RICHMOND, Va. – Chase Elliott grabbed a top-five finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway.
Elliott’s top-five run is his ninth of the season and his fifth such finish at the .75-mile track in the capital city of Virginia. The 26-year-old was the highest finishing Chevrolet in the 400-lap event. He continues to hold the regular season points lead as he has a strong 116-marker advantage over Ryan Blaney with two races to go before the playoffs start. The regular season title carries 15 playoff points with the honor.
"The track was very similar there early and late, if anything, I feel like it got a little faster, Elliott said. "It wasn't a huge deal, just needed to be a little more forward there to have a shot.
"...There were obviously a lot of different strategies going on, and it was nice to get a top five out of a tough day."
William Byron came home 11th for his fourth top-12 finish in the past five races. Pole sitter Kyle Larson collected 17 stage points but finished 14th after battling a loose race car late in the day. The reigning Cup Series champion did pick up two spots in the standings and he now sits in third. Alex Bowman would finish in 20th in the series’ second visit to Richmond.
Kevin Harvick won the race to become the seventh multi-time winner this year. Elliott (four wins) and Byron (two wins) are the Hendrick Motorsports drivers to have scored multiple victories in 2022.
There are two races left in the regular season and the Cup Series will next head to Watkins Glen International on Sunday, Aug. 21. The race begins at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). Larson is the defending race winner, while Elliott has won twice at the New York-located road course.
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Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Fifth
Stage one: The four-time winner in 2022 started 23rd and got to 21st when the caution came on lap 5. On lap 20, he cracked the top 20. He picked off four more spots in the next 10 laps to get to 16th on lap 30, in the process completing passes on Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch. Elliott joined the top 15 on lap 37 and continued to move forward over the course of the 70-lap stage. As the run was winding down and he had the chance to gain more ground, spotter Eddie D’Hondt told the driver to “stay with it. You’re better than both of them.” A few passes late in the stage thanks to some more life in the right rear compared to others saw Elliott finish 11th in the stage.
Stage two: During the stage break, Elliott came to pit road for four tires and fuel. The No. 9 pit crew’s stop of 10.41 seconds (fastest during that set of stops by teams) gained him three spots that allowed him to restart in the top 10 – in eighth – on lap 79. On lap 87, Elliott passed teammate William Byron on the inside for ninth and then on lap 90, he drove around Cole Custer for eighth. He continued to charge forward with a pass of Brad Keselowski for seventh on lap 97. Elliott pitted from eighth on lap 125 for four tires and fuel. He passed Martin Truex Jr. to get back into the top 10 on lap 136 and looked to continue his march up the field. On lap 150, he drove to the outside of Ross Chastain for seventh, while also passing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the process. Crew chief Alan Gustafson called Elliott to pit road on lap 173 for four tires and fuel after he was credited with leading a lap. He was back in the top 10 on lap 180 and passed Chase Briscoe for eighth on lap 193. Late in the stage, Elliott let the team know that the nose of the car was starting to get really numb and lazy. He finished the stage in eighth.
Final stage: Elliott came down pit road in between stages for four tires and fuel. He restarted ninth on lap 240. When the caution came a lap later, the 2020 Cup Series champion was scored in the same spot. At the time of the fifth caution on lap 252, Elliott was still scored in ninth and elected to stay out as the field saw some differing strategies at work. The decision to stay out put him seventh for the lap 257 restart and he was working hard to keep some drivers with fresher tires behind him. The 26-year-old showed his patience after losing a spot to work around Aric Almirola for seventh and then got by his teammate Kyle Larson for sixth. Gustafson brought Elliott to pit road on lap 295 for four tires and fuel. He would cycle out to fourth place on lap 306. From there, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native was battling to keep Almirola and Denny Hamlin behind him. Over the next few laps, Hamlin was able to take fourth away with fresher tires. On lap 341, the points leader pitted for four tires and fuel, came out of the pits ninth and cycled to fourth when pit stops were completed. Elliott drove to the inside of Joey Logano for third on lap 366. The fresher tires of Christopher Bell and Hamlin were too much for Elliott to contain late in the run and he fell back to fifth.
William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 11th
Stage one: Byron lined up fourth for Sunday’s 400-lapper and gained a spot prior to the lap 5 caution. On the restart, Denny Hamlin got by Byron for third and the 24-year-old settled back into fourth. Byron radioed to crew chief Rudy Fugle that he was “a little tight after the re-fire.” The two-time winner in 2022 was passed by Brad Keselowski for fourth on lap 38. From there, he held the fifth position and would remain there for the rest of the stage. At the end of the stage, Byron told his team he wanted to “work on the short-run tight feeling because it burns the rear tires too quickly in the run.”
Stage two: Byron pitted under the stage break from fifth for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted fifth on lap 79 but a stack up on the restart hindered his momentum. Teammate Chase Elliott got around him for ninth on lap 87. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native dropped out of the top 10 on lap 94. Byron radioed in that “the back is really unhooked” as he dropped to 15th on lap 116. Byron pitted on lap 127 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Following the pit stop, Byron let Fugle know that he liked the changes to the car so far as he was up to 17th (from 20th when he left pit road) and looking for more. On lap 172, Byron pitted from 16th for four tires and fuel as well as a chassis and air pressure adjustment. On lap 182, he passed teammate Alex Bowman for 14th as he looked for more positions. After being passed by Martin Truex Jr., the two battled for the free pass position and the 14th spot in the running order. Byron finished the stage in 16th and one lap down to the leader.
