Saturday night short trackin' under the lights! The traditional late season Richmond night race was an interesting one. It was a race with three cautions, but zero for incident. The Cup series stars put on a display of clean, competitive short track racing.
Saturday's race was refreshing in my opinion. A race that had actual strategy was a nice change of pace.
Although one driver dominated the entire back half of the event, the racing product still sufficed. To me a good race has the best cars in the front, and if they get stuck in the back they can recover. Richmond had that. I would rate the race a 7/10. It wasn't a race I'll remember forever, but a good race in the moment.
Stage one was won by local favorite Denny Hamlin, however after a pit road speeding penalty at the stage break, he had to restart in the back. Unfortunately, Hamlin never really recovered. His team struggled with the car's handling all night. He finished the race with a 12th place finish.
The lack of cautions helped eventual winner Brad Keselowski dominate the race. Keselowski lead 192 of the 400 laps and won stage two. His win automatically advances him to the next round of the playoffs with Darlington winner Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin advanced on points after Saturday's race.
Team Penske as a whole was the story of the race. Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano were upfront all night. This is a performance statement from the two past champions, showing their current championship threat level. If they can continue this type of speed, they will be in the mix for the title in Phoenix.
Through it all the biggest surprise of the night was Austin Dillon's performance. After finishing second at Darlington he finished fourth on Saturday. He appeared to be the only driver capable of challenging Brad Keselowski. Dillon also got a pit road penalty at the end of stage one. He was, however, able to rebound to the top-5 and a legitimate threat all night.
In conclusion Richmond was a good race to further prove a few things from Darlington. Austin Dillon has upped his game, Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto are almost in must win situations heading into Bristol, and it highlighted drivers who just might make the final 4 and win it all.