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Strategies and speed favor big name playoff hopefuls at Richmond

A couple of big name NASCAR Cup Series playoff hopefuls made some noise while others faltered Sunday at Richmond Raceway.

Sunday’s 400-lap race only had three cautions: End of stage one lap 70, end of stage two on lap 230 and a spin on lap 392.


Chase Elliott started and placed fourth in stage one and finished 13th. He gained the most points – 16 – of any driver within a race worth of points of the bubble.

Elliott is now 20th, -40 points to the cutline. He is now ahead of teammate Alex Bowman who finished 18th Sunday.

Bowman gained four points on the cutline and is now 21st in points, at -42.


Toyota playoff hopefuls Bubba Wallace and Ty Gibbs again improved their playoff hopes Sunday.

Wallace rounded out a 23XI Racing 1-2 in stage one. While he led 80 of 153 laps in stage two, he placed second after a bad pit stop.

Although he finished 12th, Wallace gained 27 points on the cutline. He is now 15th, +54 to Ty Gibbs who made a 10-point dent in his playoff hopes.

Credit: RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – JULY 29: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway on July 29, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Gibbs also started in the top-10 (seventh) and placed top-10 in both stages (10th and ninth).

Like Wallace, he didn’t have a stellar finish – 15th – but is now 17th, -18 to Michael McDowell.


Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

McDowell started 18th and placed 11th in the first stage. Then, he jumped to seventh on the first restart in stage two.

Banking on the car’s speed, the team put McDowell on an alternate one-stop strategy in stage two.

Although McDowell led nine laps, the strategy dropped him to 22nd, one lap down at the end of stage two.

That was also where he finished 170 laps later.

Despite that, he stayed in 17th and gained one point on the cutline (+18) as other drivers, including Daniel Suarez, struggled.


Credit: RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – JULY 29: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Jockey Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway on July 29, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Daniel Suarez backed up a heartbreaking race at Pocono by starting 33rd at Richmond.

Suarez clung to the lead lap in stage one, in 29th, but permanently fell off the lead lap Sunday in stage two, placing 30th, one lap down.

Worse yet, Suarez was the driver who spun on lap 392. After that, Suarez fell from 28th, two laps down and finished 33rd, four laps down.

Suarez lost 11 points to the cutline and is now 19th in points, -34.


Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

Kaulig Racing put A.J. Allmendinger in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Road America while Derek Kraus practiced and qualified his car Saturday at Richmond.

Kraus has no Cup Series starts and only four Xfinity Series starts, all this year.

Entering Richmond at 17 points out of a playoff spot, Allmendinger started 36th but jumped to 22nd in stage one.

However, he couldn’t do much else as he finished 23rd, one lap down in stage two. He stayed there in stage three but was two laps down instead.

A wavearound took Allmendinger back to one lap down with three laps to go but older tires dropped him to finish 27th and in a wreck at the line.

Teammate Justin Haley also lacked speed as he finished 30th, two laps down, with no stage points. He is now 24th in points, -70 to the cutline.


Austin Cindric finished 26th, one lap down respectively, with no stage points.

Meanwhile, Aric Almirola and Ryan Preece gained 17 and 26 points on the bubble and are now 86 and 88 points behind the cutline.

Preece finished fifth after getting sixth and seventh in the stages. Meanwhile, Almirola finished eighth after getting eighth in stage one.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway next Sunday, August 6, for a 200-lap, 400-mile race.

Kevin Harvick beat Bubba Wallace for the win last year. Wallace led 22 laps while bubble driver Daniel Suarez led 33 laps and finished second in stage two.


15. Bubba Wallace (506 points, +54 to the cutline [was +27])
16. Michael McDowell (470, +18 [was +17])

17. Ty Gibbs (452, -18 [was -28)
18. A.J. Allmendinger (448, -22 [was -17])
19. Daniel Suarez (436, -34 [was -23])
20. Chase Elliott (430, -40 [was-56])
21. Alex Bowman (428, -42 [was -46])

22. Austin Cindric (406, -64 [was-60])
23. Justin Haley (400, -70 [was -62])
24. Aric Almirola (384, -86 [was-103])
25. Ryan Preece (382, -88 [was -114])

driver currently in a playoff spot
driver currently within a race-worth of points of the cutline
top-25 driver within two races-worth of points of the cutline

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