The Final Word – Richmond was all about winning and a parked ambulance

Who won?

That was the one and only question the 60th annual summer event at Richmond had to answer. Who would win it? Three drivers entered had won it twice before, one already had the hat-trick. All 13 with multiple wins there during their career are in or will be in conversations regarding the Hall of Fame.

Thirteen drivers entered the contest locked into the Chase. Three more were trying to secure their positions, racing to be ahead of the other two just in case. Fourteen others had a chance to steal it away from one of them. All they had to do was win.

Kyle Busch came away with the bonus points after the opening stage. Good for him in narrowing the gap with Martin Truex Jr. going into Chicago, but no impact on the Chase race. At this point, with the awarded stage markers, Jamie McMurray entered stage two five points behind Chase Elliott and eight back of Matt Kenseth. Unless a first-time winner emerged at the end of the night, that fact was pretty much meaningless. Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, and Erik Jones sat among our Top Ten at this point, though an over anxious crew man sent Bowyer back to 34th after being penalized with 295 laps to go.

What Truex giveth, Truex can taketh away as he claimed the second stage to match Rowdy’s earlier performance. Kenseth was second to pull him even further ahead of Elliott and McMurray. Jones and Logano were joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr. among the Top Ten with half the race left to be run. Bowyer sat 15th.

Then came one of those weird moments with just over 140 to go. Danica Patrick was 18th when she spun, with some assistance from Austin Dillon. Under caution, an ambulance rolled, then stopped near the entrance way to pit road. That bottle necked traffic, leading to Kenseth striking Bowyer in the rear. When they went green, Bowyer was 22nd, Patrick a lap down in 24th, and Kenseth 37th was off the track. I am not sure where the ambulance went, or even where in hell it was going, but I am sure some drivers had some ideas as to where someone could shove it.

That left Kenseth dead in the water, parked in the garage, sitting on the bubble, and hoping that no one behind him in the standings won this thing. It did not appear Bowyer was going to. He got penalized earlier due to a pit miscue, had to get the damage repaired after the collision with Kenseth, and then the crew let a tire get away from them in the pits later on.

Still, there were only three ways of stopping Truex from winning this thing. One, have a wreck to bring out a caution to force overtime. Second, have Kyle Larson slip ahead of him on the restart. Third, see Denny Hamlin hook him and send him flying into the wall on the final lap. Put them all together, and you put Larson in Victory Lane for a fourth time this season. Sixteen were in a Chase place going in, those same 16 open their challenge for the title next Sunday in Chicago.

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
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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