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Long: Three thoughts on Richmond race

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 12, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

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RICHMOND, Va. - Joe Gibbs Racing again showed little weakness and will be the favorite entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup after Matt Kenseth won, Kyle Busch finished second, Denny Hamlin placed sixth and Carl Edwards was 11th. At one point all Gibbs cars ran in the top four spots. Gibbs cars were in the top three positions a good part of the night. Gibbs has the potent combination of speed, handling and a fast pit crew. Nothing on Saturday showed that they had regressed.

Signs of life? Hendrick Motorsports has led only seven laps since the Daytona race on July 4th weekend. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have not led a lap since that race. Johnson showed some strength, climbing up to the top five but had nothing for the top Gibbs cars and fell back to ninth. Earnhardt was pleased with how he worked his way up to a fifth-place finish. Jeff Gordon placed seventh. It’s a step in the right direction for Hendrick, but car owner Rick Hendrick’s teams clearly are not the fastest entering the Chase. That’s OK. As Hendrick told Gordon on the radio after the race: “Now we start a brand new deal.’’ Said Gordon: “I look forward to that. We needed a reset.’’

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They used to call Richmond International Raceway the “Action Track.” How times have changed. Matt Kenseth won Saturday night’s after leading 352 of 400 laps. Kurt Busch won at Richmond in the spring after leading 291 laps. Brad Keselowski led 383 laps to win this event a year ago. Here’s hoping the low-downforce package - or something similar - is used at this track next year and creates more excitement so the track’s nickname can return.

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