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Joe Gibbs Racing should feel fairly comfortable heading into the final NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 16 race.
Denny Hamlin, fresh off a win in Darlington, led for most of Saturday night’s race until the final stage, when he was passed by teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch. The latter two battled and looked to have a close finish brewing before Busch was hit with a speeding penalty on pit road.
Hamlin made a late comeback effort but Truex was able to hold him off to win the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders at Richmond Raceway and clinch a spot in the Round of 12.
After the race, Truex reflected on the day on which he won, the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
During the race, Kyle Larson, who won the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season crown, clinched a spot in the next round of the playoffs based on his performance in the first two stages. He finished sixth on the night.
Chip Ganassi Racing suffered a major blow when, just 40 laps into the race, Kurt Busch had a flat left rear tire that sent him crashing into the wall. Busch dropped out of the top 12, putting him in a critical position for the Sept. 18 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol, the final race in the Round of 16.
Sporting News tracked live updates and highlights from the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Richmond Raceway.
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NASCAR at Richmond live updates, highlights from Federated Auto Parts 400
10:54 p.m.: Truex wins the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders, coming in just ahead of Hamlin. He has sealed a spot in the round of 12.
10:53 p.m.: Final lap. Truex can seal a spot in the next round if he can hold off Hamlin, who is under two seconds back.
10:52 p.m.: Truex’s tires are wearing down, but he has a more clean ride with six laps left to go compared to Hamlin, who is down under three seconds back.
10:51 p.m.: Chastain hits the rear left of Larson’s car, but Larson is able to save himself from having any issues. Larson completes the pass on the inside to move up to sixth place.
10:50 p.m.: 10 laps left, the gap is down to three-and-a-half seconds. Hamlin making it close.
10:47 p.m.: 15 laps to go, Truex’s lead is down to under five seconds.
10:44 p.m.: Truex is still leading the race, but has really seen his lead over Hamlin shrink. Hamlin is now about five seconds back of the 19.
10:41 p.m.: Busch is now moving up on Larson for the No. 8 spot with 29 laps remaining.
10:37 p.m.: Hamlin is steadily making up ground on Truex as he’s cut what was an eight-second lead down to under seven seconds.
10:35 p.m.: Even after the penalty, Busch is still only in 10th.
10:34 p.m.: Truex holding to an eight-second lead over Hamlin.
10:32 p.m.: Busch hit with a penalty of entering too fast. Huge mistake with just over 50 laps remaining. Hamlin now heading to pit road.
10:31 p.m.: Truex is one of the first leaders to pit. Now Busch is following the lead, as are Keselowski, Elliott and Logano.
10:27 p.m.: Joe Gibbs Racing is currently enjoying a strong showing. Busch, Truex and Hamlin make up the top three as the race in lap 337.
10:26 p.m.: Bell has been racing especially well in the third stage. He passed Elliott and is now in fourth.
10:23 p.m.: Elliott was at one point a lap down. He is now in fourth place with a chance to move in on Hamlin for third place with 74 laps left.
10:17 p.m.: Busch has now put two seconds between him and Truex for the top spot.
10:15 p.m.: Busch pushes Chastain and takes the lead with 95 laps remaining.
10:14 p.m.: McDowell hit with back-to-back speeding penalties on pit road. Those are his second and third calls of the night.
10:13 p.m.: Bell finally makes his stop at 301. Chastain, Busch, Truex, Hamlin are the new leaders.
10:12 p.m.: Larson goes to pit road on 299.
10:11 p.m.: Now Hamlin and Truex have gone to pit road. Bell and Larson are still out there on lap 298.
10:10 p.m.: Several drivers taking their green flag stops to pit road. The leaders still haven’t gone yet.
10:07 p.m.: Chastain has made plenty of moves up the track as he’s just passed Larson to move into fifth despite having made contact with Elliott on pit road.
10:04 p.m.: With 120 laps to go, Truex has started to put some space between himself and Hamlin. There’s about a second-and-a-half gap.
9:59 p.m.: Truex passes Hamlin on the inside with Bell, Busch and Larson holding the remainder of the top five.
9:58 p.m.: It’s a close battle among the first two cars with Hamlin and Truex separated by split seconds.
9:56 p.m.: Following the results of the first two stages, Larson has clinched a spot in the next round, pending a post-race inspection. He joins Hamlin as the only two guaranteed a spot in the round of 12.
9:54 p.m.: There’s the green flag on lap 255. Truex applying pressure to Hamlin right out of the restart.
9:52 p.m.: Austin Dillon will receive the free pass after the caution.
9:49 p.m.: Looks like Wallace is having an issue with his right front tire, which brings out a caution with 150 laps to go.
9:49 p.m.: Elliott started the stage with the free pass. Byron, Reddick and McDowell each finished a lap down.
9:48 p.m.: Chastain was penalized for speeding on pit road. He’s now down in 13th.
