Running wild at Richmond

Leaves are beginning to change. Hurricanes have played havoc in Texas and Florida. Racing action is swinging into high gear as NASCAR begins the playoffs to determine the 2017 National Champions in its three top divisions.

This past weekend action moved to the short track that thinks it’s a speedway. The § mile Richmond International Raceway is the only track of its size on the NASCAR schedule. Friday night the Xfinity teams battled out the next to the last race of their regular season schedule in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.

Ty Dillon was able to pick up the first stage win. Brad Keselowski won the second stage. Brad was also able to pick up the victory of the event over Kyle Busch. Ty Dillon finished third with a strong run. Xfinity regulars Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top five. The Xfinity teams close out their regular season along with the Camping World truck series at Chicagoland Speedway next weekend.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series ran their last race of the regular season. The Federated Auto Parts 400 ran under the lights Saturday night also at Richmond. The top 16 drivers will move on to the playoffs to decide the points champion over the next 10 weeks. Matt Kenseth was very much in danger of missing the playoffs without a win. He was able to capture the pole position. However, one of the strangest events took him out of the race.

There was a spin by Danica Patrick but she righted the car and didn’t hit anything. For some reason that has yet to be made clear, a fire truck and an ambulance rolled onto the speedway. Race control apparently told the ambulance to stop because pit road had been opened to the drivers. The ambulance stopped and blocked over half of the commitment line, which in turn caused the field to bunch up.

Kenseth was unable to stop and smashed into the back of Clint Bowyers’ car, taking both cars out of the race. Other drivers missed the commitment line but they were not penalized for their infractions. NASCAR held Bowyer and Kenseth to the five-minute damage clock, ending their evening.

Kyle Busch was one of the drivers to miss the line at this time. He was able to continue on and won the first stage. Martin Truex Jr. entered the race as the regular season champion and he showed that he came to race and won the second stage.

Martin pulled away to a nice lead and appeared to be headed to the race victory. However, a late race caution which was questionable to many minds caused the field to be bunched up for an overtime run to the finish. On this restart, Martin didn’t get a great start and he and Denny Hamlin raced hard into the first turn. Hamlin’s car slipped and got into the side of Truex, sending him into the wall.

Hamlin hung on for a top 10 finish. A very disappointed Truex finished up in 20th place after truly being the class of the field.

While they were crashing, Kyle Larson sped away to victory over Joey Logano. Ryan Newman came on strong at the end and grabbed third. Kurt Busch and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top five.

Martin Truex Jr. was crowned regular season champion and earned 15 bonus points going into the playoffs. Sixteen drivers now have a shot at the Championship, but over the next weeks they will be eliminated until only four drivers will battle it out at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Truex leads with 21 points over Kyle Larson, who holds a slim three-point margin over Kyle Busch. The next 13 drivers are separated by very small amounts and any of these drivers can advance by winning one of these next races. In order they are Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray. This should be a great battle to see who can be named the first Monster Energy Cup series Champion.

Please take a moment and pray for the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and much of the southeastern U.S. I also ask for you to remember the wife and family and fans of one of the very best dirt track racers in the country. At 3:16 a.m. Tuesday morning Mike Duvall passed from this life to Heaven.

Mike was well-known and had won numerous Super Late Model races and championships, including The World 100 at Eldora and races at the storied Pennsboro WV Raceway, along with tracks all over the southeast. He was one of the toughest competitors I have ever seen.

When that Yellow and Red Number F1 Flintstone Flyer rolled through the gates it usually meant you were racing for second place that evening! Mike had retired from driving due to some back issues several years ago but he continued to give back to the sport, helping young drivers with his Duvall Race Driving school based at the Cherokee Speedway in his hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina.

Mike became a born-again Christian and was very involved in spreading the Gospel through preaching and witnessing to racers and fans until he began to suffer with Alzheimer’s disease for the last several months.

John 3:16 was his favorite Bible verse and it was so fitting that he left this world at 3:16 a.m.

God’s speed, Mike, and at the end of the straightaway there’s Another Left Turn, and you can bet he took it hammer down and wide open.