5, and has completed 99.1 percent (12,698 of 12,816) of the laps he’s contested there.

- True Speed Communication

Richmond Betting Preview: 2017 Toyota Owners 400

Fun in the spring sun Sunday at Richmond. 
Richmond International Raceway always provides great racing, but it'll have to really come strong this week to top what was witnessed Monday at Bristol with the most competitive race of the season and easily the best racing at Bristol I've seen since the track made changes to the layout in 2007.

More on the Richmond race in a minute, but first let's talk about Dale Earnhardt Jr. who announced Tuesday that he'll be retiring at the end of the season. The first thing I thought of was of him not living up to the huge expectations placed upon him from his large fan base, much of which he inherited after his father passed in during the 2001 Daytona 500. He had 26 wins over his career, but he never won a championship.

Junior is a huge part of NASCAR and its image. He's handled being the face of the sport with total class, and it is with that portion of responsibility to the sport that made me like him so much. It's a heavy burden. Jimmie Johnson may have seven championships, but it's Junior who most that don't follow the sport identify with.

I started to get the idea Junior was ready to call it quits last season when he missed 18 races due to a concussion. I was actually surprised he came back at all this season after getting married, and of course knowing all too well how dangerous the sport is that he participates in. If his heart isn't into to it and he's not having fun, then it's time to go.

So we've seen Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards all retire in the past two years and Junior leaving is another sign of NASCAR moving on to new generation. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that Edwards will come out of retirement to drive the No. 88 next year. But for now, my hopes are that Junior finishes the season strong, wins a few races -- hopefully at Daytona and Talladega -- and contends for the title.

Alright, let's talk about Richmond.

Last season, five of the top-seven finishers in the spring Phoenix race finished in the top-seven in the spring Richmond race. It's the type of trend often seen each season between the first two races at the similar flat tracks. And its the same type of trend to follow for Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond.

Although Phoenix has a 1-mile layout and Richmond's is a 3/4-mile, the set-up requirements are almost identical meaning that it will serve your handicapping process well to scour over the data from the March 19 Phoenix race where Ryan Newman used some late pit strategy to grab his first win since 2013. We can also use the same process in July at New Hampshire's flat 1-mile layout. If a driver does well on one, they'll likely do well on all three.

Odds to win 2017 Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

How  about three straight wins for Jimmie Johnson (8/1).
WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERBOOK
ODDS TO WIN TOYOTA OWNERS 400
RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
SUNDAY, APRIL 30, 2017 - 2:16 PM ET


Kyle BUSCH 6/1
Kyle LARSON 7/1
Joey LOGANO 7/1
Kevin HARVICK 7/1
Brad KESELOWSKI 7/1
Denny HAMLIN 7/1
Martin TRUEX JR 8/1
Chase ELLIOTT 8/1
Jimmie JOHNSON 8/1
Matt KENSETH 18/1
Erik JONES 30/1
Clint BOWYER 25/1
Jamie McMURRAY 30/1
Dale EARNHARDT JR 40/1
Ryan BLANEY 40/1
Kasey KAHNE 40/1
Kurt BUSCH 50/1
Austin DILLON 50/1
Ryan NEWMAN 80/1
Ricky STENHOUSE JR 200/1
Trevor BAYNE 300/1
Daniel SUAREZ 300/1
Ty DILLON 500/1
Paul MENARD 500/1
AJ ALLMENDINGER 500/1
Aric ALMIROLA 500/1
Chris BUESCHER 500/1
Danica PATRICK 500/1
Cole WHITT 5000/1
FIELD (all others) 1000/1

RICHMOND DRIVER MATCH-UPS
Kyle BUSCH - 130
Joey LOGANO +110

Kyle BUSCH - 130
Kevin HARVICK +110

Kyle BUSCH - 130
Denny HAMLIN +110

Joey LOGANO - 110
Kevin HARVICK - 110

Joey LOGANO - 110
Denny HAMLIN - 110

Kevin HARVICK - 110
Denny HAMLIN - 110

Kyle LARSON - 110
Brad KESELOWSKI - 110

Kyle LARSON - 130
Martin TRUEX JR +110

Kyle LARSON - 130
Chase ELLIOTT +110

Brad KESELOWSKI - 130
Martin TRUEX JR +110

Richmond NASCAR Cup Series Notes: 2017 Toyota Owners 400

Joe Gibbs Racing has a couple great candidate to get first 2017 win.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Toyota Owners 400
The Place: Richmond International Raceway
The Date: Sunday, April 30
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 100),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 200), Final Stage (Ends on lap 400)

NASCAR XFINITY Series
Next Race: ToyotaCare 250
The Place: Richmond International Raceway
The Date: Saturday, April 29
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 187.5 miles (250 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 75),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on lap 250)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Dale Earnhardt Jr. To Retire At End Of Season
Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced Tuesday he will retire from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing at the end of the season. He is still under contract to run two NASCAR XFINITY Series races in 2018.

