RICHMOND, Va – It was yet another Denny Hamlin runaway for Joe Gibbs Racing on Saturday night in what turned out to be an anticlimactic end to NASCAR’s regular season.
The fireworks came off the track at Richmond International Raceway, after Tony Stewart intentionally wrecked Ryan Newman’s car. Newman angrily chided his former boss for the accident that officially ended Newman’s chances to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The verbal assault from Newman came with 37 laps left, before Hamlin finished off his third career Sprint Cup win at his home track while giving JGR its third consecutive victory at the track and ninth in the past 15 races.
Newman called Stewart “bipolar,” said the retiring race car driver had anger issues, and all but outright referenced the 2014 incident in which Stewart fatally struck a sprint car driver.
“I guess he thought he was in a sprint car again and didn’t know how to control his anger,” Newman said after the two made contact three times before finally wrecking. Dylan Lupton couldn’t avoid the accident, and his car ended up wedged between the wall and on top of Newman’s car.
Stewart admitted to wrecking Newman: “He’s right, that was the third time he had driven into me. How many times is he supposed to hit you before you say, ‘I’ve had enough of it?’ ”
The wreckage caused a stoppage of just over 20 minutes. Newman’s team was penalized 15 points last week by NASCAR for failing postrace inspection at Darlington, which made qualifying for the Chase extremely difficult.The remaining playoff positions in the 16-driver field went to rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray. Chris Buescher also made the Chase by virtue of his Pocono win and him maintaining a spot in the top 30 in points.
The rest of the Chase field is made up of the other 12 race winners this season.
Gibbs has all four of its cars in the Chase and, as a bonus, sister team Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr., who finished third Saturday behind Hamlin and Kyle Larson.
And like last year, when Kyle Busch won his first Cup title and ended a 10-year title drought for Gibbs, the team again is the favorite.