9:47 p.m.: The green flag is back out with 156 laps to go.
9:43 p.m.: Coming off pit road, Hamlin, Truex, Busch, Larson and Bell are the first five to start the third stage.
9:38 p.m.: Hamlin wins the second stage. Busch, Truex, Larson, Logano are the next four drivers across the line.
9:38 p.m.: Elliott has passed Byron with three laps to go in the second stage.
9:37 p.m.: Hamlin is trying to pass Byron, who is currently sitting in 13th. Hamlin eventually moved out in front, and now Byron is in position to be the free pass.
9:35 p.m.: This is going to be something to watch for Elliott as Hamlin continues to lap cars.
With Chase a lap down, he has to do everything he can to be the first car one lap down.
If he can do that, he will receive the “free pass” on the next caution and be back on the lead lap
— NASCAR Nation (@NASCARNation) September 12, 2021
9:31 p.m.: Hamlin might be about to put Austin Dillon a lap down as well as he continues to look strong near the end of the second stage.
9:30 p.m.: Larson has rejoined the top five as he moves past Chastain on 132.
9:28 p.m.: Elliott is about to be put a lap down again as Hamlin nears him on lap 210.
9:24 p.m.: Aric Almirola has moved up to sixth place. He’s quietly been moving up the leaderboard, and now sits between Chastain in fifth and Larson in sixth on lap 203.
9:20 p.m.: Hamlin lets Elliott move in front to unlap himself.
9:19 p.m.: After several leaders stopped on pit road, Hamlin is now up front with Busch, Truex, Logano and Chastain behind him.
9:18 p.m.: Larson, after leading for a few laps, has taken a pit stop. Elliott is now a lap down from Hamlin.
9:17 p.m.: Some issues for Elliott on pit road as he now sustains damage to the car as he drives over the jack. The stop wound up costing him some time.
9:16 p.m.: Now most of the leaders are heading into pit road as well with Hamlin, Elliott, Busch, Chastain and others going to pit road.
9:15 p.m.: Hamlin and Elliott continuing to battle for first as a few cars head to pit road, including Truex on lap 180.
9:14 p.m.: Larson is back in the top five as he passes Logano to move into fifth place. He’s still about 7.5 seconds back of Elliott.
9:08 p.m.: Hamlin avoids some contact as Elliott races out to the front with 73 laps remaining in the stage. Aggressive move on the inside to pass Hamlin.
9:07 p.m.: Halfway through Stage 2, the top five are Hamlin, Elliott, Busch, Logano and Chastain, the latter of whom is the only non-playoff driver in the top 14.
9:04 p.m.: In the 152 laps so far, Hamlin has been in the lead for 100.
8:58 p.m.: Hamlin is the leader after most of the field wound up going to pit road. Elliott, Chastain, Logano and Busch round out the top five.
8:57 p.m.: Michael McDowell was penalized for speeding on pit road.
8:56 p.m.: Larson stops for pit road on 136.
8:55 p.m.: Hamlin and Tyler Reddick head to pit road on lap 132 — 52 of 155 in Stage 2. He’s the first playoff driver to go to pit road, and now a number of others are starting to follow his lead, including Elliott, who had been in the lead.
8:51 p.m.: Busch makes some contact with Logano trying to move up, but Logano is still holding strong.
8:49 p.m.: Busch has now moved up ahead of Truex and is starting to gain on Logano for a spot in the top five on lap 118.
8:47 p.m.: Larson has now dropped down to eighth with Truex and Kyle Busch both passing him.
8:41 p.m.: Keselowski moves up in front of Logano to slide into third place.
8:40 p.m.: Keselowski and Ross Chastain have both passed Larson to move the regular-season winner down into sixth place.
8:39 p.m.: Elliott finally gets out in front of Hamlin for the lead on lap 91.
8:38 p.m.: Hamlin gets a strong launch on the inside to stay in first. Elliott is pushing from the outside, but he can’t get past him on the restart.
8:37 p.m.: Daniel Suarez is handed an equipment interference penalty, the second time a driver has been hit with one tonight.
8:34 p.m.: Hamlin, Elliott, Logano, Larson, Keselowski are the first five off pit road.
8:30 p.m.: Hamlin wins the first stage with considerable ease, placing in nearly five seconds ahead of Elliott. Logano, Larson and Blaney round out the top five.
8:28 p.m.: Larson with another pass, this time moving past Blaney to reach fourth.
8:27 p.m.: Larson cruises past Brad Keselowski on the left with ease to move up into fifth place.
8:26 p.m.: Blaney, Logano and Elliott all battling it out for second place. Logano is fighting from the inside while Elliott had been riding outside. For now, it’s Logano who has moved up to second behind Hamlin with nine laps left in the first stage.
8:23 p.m.: After an early penalty, Truex is also making his way up. Truex is in 11th, while Larson has continued to move up to eighth on lap 64.
