The Final Word – Richmond was like a nice white dress shirt…with ketchup on it

We all know what it is like. We get all excited about some event, then it does not go as planned. That Christmas morning you waited for so long, only to wake up with the flu. The day at the ballpark longed dreamed of, only to see the storm clouds roll in. That long anticipated first date, only to discover you just blew the rear of your pants out. For me, that was Richmond.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to Richmond after announcing his impending retirement. Richmond, where he won his second, and final, Cup race during his father’s lifetime. Then Cinderella discovered her nice coach turned into a pumpkin after a speeding penalty took him forever out of the hunt for a Top Ten spot. A spin, then being splashed across the outside wall by his teammate left him in 30th.

Matt Kenseth was the man. He led from the pole for the initial 163 laps. All was wonderful beneath the Virginia sunshine. Then he drifted back a bit, then had a bad pit stop, then cut a tire against Martin Truex Jr. to wind up 23rd.

Just ask Kyle Busch about Richmond. He might not tell you, at least not with a recording device anywhere near. He got caught speeding early, but he was making progress as the race continued. He was within striking distance for the lead when Joey Logano cut in late to pit road, obstructing Busch’s view of where the commitment line was. He ran over it. He got penalized. He went from contender to 16th.

As for Logano? Well, he won, of course. It was his 18th win in his 300th career start to become one of seven who has all but punched their ticket to the Chase. Yet, despite the victory, he was just fourth in points earned on the day, with 42. That was eight shy of Brad Keselowski, the race runner-up, and second stage winner. That was five short of Denny Hamlin, in third, and fifth place Kevin Harvick.

Erik Jones got a point. Just one. Mind you, he did not manage to get in five laps last Sunday when he got help cutting a tire. That sent him into the grinder that was the outside wall and he was done. A.J. Allmendinger got a point. Midway through the second stage, his auto developed some issues that required a trip to the garage. A long trip. He was running at the end, just 67 laps down. Ryan Blaney got a point. Another cut tire, another meeting with the wall. At least he waited to near the end to come to an end. Ask those three guys what they thought about Richmond.

That was then. Talladega is what is coming up now. This Sunday, we go to the House of Earnhardt. Ten wins by the father. Six more by the son. No flu. No split britches. No rain. It would not dare.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.

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