Back Seat Driver

Back Seat Driver: Richmond

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*Editorís Note* Every Monday, after every race weekend, contributing writer Jacob Mullins will recap the top story lines from the track in our weekly feature, Back Seat Driver.

ANOTHER NXS WIN BY A CUP DRIVER

I know you are tired of hearing about this, and frankly, Iím tired of writing it. Another non-XFINITY regular wins. This weekend, it was hometown hero, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin led 248 of 250 laps in Friday nightís Toyota Care 250 from Richmond International Raceway. The two laps he didnít led were done by XFINITY regulars Brian Scott and Elliott Sadler. The lap led by Scott was the first lap since lap 130 at Texas Motor Speedway that an XFINITY regular paced the field.

I understand why companies want names they can associate with their brands, but this is out of control. The only race this year won by a XFINTIY regular was Ryan Reedís surprising victory in Daytona. Other than his win, the whole ďCup LightĒ moniker is in full effect. Last weekend in Bristol it was Joey Logano leading all 300 laps and Hamlin this weekend.

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow media member at Richmond about can be done. Frankly, there is a lot that can be done, and NASCAR has instituted rules in the last could of years to help with this issues, but in my opinion, it isnít enough. I believe that NASCAR should put a limit on how many races a non-series point earner can compete in. This would be good because if you cap the number at seven, I can tell you the seven races that most drivers will want to get into: both Daytona races, Atlanta, both Talladega races, Bristol and Texas. This way we can see what talent is really in the two lower tier series and give up and comers a shot.

On the other hand, I donít think NASCAR will make further changes because then that would hinder their bottom line and revenue. If companies and corporations donít get the big name drivers to support their brands, there is a good chance that they would leave the sport, and that in turn hurts NASCAR.

UP IN FLAMES

In Friday nightís XFINITY race, crew members from Brendan Gaughan and Eric McClureís pit teams were transported to the hospital after a fireball erupted in the No. 62 South Pointís pit stall during a yellow flag. Shane Wilson, crew chief for Gaughan, said the fire was caused by a malfunction on the head of the gas can, which prevented the nozzle from sealing flush. Wilson met with NASCAR officials after the race to examine the faulty fuel filler. The rear tire changer had the fireball ignite right in his face and seemed to be the most injured.

Friday night, the crew member for McClure was released while the two from Gaughanís team remained in the hospital. Saturday, it was announced that one of the remaining two was being released while the third was staying for more observation. I havenít heard any reports of the third crew member being released at this time.

This was a scary scene on pit road. I commend and applaud the safety workers that jumped into action to take care of the injured. The job that the drivers, crews and service workers do at the tracks is dangerous and itís a shame that it takes an incident like this for people to remember that. Iím glad that it seems that everyone will be okay and back with their teamís shortly.

KURT BUSCH WINS, FINALLY

Letís be honest, we all knew it was going to happen. The only question was, when. After being reinstated by NASCAR after the third race of the season, Busch has been a man on a mission. In just three races he has one win, three top-5ís, three top-10ís and six top-15ís, plus a pair of poles.

Busch has been fast, but until Sunday, he hasnít been able to close. Leading 291 of the 400 laps, it was a full-points day for the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet team. With the win and the waiver NASCAR has agreed to give him, Busch has pretty much wrapped-up a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. This is Buschís 26th win in NASCARís top-tier racing circuit, and I bet with all the off-season issues he was in, No. 26 has to be one of the sweetest and most rewarding wins of his career.

So, now the focus is on the fifty-percent of Stewart-Haas Racing not locked into the chase.

STEWART-HAAS RACING???

What is going wrong at SHR? With Kevin Harvick and Busch both with wins, the rest of the focus now needs to be given to Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick. Some say it is the driver, some say itís the team and other say itís the management. No matter what it is, for two of the most recognizable names in the sport, something needs to change, and it needs to change for the better, FAST!

Stewart is currently in his biggest slump of his career. With his last win coming at the fall race in Dover in 2013, Stewart is in a 50-race winless streak. In two years, 42 races, he has only three top-5ís and eight top-10ís. Stewart has one top-10 in 2015, a sixth place finish at Bristol, but have six finished 20th or worse with a 41st finish at Richmond and a 42nd finish at Daytona.

Saw what you will about Patrick. Off to best start of her career, the driver of the NO. 10 Go Daddy Chevrolet has a lot to be happy with, but she shouldnít be content. She has a pair of twop-10ís this season and after last weekendís race at Bristol, she set a new record for top-10ís by a woman, six. She may be happy with that record, but we all know she wants that covenanted win. Until that happens, I donít see Patrick making the Chase, although she is currently 16th in points.

MCMURRAY STAYS IMPRESSIVE

Jamie McMurray continues to impress this season. In nine races, the No. 1 McDonaldís Chevrolet team has two top-5ís, three top-10ís and six top-15. Currently sitting in ninth place in the championship standings, McMurray has an average finish of 15 this season.

Some may not see this as impressive as I do. However, driving for a Chevrolet team that isnít named Hendrick or Stewart-Haas and have these numbers is deserving of some praise. Also, letís not forget that his teammate, Kyle Larson, has three top-10ís this season, too.

BACK TO FRONT

After a dismal qualifying effort by a pair of Hendrick Motorsports drivers, that duo bounced back on Sunday and posted a pair of top-10ís. Jimmie Johnson started the Toyota Owners 400 from 36th before driving through the field and fishing 3rd. Kasey Kahne, who started 40th, took home sixth place Sunday, and was credited with 74-green flag passes.

This is a huge accomplishment for both drivers. Despite their equipment, to from form the back of the pack to the front is impressive, especially on a short-track where so many cars get lapped. On average, following a restart on Sunday, it took 19 laps for a car to get lapped. Within the first 50 laps of Sundayís race, both drivers were nearly 20 spots better than where they started. Kudos to both teams!

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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