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posted April 22, 2018
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Blaney Gets First Cup Win
Furnished by NASCAR

Kyle Busch At Richmond
Furnished By NASCAR
Hodges News Service
RICHMOND, Vir.--Kyle Busch pulled away from the rest of the field on a late restart, beating Chase Elliott to the checkered flag in a green-white-checkered finish to record his fifth victory at the .75-mile short track and the 46th of his career.
   Busch started 32nd after a poor qualifying effort. That was the deepest in the field a winner had ever started at Richmond. Pit stops were a crucial part of his victory. While he avoided trouble, it was his pit crew that put him in position to win the race. During four pit stops in the last 40 laps of the 400-lap race, his team got him back on the track either in the order in which he came in, or advanced his position.
   Fast work by his team moved him up to second behind Martin Truex Jr. on lap 365.  There was another caution on lap 378. He came in second, and went out first. He led for the remainder of the race.
   “We just had to work, man,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “All these guys, everybody on this No. 18 M&Ms team, they do a great job for me. I can't say enough for (crew chief) Adam Stevens and my guys.
The pit crew crew won this race for us tonight. They got us off pit road first those last two times we came down for tires. They got us where we needed to be.”
  Elliott finished second for the eighth-time in his career, improving from seventh to second over a succession of restarts, passing Denny Hamlin for the runner-up spot after a Lap 401 restart in the GWC finish.
   “Just very fortunate circumstances there at the end for us, with the way the restarts went,” Elliott said. “Having a short run there at the end was definitely in our favor. So it was nice to be on the good end of things for the first time in a while.”
   Denny Hamlin was third, followed by Joey Logano, who won both the first and second stages before the handling on his car went south. Kevin Harvick ran fifth, overcoming a penalty when one of his crewmen threw pit equipment across his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion during a stop under caution.
   Jimmie Johnson ran sixth after brushing the outside wall early in the race, losing a lap on the track and suffering through a lengthy pit stop that sent him to the back of the field. Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez completed the top-10.
   It was an especially disappointing night for Truex, who led a race high 121 laps. His pit crew operated the exact opposite of Kyle Busch's. Each time Truex would pit, he lost positions. He came in first on lap 378 and went out in 11th. The slow pit stops probably cost him the win. He wound up finishing the race back in 14th.
   Top-10 leaders after 9 of 36: 1. Kyle Busch-415, 2. Logano-359, 3. Bowyer-329, 4. Harvick-324, 5. Keselowski-302, 6. Hamlin-286, 7. Truex-284, 8. Blaney-282, 9. Kurt Busch-282, 10. Larson-279.
   Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson,  two Joe Gibbs' Toyota drivers finished first and second, respectively in Friday's Xfinity Series race at Richmond. Elliott Sadler was third, followed by Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Ryan Truex, Jeremy Clements, Ryan Reed, and Brandon Jones.
   Top-10 leaders after 8 of 33: 1. Sadler-311, 2. Bell-282, 3. Reddick-280, 4. Hemric-273, 5. Allgaier-263, 6. Custer-263, 7. R. Truex-242, 8. Gallagher-228, 9. B. Jones-227, 10. Tifft-213.
   Tony Stewart settled a wrongful death lawsuit this past week brought by the parents of Kevin Ward Jr. for an undisclosed amount.
   Kevin Ward Jr., died on Aug. 9, 2014 from injuries he sustained following an accident with Tony Stewart . During the race, Ward's car was spun out by Stewart. Ward climbed out of his car and walked back on the track. The rear end of Stewart's car struck Ward and dragged him across the track.
. The Wards alleged that Stewart recklessly handled his race car and maneuvered toward their 20-year-old son, who had gotten out of his car and approached Stewart's car under caution during the race at Canandaigua (New York) Motorsports Park.
   While neither Stewart or the Ward family would comment on the actual dollar settlement, it likely exceeded $1-million.
   Pamela Ward said in court that they didn't have the financial means to proceed toward trial, and she felt she had no choice but to settle.
   Attorney Mark Lanier told USA Today that the settlement would have been more than the family could have expected to receive if it had won the case and then expenses were deducted.
   If the family had won at trial, Stewart would have appealed the verdict based on liability waivers, Ward and his father, as the car owner, signed prior to the race. U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd ruled the waivers as unenforceable, but if an appeals court reversed that controversial ruling, a new trial could have been conducted -- and could've put the Wards on the hook for Stewart's legal fees.
   Meanwhile, Charlotte Motor Speedway announced a new format for the May 19 non-points All-Star race at Charlotte.
   The 80-lap race will feature four stages of 30, 20, 20, and 10 laps respectively.  While the format has changed practically every season since the first one in 1985, this one also includes some new twists.
   For the first time, teams will use restrictor plates. In the past, the only two tracks where the plates are used is at Daytona and Talladega. The cars will also have modifications to the air ducts and rear spoilers.
   By restricting air flow through the engine and creating more drag with the rear spoiler, NASCAR hopes to create a drafting dynamic similar to Daytona, where drivers can be three-wide or four-wide and run a similar speed.
   “From a fan's perspective, it's a home run,” said Ricky Craven, former driver and now ESPN racing analyst. “These new changes have already created an intrigue and curiosity around an event that has been lacking in excitement for years. I think it will satisfy the fans, because it will be different from anything we've seen at Charlotte. With the reduced horsepower and significantly increased drag, we have the potential for full-throttle racing, increased drafting and three-wide racing. I truly believe the fans will win with this package, and I expect to hear some moaning and groaning from drivers throughout the All-Star weekend. Let's give it a chance, I'm all in.”
Weekly Racing Joke: Denny Hamlin was jogging down the sidewalk one day when his friend, Aric Almirola, rode up in a shiny new sports car.   Hamlin was stunned by his friend's sweet ride and asked, “Wow Where did you get such a nice car?”   Almirola replied, “Well, yesterday I was walking home, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up to me. She threw open the driver's door, took off all her clothes and said, 'Take what you want!'”   Hamlin nodded approvingly, “Good choice. The clothes probably wouldn't have fit.”
Weekend Racing: It's on to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, the longest track on the circuit. The Truck Series does not race again until May 4.
Sat., Apr. 28; Xfinity Series race 9 of 33; Starting time: 3 pm ET; TV: Fox.
Sun., Apr. 29; Cup Series race 10 of 36; Starting time: 2 pm ET; TV: Fox.
   Racing Trivia Question: Where is Kevin Harvick's hometown?
   Last Week's Question: Which Cup team does Ricky Stenhouse drive for? He drives the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford.
   Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR photojournalist and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: