Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the man in charge for Saturday’s Toyotacare 250 at Richmond International Raceway as he led 128 of 149 laps en route to victory. The win for Earnhardt his is first in the XFINITY Series in nearly six years and his fourth at Richmond.
“I don’t run the XFINITY Series but a couple times a year so the opportunities to win are few and far between,” Earnhardt said. “I knew we had a great car at Richmond and this is why I picked to run here. Because f how well they ran here last year, particularly with Josh Berry.”
Though a Richmond win is no first, the sport’s Most Popular Driver did hit a first on Saturday afternoon as he drove his own JR Motorsports Chevrolet to victory himself for the first time.
For much of the race, the next best contender was JRM teammate Justin Allgaier who drove into second spot before coming within a second of Earnhardt’s lead in the closing laps. Outside the JRM camp was Erik Jones who, after winning Heat Race No. 1, started on pole for the 140-lap main event and led 17 laps before slotting into third for a majority of the afternoon.
Despite the quick runs, both drivers found similar fate on the final restart when Allgaier spun off the bumper of Brennan Poole, sparking a multi-car crash in Turn 1.
“I think racing is a sport of highs and lows,” Jones said, who finished 34th. “The [No.] 48 stayed out on tires and they were quite a bit slower than the field… wasn’t his fault. But there was a pretty big wreck and we got caught up in it. Just a disappointing day.”
The wreck was an insult to injury for the No. 20 Toyota as Jones had a heated moment with lapped car Mike Harmon after the two came together off Turn 2.
“I was pretty upset at the moment that [Harmon] came to talk to me,” Jones said. “A racing incident overall and something hopefully we can work out.”
Ty Dillon put the “rich” in Richmond as he wins the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus by XFINITY. The No. 3 driver got into second spot on the overtime restart and had one shot at Earnhardt in the final turn. Though he came inches short of the No. 88 bumper, Dillon takes the finish with a smile while Earnhardt was a little nervous for payback.
“I think you saw Ty was a little quicker than me on the last couple laps,” Earnhardt said. “I used him up pretty bad in the Cup race a couple times [last week at Bristol] and I knew he was going to be pretty aggressive with me. I was trying not to let him get the opportunity to get to the bumper.”
For the first time since the season-opener at Daytona, Kyle Busch was not in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. This time, it was 18-year-old Matt Tifft behind the wheel who drove consistently in the top 5 all afternoon before the late crash took him out of the race.
“It’s a tough one,” Tifft said. “Just an awesome debut for this year with these guys and hate to have it taken out of the way.”
The final top 12 is plentiful of surprise stories. Cole Custer came home sixth in his XFINITY debut for JR Motorsports while Blake Koch grabbed his second top-10 and career best finish in eighth. JJ Yeley finished a strong 12th driving for an ill David Starr in the No. 44 Toyota.
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