In 603 career starts, Earnhardt has 26 wins, 149 top fives and 253 top 10s. He is a 14-time Most Popular Driver and a two-time DAYTONA 500 champion.

The No. 88 Chevrolet driver, who currently sits 24th in the standings, will attempt to turn his season around at Richmond – one of his better tracks.

In 34 starts at Richmond, Earnhardt owns three wins, five top fives, 14 top 10s and a 13.2 average finish.

Jimmie Johnson Goes For Third Straight Win And A Tie With Yarborough
Jimmie Johnson maneuvered around Kevin Harvick with 21 laps left in Monday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway and outlasted a hard-charging Clint Bowyer to win his second consecutive race.

The victory gives Johnson 82 career wins. With a third straight victory in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway (2 p.m. ET on FOX), Johnson would tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all-time wins list (83). The No. 48 Chevrolet driver trails Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth on the all-time wins list (84) by a mere two checkered flags.

In 30 career starts at Richmond, Johnson claims three wins, seven top fives and 12 top 10s.

Johnson sits sixth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings – 116 markers below first-place Kyle Larson. His 10 playoff points are tied with Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski for the most on the circuit. Johnson and Keselowski are the only drivers with multiple wins this season.

Bowyer Hopes To Build On Runner-Up Result
Clint Bowyer’s move to Stewart-Haas Racing seems to have revived his career.

The No. 14 Chevrolet driver wheeled his way to a runner-up finish Monday at Bristol – his best showing since placing second at Richmond – the site of this weekend’s race – on April 27, 2013.

Bowyer’s two top-five and four top-10 finishes this season outnumber his totals of zero top fives and three top 10s from last year.

He sits eighth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings – 121 markers behind leader Kyle Larson. The Kansas native hasn’t placed better than 19th in the final standings since finishing seventh in 2013.

Richmond is one of Bowyer’s top tracks. In 22 starts at the Virginia oval, he owns two wins, four top fives and 12 top 10s.

Larson Continues Breakout Season, Extends Points Lead
Kyle Larson continued his breakout season with a stage win and sixth-place finish at Bristol. He now holds a 27-point advantage over Chase Elliott in the standings on the strength of one win, five top fives and six top 10s.

The 24-year-old Chevrolet driver will try to extend his lead in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. In six starts at Richmond, he has posted one top-10 finish – a runner-up showing last fall. He has never finished worse than 16th at the Virginia track and has an average finish of 11.3 there.

Beat Virginia: Hamlin Tough To Pass At Richmond
Chesterfield Virginia native Denny Hamlin returns home to Richmond International Raceway where he’ll go for his second straight win after visiting Victory Lane there in last year’s regular season finale.

In 21 starts at Richmond, Hamlin owns three wins, eight top fives and 12 top 10s. He holds the second-best driver rating (109.9), as well as the third-best average finish (10.1) and average running position (7.8) there.

Hamlin has started the season off slow. He is currently 15th in the points standings – 176 markers behind leader Kyle Larson.

Could Richmond Be The Site Of Kyle Busch’s First Win?
Kyle Busch visited Victory Lane nine times in the previous two seasons, but he’s still searching for his first win of 2017.

That first triumph could come this weekend at Richmond International Raceway – a track where the Las Vegas native has excelled throughout his career. In 23 starts at the .75-mile track, Busch claims four wins, 15 top fives and 17 top 10s. Among active drivers, he boasts the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ top average finish (7.0) and driver rating (110.8), along with the second-best average running position (7.7) at the .75-mile track.

Busch led 78 laps in last year’s spring race at Richmond before his teammate Carl Edwards moved him for the win off Turn 4 on the final go-around.

The No. 18 Toyota driver ranks 11th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings – 146 points behind leader Kyle Larson.

Furniture Row Puts On Show At Bristol
Furniture Row Racing continued to display its speed in Monday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. placed second in Stage 1 and won Stage 2, before finishing eighth due to a pit road speeding penalty that took him out of contention for the race win. He led 116 laps on the day.

The No. 78 Toyota driver’s 20-year-old teammate Erik Jones flashed his immense potential, finishing third in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2, but finished 17th as the result of a wreck and pit road penalty.

Truex is third in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings on the strength of one victory and a series-leading five stage wins. His 10 playoff points are tied with Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson’s totals for the most in the series.

Jones sits 12th in the points standings, the highest ranking among Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders.

- NASCAR