Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 128 of 149 laps in Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 en route to a dominant victory at Richmond International Raceway.
The win marked Junior's first of the season in NASCAR's No. 2 series, his first Xfinity Series triumph since 2010 overall and his first victory while driving his own car for JR Motorsports.
En route to taking the checkered flag, Earnhardt held off Ty Dillon, who took home $100,000 as the highest finisher among Dash 4 Cash qualifiers.
Here is a rundown of how the rest of the top 10 played out Saturday with full results available at NASCAR.com:
|ToyotaCare 250 Results|
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
Daniel Suarez entered the race with a six-point lead for first place in the standings over Erik Jones, and thanks to a fourth-place finish to go along with a disappointing 34th-place result for Jones, he extended his advantage:
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Standings After Richmond|
|10||Darrell Wallace Jr.||201||-79||0|
Jones captured the pole after winning the first Dash 4 Cash heat earlier in the day and led the first 17 laps of the race before Earnhardt pulled off an impressive pass on lap No. 18, as seen in this GIF, courtesy of NASCAR Xfinity:
The 41-year-old veteran never looked back from that point forward, as he led the rest of the way with few interruptions, but his convincing victory didn't come without some nervous moments.
Per JR Motorsports, Earnhardt had some concerns regarding the setup of his car just 10 laps after taking the lead:
No other driver could compete with Earnhardt during the lengthy green-flag run despite his car being a bit loose, but disaster very nearly struck with fewer than 40 laps remaining.
During a green-flag pit stop, Junior narrowly avoided crashing into Jones, which is an accident that almost certainly would have ended both drivers' hopes of taking the checkered flag, via Fox Sports 1:
After managing to escape that incident unscathed and maintain his lead off pit road, Earnhardt appeared to be home free and bound for victory lane.
The outlook changed on lap No. 125, however, when the first caution flag of the day came out because of Jones getting into the back of Mike Harmon's car:
That led to another round of green-flag pit stops, and Justin Allgaier managed to win the race off pit road and take the lead with just seven laps left:
Allgaier never got an opportunity to race it out, though, as he got loose immediately after the restart and was part of a significant wreck that involved nine cars, including Jones' No. 20:
The crash took quite some time to clean up, which led to nine extra laps and an overtime finish at Richmond International Raceway.
Earnhardt led the field to the start-finish line, and it was no contest from that point forward, as Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Co. never truly challenged for the top spot.
Saturday's win was a significant one for Earnhardt as an owner and driver, and it may also give him some positive vibes heading into Sunday's Sprint Cup race.
Junior has enjoyed a consistent and successful season in NASCAR's top series, but he has yet to win a race.
Although he is safely in the Chase currently, entering victory lane is the only way to guarantee a spot, and he may now have the confidence needed to do precisely that on Sunday.
Earnhardt seemingly had control of Saturday's race from wire to wire, but he admitted after the event that he wasn't confident that he would come out on top during the closing laps, according to Reid Spencer of NASCAR.com: "Those last couple of laps, we were real loose in the corner. I thought Ty was going to get to me—he tried to get to me. When we got to [Turn 3], we drove into the corner wide-open."
While Dillon wasn't quite able to overtake Junior, he was happy with his team's effort due in part to the Dash 4 Cash, and hopeful for bigger and better things moving forward, per Jim Utter of Motorsport.com:
Winning the bonus is awesome. It's so much fun. I really enjoy the heat races—they really helped us today getting a good starting spot. ... This team is so strong and it's built by Nick Harrison. I'm so proud of all these guys. We came up a little bit short on the win today but we're going to get us one very soon.
A number of Xfinity Series regulars performed well Saturday against a field sprinkled with Cup drivers such as Earnhardt, and Dillon's performance certainly bodes well for the No. 3 team and the Xfinity Series' other top teams this season.
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