RACE RUNDOWN: Intermittent rain at Richmond Raceway created a slick racing condition to start Sunday night’s 400-lap event with Austin Cindric and the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford rallying through a field of varying pit strategies and untimely cautions to a 23rd-place finish. Following a productive qualifying effort on Saturday, Cindric lined up ninth to get the evening started with the No. 2 donning rain tires to prepare for the ever-changing conditions of the quarter-mile track. With the racing surface still wet for the green flag, Cindric and his competitors spent the opening laps finding the preferred groove with a tight condition overtaking the No. 2 and thwarting forward momentum. A competition caution at lap 30 gave the No. 2 team a chance to reset with four slick tires and fuel, with the remainder of Stage 1 dedicated to finding the right balance to align with the new environment. The second stage was a tale of varying pit strategies, with the No. 2 team working diligently to position Cindric towards the front of the field. The first cycle of scheduled pit stops ensued, although an abrupt caution midway through the stage halted plans on the next scheduled stop and forced a change of plans for a majority of the field; Cindric and the No. 2 team included. It ultimately trapped the Discount Tire Ford a lap down with Cindric going to work to gain position in the stage’s closing lap alongside nearly half of the field that was combatting the same challenge. The finale Stage posed the same trials, although Cindric’s improving lap times and quick work by the No. 2 crew on pit road provided him a chance to propel forward and finish the event in 23rd-place.

CINDRIC’S THOUGHTS: “A bit of unfortunate timing with the caution in Stage 2. It really trapped us behind. I felt like we definitely had the performance to race within the top-15, but we continued to be trapped a lap down. A bit frustrating as it doesn’t show the speed of the weekend of our No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang. We’ve got a lot of right pieces of the puzzle though, and we’ll keep going. It was great to get a short track under our belt, too, after not being able to turn laps at Phoenix.”


RACE RUNDOWN: Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 Menards/Duracell team posted a 19th-place finish at Richmond Raceway Sunday night. With damp track conditions from lingering rainfall prior to the start of the 400-lap event, teams began the night on wet weather tires as Blaney worked his way into the top-10 from the 12th starting position in the opening laps before a tight-handling condition set in, shuffling him out of the top-20 by the time of the competition caution on lap 30. After getting a set of four slick tires under yellow, Blaney continued to battle through traffic as the 12-team continued to diagnose the early handling issues, resulting in a 25th-place finish in Stage 1. Crew chief Jonathan Hassler and the 12 team went with a two-stop strategy during the second stage as Blaney worked his way back into the top-20 by the time of the caution on lap 170. On the ensuing restart while fighting for the free pass position before the end of Stage 2, Blaney was shoved out of line and up into the outside wall of turn one as he worked to regain track position over the final run of the segment that ended in a 26th-place finish. The 12-team stuck with the two-stop strategy in the final stage as the overall balance of the Menards/Duracell Ford Mustang settled in, prompting four-tire stops under green on laps 297 and 350. The longest green flag run of the night came to an end with two laps to go, allowing Blaney to take the wave-around to get back on the lead lap for the overtime restart before taking the checkered flag 19th.

BLANEY’S THOUGHTS: “Hard-fought night for our 12 team. We just couldn’t recover from losing a bunch of track position during the first run but we were able to get the balance in a good spot in the second stage. There’s only so much ground you can make up over those longer green flag runs. Not our night but we’re looking forward to getting back to Martinsville next week.”


RACE RUNDOWN: Joey Logano came up one spot short in his bid for a third-career win at Richmond Raceway Sunday night as the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang crossed the line second in a green-white-checkered finish. The runner-up effort marked Logano’s fifth top-five finish in his last eight starts at Richmond and 14th-career top-five in 30 starts at the Virginia short track. With scattered showers in the area prior to the drop of the green flag prompting the use of wet weather tires, Logano worked his way up to seventh in the running order by the time of the competition caution on lap 30. After getting a set of slick tires and fuel, Logano continued his charge to the front as track conditions improved en route to a fifth-place finish in Stage 1. Varying pit strategies began to take shape in Stage 2 as crew chief Paul Wolfe and the 22-team opted for a two-stop strategy in the 160-lap segment. Following a scheduled, green flag stop on lap 128, Logano cycled to third on the leaderboard when the caution came out on lap 170, trapping a handful of teams a lap down that chose to split the stage in half. Logano restarted from the outside of row one with 53 laps to go in the stage and came away with a third-place finish in Stage 2. After settling into third in the running order during the opening run of the final stage, the 22-team stayed with its two-stop strategy, prompting Logano to hit pit road for a pair of four-tire stops under green on laps 287 and 336, respectively. Logano raced his way up to second with 30 laps to go as his long-run speed closed the gap to the leader to under a second with 10 laps remaining. As the margin to the leader continued to close, the caution came out with two laps to go, setting up one final round of pit stops prior to the green-white-checkered finish. Logano lined up for the restart from the inside of row two and cleared the outside lane coming to the white flag, but ultimately settled for the runner-up result.

LOGANO’S THOUGHTS: “This is definitely the hardest start to a season we’ve had, but last week we started scratching and clawing and got a little bit of momentum through the last three races and ultimately get to here to where we were in the hunt again. It feels good. It’s Richmond. It’s a unique racetrack. It’s our best racetrack as a team, so we expect to run good here. I don’t know if this completely takes us out of the deep end, but I think, ultimately, it’s a good momentum-builder for sure.

I didn’t get a good enough restart. I really wanted to pressure them down into one and force them to work up [Martin] Truex, but I spun my tires there just trying to stay with them and that ultimately cost me to be close enough to do something. It feels good to be towards the front again. We haven’t had a run like that in a while, but it also stings to be that close and not capitalize on the win. I guess I have mixed emotions. We had a really good car, a car that was capable of winning if we were in the front, but we didn’t execute everywhere else good enough to get there.”

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway for Round 8 of the 2024 season on Sunday, April 7 for the Cook Out 400. Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

Team Penske PR