Denny Hamlin has been right up with Kyle Larson for the top spot in the NASCAR Cup Series all season long, despite having no race wins to his name.
He finally picked up that elusive first-place finish at the perfect time, claiming the checkered flag at Darlington Raceway in the first playoff race to immediately vault himself to the top of the playoff standings and ensure he makes the next round.
But after Darlington, the stakes rose up for Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, William Byron and Michael McDowell. After the Cook Out Southern 500, those four moved below the cutline. Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders race at the Richmond Raceway could go a long way toward deciding who is really in the driver’s seat heading into the final race in the Round of 16 next week at Bristol.
Sporting News will track live updates and sharing highlights all race from the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at the Richmond Raceway.
NASCAR at Richmond live updates, highlights from Federated Auto Parts 400
9:47 p.m.: The green flag is back out with 156 laps to go.
9:43 p.m.: Coming off pit road, Hamlin, Truex, Busch, Larson and Bell are the first five to start the third stage.
9:38 p.m.: Hamlin wins the second stage. Busch, Truex, Larson, Logano are the next four drivers across the line.
9:38 p.m.: Elliott has passed Byron with three laps to go in the second stage.
9:37 p.m.: Hamlin is trying to pass Byron, who is currently sitting in 13th. Hamlin eventually moved out in front, and now Byron is in position to be the free pass.
9:35 p.m.: This is going to be something to watch for Elliott as Hamlin continues to lap cars.
With Chase a lap down, he has to do everything he can to be the first car one lap down.
If he can do that, he will receive the “free pass” on the next caution and be back on the lead lap
— NASCAR Nation (@NASCARNation) September 12, 2021
9:31 p.m.: Hamlin might be about to put Austin Dillon a lap down as well as he continues to look strong near the end of the second stage.
9:30 p.m.: Larson has rejoined the top five as he moves past Chastain on 132.
9:28 p.m.: Elliott is about to be put a lap down again as Hamlin nears him on lap 210.
9:24 p.m.: Aric Almirola has moved up to sixth place. He’s quietly been moving up the leaderboard, and now sits between Chastain in fifth and Larson in sixth on lap 203.
9:20 p.m.: Hamlin lets Elliott move in front to unlap himself.
9:19 p.m.: After several leaders stopped on pit road, Hamlin is now up front with Busch, Truex, Logano and Chastain behind him.
9:18 p.m.: Larson, after leading for a few laps, has taken a pit stop. Elliott is now a lap down from Hamlin.
9:17 p.m.: Some issues for Elliott on pit road as he now sustains damage to the car as he drives over the jack. The stop wound up costing him some time.
9:16 p.m.: Now most of the leaders are heading into pit road as well with Hamlin, Elliott, Busch, Chastain and others going to pit road.
9:15 p.m.: Hamlin and Elliott continuing to battle for first as a few cars head to pit road, including Truex on lap 180.
9:14 p.m.: Larson is back in the top five as he passes Logano to move into fifth place. He’s still about 7.5 seconds back of Elliott.
9:08 p.m.: Hamlin avoids some contact as Elliott races out to the front with 73 laps remaining in the stage. Aggressive move on the inside to pass Hamlin.
9:07 p.m.: Halfway through Stage 2, the top five are Hamlin, Elliott, Busch, Logano and Chastain, the latter of whom is the only non-playoff driver in the top 14.
9:04 p.m.: In the 152 laps so far, Hamlin has been in the lead for 100.
8:58 p.m.: Hamlin is the leader after most of the field wound up going to pit road. Elliott, Chastain, Logano and Busch round out the top five.
8:57 p.m.: Michael McDowell was penalized for speeding on pit road.
8:56 p.m.: Larson stops for pit road on 136.
8:55 p.m.: Hamlin and Tyler Reddick head to pit road on lap 132 — 52 of 155 in Stage 2. He’s the first playoff driver to go to pit road, and now a number of others are starting to follow his lead, including Elliott, who had been in the lead.
8:51 p.m.: Busch makes some contact with Logano trying to move up, but Logano is still holding strong.
8:49 p.m.: Busch has now moved up ahead of Truex and is starting to gain on Logano for a spot in the top five on lap 118.
8:47 p.m.: Larson has now dropped down to eighth with Truex and Kyle Busch both passing him.
8:41 p.m.: Keselowski moves up in front of Logano to slide into third place.
8:40 p.m.: Keselowski and Ross Chastain have both passed Larson to move the regular-season winner down into sixth place.
8:39 p.m.: Elliott finally gets out in front of Hamlin for the lead on lap 91.
8:38 p.m.: Hamlin gets a strong launch on the inside to stay in first. Elliott is pushing from the outside, but he can’t get past him on the restart.
8:37 p.m.: Daniel Suarez is handed an equipment interference penalty, the second time a driver has been hit with one tonight.
8:34 p.m.: Hamlin, Elliott, Logano, Larson, Keselowski are the first five off pit road.
8:30 p.m.: Hamlin wins the first stage with considerable ease, placing in nearly five seconds ahead of Elliott. Logano, Larson and Blaney round out the top five.
8:28 p.m.: Larson with another pass, this time moving past Blaney to reach fourth.
8:27 p.m.: Larson cruises past Brad Keselowski on the left with ease to move up into fifth place.