8:21 p.m.: Kurt Busch on the NBC Sports broadcast says that he’s alright, but noted that he now feels like he needs a win in Bristol to keep his season going.
8:19 p.m.: Kyle Larson has quietly moved his way up the board. He’s moved all the way up to 10th on lap 56 after starting the race in the rear.
8:16 p.m.: There’s the restart and Hamlin immediately reclaims the lead on lap 48.
8:13 p.m.: No other drivers were collected in the crash. Bubba Wallace ran over the tire and had it wedged under his car, however.
8:11 p.m.: Busch heads off the track in an ambulance for checkups so his day is done.
8:10 p.m.: Caution flag comes out as Kurt Busch has a left rear flat tire. Huge crash into the wall.
8:08 p.m.: The green flag is back out. Hamlin and Kurt Busch start out battling for first, but Hamlin cuts ahead from the outside. Busch is still trying to pass him on the inside, but Hamlin isn’t giving him the space.
8:08 p.m.: Kyle Busch assessed a penalty for equipment interference.
8:05 p.m.: Kurt Busch is the first off pit road, Hamlin moves down to second with Logano and Harvick in third and fourth.
8:03 p.m.: Competition caution is brought out at lap 31.
8:00 p.m.: Kyle Busch moved up into 11th after running three-wide with William Byron and Alex Bowman. Both Hendrick drivers are fighting for their playoff lives as neither are above the cutline, as is the case with Busch.
7:56 p.m.: Hamlin has been leading through the first 15 laps of the race. Kurt Busch and Joey Logano are riding right behind him.
7:52 p.m.: Martin Truex Jr. has to drive onto pit road after beating Denny Hamlin, the leader, to the starting line.
7:51 p.m.: There’s the green flag and the race is officially underway.
7:46 p.m.: Fans at the Richmond Raceway are waving American flags to honor first responders and the lives lost on 9/11.
7:40 p.m.: Hometown heroes from Virginia have given the command to drivers.
7:33 p.m.: The Henrico Fire Choir now singing the national anthem ahead of the start of tonight’s race.
7:17 p.m.: Before the race, NBC Sports took a look back at the first NASCAR race after 9/11.
7:10 p.m.: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is working overtime today. After finishing 14th in the Go Bowling 250, Earnhardt will be headed up to the booth for the call tonight.
7 p.m.: Kyle Larson will start in the rear of tonight’s race after his car failed pre-race inspection.
NASCAR start time today
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET (TV time)
- TV channel: NBCSN (TSN5 in Canada)
- Live stream: NBCSports.com | NBC Sports App | fuboTV ( 7-day free trial )
The green flag for Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Richmond Raceway’s 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval is scheduled to drop at 7:45 p.m. ET.
Weather is not expected to be a concern. The National Weather Service’s forecast for Richmond, Va. , calls for clear skies, light winds and the temperature falling into the low 60s on Saturday night, after a sunny afternoon with a high temperature in the low 80s.
NASCAR Cup playoff standings
Denny Hamlin became the first driver this year to clinch a second-round when he won at Darlington. Runner-up driver Kyle Larson increased his playoff points lead and four playoff drivers suffered big hits in the standings after crashing out at the track that’s “Too Tough to Tame.”
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||2062|
x-Clinched berth in Round of 12.
NASCAR starting lineup at Richmond
Here is the complete NASCAR strating lineup for Saturday’s playoff race at Richmond Raceway, the Federated Auto Parts 400.
|1||P-Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports|
|2||P-Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|3||P-Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|4||P-Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|5||P-Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|6||P-Joey Logano||22||Team Penske|
|7||P-Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske|
|8||P-Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske|
|9||P-Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|10||P-Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|11||P-Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing|
|12||P-Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports|
|13||P-Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports|
|14||P-William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports|
|15||P-Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|16||P-Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports|
|17||Ross Chastain||42||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|18||Chris Buescher||17||Roush Fenway Racing|
|19||Austin Dillon||3||Richard Childress Racing|
|20||Ryan Preece||37||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|21||Cole Custer||41||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|22||Daniel Suarez||99||TrackHouse Racing|
|23||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|24||Ryan Newman||6||Roush Fenway Racing|
|25||Corey LaJoie||7||Spire Motorsports|
|26||Chase Briscoe||14||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|27||Bubba Wallace||23||23XI Racing|
|28||Matt DiBenedetto||21||Wood Brothers Racing|
|29||Justin Haley||77||Spire Motorsports|
|30||Anthony Alfredo||38||Front Row Motorsports|
|31||Erik Jones||43||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|32||BJ McLeod||78||Live Fast Motorsports|
|33||Josh Bilicki||52||Rick Ware Racing|
|34||Joey Gase||15||Rick Ware Racing|
|35||Quin Houff||00||StarCom Racing|
|36||Garrett Smithley||51||Petty Ware Racing|
|37||JJ Yeley||53||Rick Ware Racing|