Qualifying rained out; Larson will start from pole at Richmond
Strong thunderstorms washed out Friday’s Sprint Cup Series knockout qualifying session at Richmond International Raceway, which put rookie Kyle Larson on the pole for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400.
With no qualifying, the lineup was set by speeds from Friday’s first Cup series practice session. Larson was fastest in the practice session, followed by Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick.
“We were debating before practice on whether to start off in qualifying or race trim. I was pretty confident we would be fast,” Larson said. “It’s nice to start off on the pole.
“Not sure I’ll count this as my first official pole, but it’s great to start on the front row.”
Michael McDowell and Dave Blaney failed to make the 43-car field.
Larson’s previous best start in the Cup series was eighth earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway.
Petty returns to track: Seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty is back at the race track this weekend for the first time since the March 25 death of his wife, Lynda.
“I just felt like I needed to sort of have a little time on our own so I have been gone for two or three weeks but I am back in the saddle again now,” Petty said Friday at Richmond.
Petty’s typically busy schedule returned to some normalcy this week, with appearances on Monday in Georgia, Tuesday in Tennessee and Wednesday in Wyoming. “The busier they keep me, the better off I will be,” he said.
Bowling wins Short Track Showdown: Matt Bowling won the seventh edition of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown charity race Thursday night at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
Proceeds from the race benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which supports research for cystic fibrosis.
Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Hamlin and David Ragan – the four Cup series drivers in the race – finished fourth, fifth, eighth and 20th, respectively.
Wallace Jr. adds Nationwide race: Truck series regular Darrell Wallace Jr. will make his first Nationwide Series start of the season next weekend at Talladega, Ala., driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
In his previous four series starts, Wallace has one pole and three top-10 finishes. His worst start was 12th.
Three things to watch
1. Kevin Harvick has won three races at Richmond – including two of the past five – and has finished in the top 10 in 16 of his 26 starts.
2. Carl Edwards is the most recent race winner at Richmond and has finished in the top 10 in seven of his past eight races at the track.
3. Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger will each make their 200th career Cup series start Saturday night.
Observations• For years now, Joe Gibbs Racing – one of the top organizations in NASCAR – has debated adding a fourth Cup team to its operation. So far, JGR has yet to find a viable way to make four cars work. So, why are we surprised when Swan Racing – a virtual startup organization with nowhere near the financial resources of a top-level Cup team – failed after deciding to move from a one-car to two-car operation entering the 2014 season. The move was not dictated by success – the organization was nowhere near Victory Lane in 2013. Someone may claim it was dictated out of necessity, since bigger is better when it comes to NASCAR organizations. But that is only true when expansion comes with careful planning and proper funding. Swan Racing appeared to have neither.
• Hint to fans and media: Clint Bowyer is never going to admit he did anything wrong in last year’s fall race at Richmond. On Friday he came as close as he ever will, simply stating the incident was “a bad deal.” Why would anyone expect Bowyer to admit he spun out on purpose to cause a late-race caution when even NASCAR itself has never pinned the blame on him? Michael Waltrip Racing and Martin Truex Jr. paid a heavy price for the cheating scandal last fall, but Bowyer escaped direct blame. He certainly isn’t going to volunteer to shoulder it all now.
Three picks for your fantasy racing team: Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick