RICHMOND, VA — “I definitely deserve one back,” Ty Gibbs said after celebrating his third win of the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, all coming in the last 5 weeks. “Racers never forget, that’s for sure,” said second place finisher John Hunter Nemechek.
Gibbs, used a bump-and-run maneuver on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Nemechek on the final lap of Saturday’s ToyotaCare 250 to score his seventh career victory in the series in just 25 starts. It was the 4th time in the last 8 races that we’ve seen a last lap pass for the win in the Xfinity Series.
While Gibbs was fastest in practice, fastest in qualifying and won the race, Nemechek may have had the best car in the race itself. He led 135 of 250 laps and passed Gibbs for the lead on Lap 246, but it was Gibbs to moved him out of the way to get five more crucial playoff points via the win.
“We’re racing for wins and they’re hard to come by, and I had to take it. … Just got into there deep and had to bump him out of the way up the track. We’re short track racing,” Gibbs said.
He’s now looking more and more like the championship favorite after winning on a pair of 1.5-mile tracks and now a short track.
He and Nemechek traded stage wins on Saturday too and combined to lead 249 of the 250 laps overall. Gibbs led the opening 11 circuits around the .75-mile Virginia short track to where Nemechek led the next 78 including taking the Stage 1 victory.
They all hit pit lane on Lap 78 for which Sam Mayer led the lap via the sequence. Nemechek was first off pit road and would lead the next 64 laps before Gibbs passed him on Lap 143 and would lead the next 73 laps himself which for him, including the Stage 2 win over Nemechek.
Nemechek led Lap 217, Gibbs got him back and led until Lap 246, Nemechek led Laps 247-249 before Gibbs on Lap 250 with what was an aggressive but perfectly timed move.
While some may say it shouldn’t have been made, especially on a teammate, the move was as clean of a dirty move as one could make. Nemechek didn’t wreck and he still finished second. It was the only entertainment of a race that saw 3 cautions (2 for stage breaks) and 3 leaders.
Should he have tried to make the corner?
Is this the new NASCAR racing model?
Nemechek, brought the No. 18 Toyota home runner-up by .116-seconds arrears for his 3rd top 7 finish in the series at Richmond in his last 4 tries.
“Him and I will settle it Monday,” he said of the move between Gibbs and himself. “I don’t want to say too much and get myself in trouble. Just kind of drove through. He didn’t even try to make the corner there.”
Gibbs continued on to say in his press conference that he’s owed one back from Nemechek but Nemechek noted that he only has 2 more starts left on the season in this car so how many chances does he truly have? He even questions that Gibbs knows that and could make that move and hide behind that fact knowing that payback isn’t likely coming anyways.
Mayer finished third in his No. 1 Chevrolet for his second straight top five and also took home the $100k Dash 4 Cash bonus. He beat AJ Allmendinger for it who was his closest competition.
Allmendinger, scored his first Richmond top five finish in 25 combined Cup and Xfinity Series starts. He says his car is maybe lacking in speed to some of his main rivals for the title, but they’re getting closer. This was his 7th top 10 in as many starts to open up the season including four of the seven being in the top five at that.
Riley Herbst rounded out the top five in his No. 98 Ford for his third of the season.
Ryan Sieg Racing A Quiet Great Storyline on Saturday
A call has to go out to Ryan Sieg Racing who had Ryan Sieg and Parker Retzlaff each qualify in the top 10 (8th, 10th respectively) and finish there too with Seig being 9th and Retzlaff in 10th.
Retzlaff, was making just his second ever series start and was seventh in Stage 1 and 10th in Stage 2. However, following that second stage, they were hit with an uncontrolled tire penalty and had to drop to the rear. Even without a caution in the final stage, he still drove back up to score a top 10 in his second start.
The team lost a lot of ground on pit road all day but that was expected. This is a pit crew that was kind of just put together. They’ve not worked together before. Now, with seeing how much talent Retzlaff really has, they’re going to put an onus on getting a solid pit crew for his car.
Where Was JR Motorsports?
It was shaping up to be more of a battle than JR Motorsports initially expected heading to Richmond Raceway this weekend. JRM has won each of the last 3 NASCAR Xfinity Series races here and could have tied RCR or the series-most consecutive wins at 0.75-mile track. JRM teammates, Justin Allgaier (2020 sweep) and Noah Gragson (2021) are the only former winners entered in this weekend ToyotaCare 250.
Gragson, won at a similar track in Phoenix last month, won the lone race here last year as well as having six top five finishes in seven races run this season. Allgaier, had five straight top fives at Richmond and 4 top 10’s in 6 races this year too.
Josh Berry was 7th in his 1st Richmond start while Sam Mayer was 19th and 9th in two Truck appearances and 12th in his only NXS try.
However, Joe Gibbs Racing brought something for them. They led 249 of 250 laps, was quickest in practice, won the pole, swept the front row and had 3 of the top 5 starting spots. JRM qualified 3rd, 11th, 12th and 14th respectively.
They didn’t fare much better in the race. Gragson, was second in Stage 1 but batted brake problems and limped home 21st. Allgaier, was 17th and 8th in the two stages but only came home 16th. It was his worst Richmond finish since 2018.
The two that we expected to finish behind Gragson and Allgaier were actually the best for JRM on Saturday.
Berry, was 7th after being 3rd in both stages but he was speeding on pit road following Stage 2. So, to come back to 7th wasn’t as bad as it looks. Mayer, was 10th and 7th in the two stages himself but did finish 3rd and took home $100k for winning the Dash 4 Cash bonus.
Their streak now comes to an end.
Clean Race Not Necessarily Bad
Some may complain the race was boring. I hear ya. 3 cautions all day and none for a crash can make things seem redundant. 8 lead changes among just 3 drivers can too. But, I don’t necessarily think it was all that bad.
There were 4 lead changes in the final 34 laps including 3 in the final 4 laps of the day. We saw a crazy last lap pass with drama between teammates and a margin of victory of only .116-seconds.
Was it a barnburner?
Was it a good race?
I like it.
We’ve seen some marathon races in the series this season. To run green to checkered in less than two hours on a Saturday afternoon was just what we needed. 1-hour, 58-minutes and 3-seconds was the race duration.
Give me that all day.
Last week’s race was 2:13:14 but only 46 laps.
Atlanta’s was 2:36:39 for 172 laps but that excludes red flag time.
Phoenix was 2:01:35 for 200 laps.
Vegas was 2:56:15 for 200 laps.
Fontana was 3:05:05 for 165 laps.
Daytona was 2:11:46 for 120 laps.
So, to be the first below two hours and have the most laps completed among all, well that’s the action I’m here for.
19 of the last 21 Richmond winners now started in the top 10 including 7 of the last 9 from the top 2 rows. On the season, 6 of the 7 races were won by a top 4 starter including all seven from the top 11.
Starts this season:
Daytona – 2nd
Fontana – 2nd
Las Vegas – 1th
Phoenix – 2nd
Atlanta – 4th
COTA – 4th
Richmond – 2nd