8:26 p.m.: Blaney, Logano and Elliott all battling it out for second place. Logano is fighting from the inside while Elliott had been riding outside. For now, it’s Logano who has moved up to second behind Hamlin with nine laps left in the first stage.
8:23 p.m.: After an early penalty, Truex is also making his way up. Truex is in 11th, while Larson has continued to move up to eighth on lap 64.
8:21 p.m.: Kurt Busch on the NBC Sports broadcast says that he’s alright, but noted that he now feels like he needs a win in Bristol to keep his season going.
8:19 p.m.: Kyle Larson has quietly moved his way up the board. He’s moved all the way up to 10th on lap 56 after starting the race in the rear.
8:16 p.m.: There’s the restart and Hamlin immediately reclaims the lead on lap 48.
8:13 p.m.: No other drivers were collected in the crash. Bubba Wallace ran over the tire and had it wedged under his car, however.
8:11 p.m.: Busch heads off the track in an ambulance for checkups so his day is done.
8:10 p.m.: Caution flag comes out as Kurt Busch has a left rear flat tire. Huge crash into the wall.
8:08 p.m.: The green flag is back out. Hamlin and Kurt Busch start out battling for first, but Hamlin cuts ahead from the outside. Busch is still trying to pass him on the inside, but Hamlin isn’t giving him the space.
8:08 p.m.: Kyle Busch assessed a penalty for equipment interference.
8:05 p.m.: Kurt Busch is the first off pit road, Hamlin moves down to second with Logano and Harvick in third and fourth.
8:03 p.m.: Competition caution is brought out at lap 31.
8:00 p.m.: Kyle Busch moved up into 11th after running three-wide with William Byron and Alex Bowman. Both Hendrick drivers are fighting for their playoff lives as neither are above the cutline, as is the case with Busch.
7:56 p.m.: Hamlin has been leading through the first 15 laps of the race. Kurt Busch and Joey Logano are riding right behind him.
7:52 p.m.: Martin Truex Jr. has to drive onto pit road after beating Denny Hamlin, the leader, to the starting line.
7:51 p.m.: There’s the green flag and the race is officially underway.
7:46 p.m.: Fans at the Richmond Raceway are waving American flags to honor first responders and the lives lost on 9/11.
7:40 p.m.: Hometown heroes from Virginia have given the command to drivers.
7:33 p.m.: The Henrico Fire Choir now singing the national anthem ahead of the start of tonight’s race.
7:17 p.m.: Before the race, NBC Sports took a look back at the first NASCAR race after 9/11.
7:10 p.m.: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is working overtime today. After finishing 14th in the Go Bowling 250, Earnhardt will be headed up to the booth for the call tonight.
7 p.m.: Kyle Larson will start in the rear of tonight’s race after his car failed pre-race inspection.
NASCAR start time today
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET (TV time)
- TV channel: NBCSN (TSN5 in Canada)
- Live stream: NBCSports.com | NBC Sports App | fuboTV (7-day free trial)
The green flag for Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Richmond Raceway’s 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval is scheduled to drop at 7:45 p.m. ET.
Weather is not expected to be a concern. The National Weather Service’s forecast for Richmond, Va., calls for clear skies, light winds and the temperature falling into the low 60s on Saturday night, after a sunny afternoon with a high temperature in the low 80s.
NASCAR Cup playoff standings
Denny Hamlin became the first driver this year to clinch a second-round when he won at Darlington. Runner-up driver Kyle Larson increased his playoff points lead and four playoff drivers suffered big hits in the standings after crashing out at the track that’s “Too Tough to Tame.”
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||2062|
x-Clinched berth in Round of 12.
NASCAR starting lineup at Richmond
Here is the complete NASCAR strating lineup for Saturday’s playoff race at Richmond Raceway, the Federated Auto Parts 400.
|1||P-Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports|
|2||P-Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|3||P-Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|4||P-Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|5||P-Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|6||P-Joey Logano||22||Team Penske|
|7||P-Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske|
|8||P-Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske|
|9||P-Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|10||P-Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|11||P-Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing|
|12||P-Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports|
|13||P-Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports|
|14||P-William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports|
|15||P-Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|16||P-Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports|
|17||Ross Chastain||42||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|18||Chris Buescher||17||Roush Fenway Racing|
|19||Austin Dillon||3||Richard Childress Racing|
|20||Ryan Preece||37||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|21||Cole Custer||41||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|22||Daniel Suarez||99||TrackHouse Racing|
|23||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|24||Ryan Newman||6||Roush Fenway Racing|
|25||Corey LaJoie||7||Spire Motorsports|
|26||Chase Briscoe||14||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|27||Bubba Wallace||23||23XI Racing|
|28||Matt DiBenedetto||21||Wood Brothers Racing|
|29||Justin Haley||77||Spire Motorsports|
|30||Anthony Alfredo||38||Front Row Motorsports|
|31||Erik Jones||43||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|32||BJ McLeod||78||Live Fast Motorsports|
|33||Josh Bilicki||52||Rick Ware Racing|
|34||Joey Gase||15||Rick Ware Racing|
|35||Quin Houff||00||StarCom Racing|
|36||Garrett Smithley||51||Petty Ware Racing|
|37||JJ Yeley||53||Rick Ware Racing|