Final stage: The driver of the No. 24 pitted for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a chassis adjustment. He restarted 17th on lap 240 and was scored one lap down, but the first driver in that position. At the time of the caution on lap 241, Byron was in the free pass position to get back on the lead lap in 17th. During the race’s fifth caution, he was scored in 16th. Fugle called his driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to restart 16th on lap 257. Fresh tires paid off early for Byron as he moved up to 12th. The driver reported that the “cloud cover is definitely making the track free-er.” On lap 297, Byron pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment before cycling out to 12th on lap 306. The driver let Fugle know that the car was “just loose off now.” On 341, Byron came down pit road with a host of others for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He cycled out to ninth when pit stops were completed but was passed by Truex Jr. for the spot. Ryan Blaney’s pass on Byron on lap 373 took him out of the top 10. He would finish the race in 11th.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 14th
Stage one: Larson started from the pole position on Sunday but lost the lead in turn one to Ross Chastain. He was scored in second at the time of the first caution on lap 5 and reported that the “car felt good.” Denny Hamlin grabbed second from Larson on lap 30 as the reigning champ’s lap times crossed the 25-second mark. The Elk Grove, California, native remained in third and finished the stage in that position. Larson told crew chief Cliff Daniels that the “entry is manageable and could turn center better.”
Stage two: Under the stage break, Larson pitted from third for four tires and fuel. The No. 5 team’s quick work with a 10.54-second stop got him out in second for the lap 79 restart. Just after the restart, Hamlin slightly caught the right rear of Larson and that caused the No. 5 to lose a spot and fall to third. He regrouped to pass Chastain for second on lap 84 and set his sights on Joey Logano for the lead. Larson pitted on lap 125 after leading one lap and took back second on lap 138 from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was on a one-stop strategy in the stage. He was back to trying to gain ground on Logano for the point position. On lap 171, Larson pitted with Logano for four tires and fuel. The team’s 10.48-second stop kept him in second as it cycled through. The 30-year-old looked to cut the gap of Logano’s lead over the course of the run, chipping the gap down 1.14-seconds on lap 199. With five to go in the stage, he got the deficit down to .67 seconds. Larson finished the stage in second and told the team that he was lacking “left front grip.”
Final stage: Pitting from second during the stage break, Larson came to pit road for four tires and fuel and got the lead off of pit road. He led the field to green after choosing the inside lane for the lap 240 restart. He edged out to a lead on Logano before a caution came a lap later. For the lap 246 restart, Larson again took the inside but Logano got a better restart than the previous one and he was able to pinch off the driver of the No. 5 for the lead. On the fifth caution at lap 252, Larson was scored in second and Daniels kept him out to restart up front on lap 257. He restarted on the outside and challenged Logano early before Chase Briscoe came up to fight for second. Eventually, Larson grabbed second back but was fighting to keep Kevin Harvick behind him. Contact by Denny Hamlin on lap 274 got Larson pretty loose and he would drop six spots back to eighth on lap 280. His slide would continue back to 10th on lap 283 when he was passed on the inside by Christopher Bell. Eventually, the 2017 Richmond Raceway fall winner settled in 12th. On lap 295, Daniels called Larson to pit road for four tires and fuel and he would cycle out to ninth on lap 306. Larson would drop out of the top 10 on lap 321. Daniels brought Larson to pit road on lap 348 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment as he was continuing to fight a loose race car. When the cycle of stops was complete, he was scored in 15th. Upon getting around Brad Keselowski for 14th, Larson was working to get back on the lead lap but stayed stuck in that position.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 20th
Stage one: Bowman took the grid from the fifth starting spot and was scored in seventh at the lap 5 caution. The 29-year-old would battle hard with Cole Custer for eighth and get the spot before losing it to Joey Logano. He took eighth back with a pass on Martin Truex Jr. on lap 23. Crew chief Greg Ives told his driver to “stay nice and patient” as the run went on. Bowman maintained the eighth position over the rest of the stage to score three stage points.
Stage two: Pitting from eighth, Bowman came down pit road for service but had a lengthy stop due to an issue with the pit gun. He restarted 20th on lap 79 and would lose five more spots early in the run. Bowman was mired in traffic at the outset of the stage and found it difficult to move forward at the .75-mile track. On lap 126, he came to pit road under green for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. With two cars yet to pit on lap 145, he was scored in 25th and one lap down. While a bunch of cars pitted later in the run, Ives kept Bowman out to run a little longer than others to try and gain track position. As a result, he was in seventh on lap 176. On lap 185, the Tucson, Arizona, native pitted for four tires and fuel. He would exit the pits in 28th and go on to finish the stage in 27th, one lap down.
Final stage: The winner of this year’s spring race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came to pit road during the stage break for four tires and fuel. He restarted 24th on lap 240 and was one lap down at the time. When the caution came out a lap later, Bowman was scored in 23rd. Another quick caution – this one on lap 252 – saw the seven-time Cup Series winner scored in 24th. He pitted under yellow for service and restarted from the 24th position on lap 257 – one lap down. His fresh Goodyears saw him move up to 20th as he fought to get into the free pass position. On lap 270, he got that spot from Justin Haley and just needed a caution to fall to get back on the lead lap but it never came. Just like in stage two, Ives had Bowman run long to try and get back on the lead lap and to gain track position. On lap 315, he came to pit road for four tires and fuel before rejoining the race in 25th, two laps down. The fresh tires helped Bowman drive by others that were two laps down as he got up to 18th. During green flag pit stops, the driver of the No. 48 stayed out to try and get back on the lead lap as he ran in the 17th position. The driver was told over the radio “everyone else is pitting. Just stay nice and smooth.” He ultimately finished the race in 20th.