NASCAR Sprint Cup at Richmond: Toyota Owners 400 Race Rewind

jutter@charlotteobserver.comApril 27, 2014 

Ambrose-Mears flap on NASCAR radar

NASCAR officials are investigating an incident which took place in the garage following Saturday night’s race involving drivers Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears.

In a Fox Sports video, Ambrose and Mears are seen having an animated discussion. Mears appears to shove Ambrose and Ambrose then punches Mears in the head.

As Ambrose is leaving the area, a crew member wearing a uniform from Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines appears to punch Ambrose from behind.

Any penalties would be announced early this week.

Gordon remains confident without win: Jeff Gordon led the most laps Saturday night, finished second and continues to lead the Cup standings but a win remains elusive.

“As good as we’re running, I definitely feel like we can win races just about anywhere that we go. And if we continue to perform like this, we are going to win. That’s how you win,” Gordon said.

“Right now those wins are just so important. I mean, I’d rather be 12th in points right now with three wins than be leading the points.”

Keselowski not happy with Kenseth: Brad Keselowski was none too pleased with Matt Kenseth’s move to block him during the final laps, which led in part to Joey Logano’s pass for the lead.

“It was just a mind-boggling move to me, but I made sure I got him back and made sure my teammate could win the race,” Keselowski said.

Kenseth said he was just trying to win. “I did move up the track on him in (Turn) 3,” Kenseth said. “But we were racing for the win. I thought the track was wide enough with how high people were running all the time.”

Truex Jr. earns best finish of season: After experiencing more than his share of problems this season, Martin Truex Jr. earned his first top-10 finish of the season with a 10th.

“I thought we had a shot at a top-five there, but the short runs were just killing us,” he said. “We just couldn’t take off for the first 15 or 20 laps of a run. All those guys up there were really fast and we weren’t.”


Observations

• Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Richmond, Va., had everything a race fan could want – perfect weather, green-flag passes for the lead, bumping and banging on the track and scuffles off of the track. The race continued what has been a successful run for NASCAR to start to 2014, which began with the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., winning the season’s biggest race – the Daytona 500. The only negative has been a decrease in TV ratings, which coincided with a six-hour rain delay for the Daytona 500. Try as it might, the weather remains the only thing a NASCAR rule change can’t reach.

• Once again there were teams that had issues with tire wear, particularly right-front tires. True, Goodyear used a new compound for this race, but most teams managed to work with its limits. Several times, drivers continued to run on tires they knew could become a problem because they didn’t want to risk their track position by making a green-flag pit stop. Yet when those tires eventually did give out, the consequences were far more severe. The risk vs. reward in play this season with tire wear have only enhanced the quality of the racing.

• Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was the honorary pace car driver, but unlike many celebrity guests, he stuck around for most of the race. He also seemed to thoroughly enjoy his experience, posting several pictures to his Twitter account throughout the day. NASCAR would be far better served by finding more guests like RGIII than others who have no genuine interest in being there.


5 key moments

1 . On the first turn of the first lap, Clint Bowyer goes three wide and makes contact with Kyle Larson, sending Larson into a spin. It’s the beginning of a difficult night for Bowyer.

2 . Brad Keselowski leads the first 31 laps, and he and Team Penske teammate Joey Logano show early on they will contend for the win.

3 . Jeff Gordon takes the lead for the first time on Lap 103. He would lead 173 of the 400 laps – the most of any driver.

4 . Matt Kenseth, a nonfactor most of the race, runs down Gordon and takes the lead for the first time on Lap 362.

5 . With Kenseth desperately trying to hold off Keselowski and Gordon for the lead, Logano gets around all three on Lap 397 and earns his secondseries win of the season.

Next Race

Aaron’s 499

Where: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

TV: Fox

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Last year’s winner: David Ragan

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