Only one driver among those losing starting spots finish in the top 10 at Richmond

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 13: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, races during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 13, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Normally when the top drivers are forced to start in the back of the field many times they come back to win.  Kyle Busch did it at Richmond in 2018; Matt Kenseth famously came from the back of the field to win the Daytona 500 in a backup car in 2009.

Saturday a total of 8 cars failed pre-race inspection prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Toyota Owners 400. Several were top drivers including Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Eric Jones and Aric Almirola.

There would be no dramatic comeback stories Saturday night, however.  Johnson, Suarez and Jones did spend part of the race inside the top 10. None though were able to finish there.

Johnson finished 12th; Jones 14th, Elliott 15th, Suarez 18th and Almirola 23rd.

The only driver to break into the top 10 and stay there was Denny Hamlin.  Hamlin fought his way forward and was fifth with 15 laps to go.  That’s where he stayed for his 8th top 10 of the season.

“We really closed on the leaders there at the end,” Hamlin said. “We were fast, really fast the last 20 laps. We just didn’t have enough time. We battled from the back and really couldn’t gain a whole lot on restarts, but just really grinded our way two or three positions each run and found our way up in the top five there at the end. I could at least see the leaders.”

“I think we maximized what we had out of our car,” he added. “We just didn’t quite have the car to battle with those guys until late in the day and by then they had just built too big of a lead.”

Greg Engle