Ty Dillon Lone Underdog in the Top 20 in Richmond
Lead: Ty Dillon
Ty Dillon’s Petty GMS Motorsports teammate Erik Jones was the team’s Most Outstanding Driver in 2022, but at the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway (August 14) it was Dillon who stood out among the underdogs.
Richmond is a track that is not usually kind to underdogs, as several races over the past decade have featured long green-flag runs and slippery conditions. Such conditions limit the number of changes that can be made to a car’s setup with little time for extended adjustments during green flag stops. As has become the norm, if you miss it during setup, you’re in for a long day.
Dillon was pretty much the only one making positive noise, securing a 17th place finish as the only underdog to break into the top 20.
One of the most welcoming sights of the race was that the top lane took hold, giving drivers more options in the lanes of the track. Dillon was one of those who used it to his advantage, running the top groove for much of the race.
The #42 Chevrolet Allegiant slowly ducked into the pack on the first stage, finishing 20th. Stage two saw Dillon frown as he cracked the top 15 and finished the stage in 12th place. What was perhaps equally impressive was the fact that he stayed in the lead lap. Only 14 drivers were on this same lap at the end of the second stage.
Despite the car tightening up in the final stage, he kept his serve in the top 15. However, one of the most crucial factors in Richmond is avoiding mistakes. Dillon fell victim to this on lap 295, as he was hit by a start line violation during a green flag stop.
If there was a silver lining to the penalty, it was the fact that multiple drivers were either one lap away or multiple laps away at once. That kept Dillon in the top 20 for the second race in a row (he finished 14th at Michigan International Speedway last weekend).
We already knew Dillon wouldn’t return to No. 42 next season, but after it was announced last week that Noah Gragson would replace him, Dillon’s runs over the past two weeks are just what the future free agent needed. . After a July that featured three DNFs, the back-to-back top 20 is surely a better audition for another round in 2023.
Justin Haley was the next underdog in line with a 21st place finish. Haley’s weekend started on a tough note when her #31 Chevrolet LeafFilter failed pre-qualifying inspection twice. This cost him the loss of his pit selection and his car manager.
In the race, the long green-flag races didn’t help Haley, who was mired outside the top 20 for most of the day struggling with a tight-handling race car. He finally broke into the top 20 on the final stage, running 19th for several laps. The 23-year-old passed out towards the end, earning him 21st place.
If you look back on the 2019 fall race in Richmond, you might recall that one of the biggest storylines in the race was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. turning race leader Martin Truex Jr. into the corner 4. Fast forward to 2022 and a similar incident has occurred. In the second stage, most of the pilots chose to make two pits with the value of new tires on the worn surface. However, Stenhouse’s team called in to try it out in one stop. Unfortunately, Stenhouse’s scheduled stop didn’t go as planned.
Stenhouse missed the pit entrance, hitting the apron too quickly and causing it to slide. This led him to come into contact with Truex, although it didn’t cut a tire. To make matters worse, Stenhouse was hit with a face-off line violation, effectively ruining his strategy and arguably a solid finish. It was a blow for a driver who seemed like one of the best to work in the top lane.
Gragson made his first Cup start since announcing he would move to the series full-time in 2023. He had a calm and mostly uneventful day, earning him a 24th-place finish.
Corey LaJoie’s three-race top-20 streak ended with a 28th-place finish. LaJoie looked like a pinball a few times, tangling with Cody Ware in the first round. Towards the end of the first leg, he received an aggressive strike from Ryan Blaney, who was battling Joey Logano for sixth position.
Looks like the #51 was already loose coming out of Turn 4 and slid into LaJoie. Neither spun, but things are already chaotic at @RichmondRaceway.#NASCAR #FederatedAutoParts400 pic.twitter.com/t9yzUPmZVw
— Adam Cheek (@adamncheek) August 14, 2022
Only two cars dropped out of the race. Unfortunately for this column, we were an outsider. Jones showed top-10 speed over the weekend but struggled to find the right formula during the race. It came to an abrupt end at the start of the final stage when Jones was involved in an accident between Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch.
Ross Chastain vs. Kyle Busch = CRASH.
Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. are also involved. #NASCAR
—NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 14, 2022
The damage destroyed the front right of the car and ended Jones’ day in the process, relegating him to 35th overall.
The underdogs sound
Ty Dillon (17th): “Certainly pleased with our speed today in our Allegiant Camaro. It was a major step in the right direction and overall competitiveness. We had some tough things to clean up, but it’s good to be disappointed to be 17th after the penalty and having a tough day. I think our momentum is going in the right direction and we’re hitting our stride here. We have 11 races to go to perform really well.
Justin Haley (21st): “Our #31 Camaro LeafFilter Gutter Protection had speed all weekend and placed in the top 10 in practice. Our qualifying efforts didn’t show that, but we knew we had a solid car for the race. The speed carried over into the race and we had some good pit stops throughout the race which helped us get a decent track position. I’m proud of our lads for a strong P21 finish We’re looking forward to Watkins Glen, a road course I’m really enjoying!
Noah Gragson (24th): “We battled all day with our Chevy Accessories Camaro. We could never just refine it. The guys worked very hard and we had some great pit stops. We missed it overall, but I’m still proud of the effort. We will continue to work hard and try to be better next time.
Erik Jones (35th): “We were just in the wrong place and got caught up in someone else’s mess. We made contact and killed the right front. We struggled all day with our FOCUSfactor Chevy, we just couldn’t find the balance we needed to be up front. Not our day. We’ll be loading up and getting ready for Watkins Glen next weekend.
Michael McDowell (29th) also caught up Front stretch in Richmond and explained how he would be heading to Watkins Glen International and Daytona International Speedway.
“The road courses have been solid for us this year,” McDowell said. “This Next Gen car has helped us close the gap to the frontrunners. We’ve had a top-five car on every road course I’ve enjoyed so far this year. It’s fast enough for us put in a position to try and win at Watkins Glen We will be aggressive on strategy, aggressive on restarts trying to get as much as we can The road courses are such a tough place to get wins because it can be pass so much on these final reboots as we saw at [Indianapolis road course]. Just get in position and see what happens.
Small team program of the week
After being on the car at Michigan International Speedway, Blaster returned with Live Fast Motorsports in the Commonwealth. This scheme was an absolute beauty to see in person as BJ McLeod drove the #78 Ford Blaster to a 33rd place finish.
Solid day of short track racing at @RichmondRaceway ✅
400 laps and 300 miles later, @bjmcleod78 completed P33.
– Fast Motorsport Live (@teamlivefast) August 14, 2022
RACE WEEKEND HUB: RICHMOND
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