The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup field poses for a photo with the trophy after the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday. (Reuters)
RICHMOND, Va. — Carl Edwards won Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the final qualifying race for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
But it was who failed to make the Chase that overshadowed Edwards’ victory.
With nine drivers in contention to make six Chase-eligible spots heading into the race, four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon and defending Cup champ Brad Keselowski both came up short and will not be eligible to compete for this year’s crown.
Gordon missed the Chase for the second time in his career, failing to qualify by just one point.
Keselowski, meanwhile, became the second former champion in the Chase’s 10-year history to win the title one year and fail to qualify to defend his crown the following year (Tony Stewart won in 2005 but failed to qualify in 2006).
The 12 drivers that will battle for the 2013 championship are Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr.
The battle for the final two spots in the Chase changed and was decided on the final caution when Clint Bowyer spun coming out of turn four to bring out the yellow flag with seven laps to go.
Ryan Newman was the leader at that point and in position to earn the second wild-card spot in the Chase with his second win of the season.
Gordon, meanwhile, was two points to the good over Joey Logano and had raced his way into the 10th spot in the standings.
But neither Newman nor Gordon ended the night in the Chase.
Newman entered the pits first on the final caution, but exited fifth. He managed to work his way back up to third by the time the checkered flag fell, but lost to Truex in the tiebreaker based upon a second-place finish Truex had at Texas back in April.
Logano, meanwhile, took the wave around during the caution and moved up four spots in the standings to finish 22nd and edge Gordon, who finished eighth, by one spot in the battle for 10th place in the standings.
Edwards appeared to jump the final restart with three laps to go, and there was also controversy that Bowyer may have intentionally caused the caution by spinning out on purpose to help his Michael Waltrip teammate Truex.
“My pit crew won this race for us,” Edwards said. “They got us out second, ahead of the 39 (Newman). We were the first one with four tires. I knew the 27 (Paul Menard) had only changed two and would not be good on the restart.”
Menard, who came out first, agreed that the two-tire gamble left him in a tough spot on the restart.
“I thought I had an okay start (but) Carl’s was just better,” Menard said.
Newman, who will be leaving Stewart-Haas Racing at season’s end for points unknown, also questioned Bowyer’s spinout.
Newman said he had no idea “if the 15 (Bowyer) was in contact with his team about his teammate. But we had a chance to win the race on pit road. We could have won the race on pit road. Instead, we lost it on pit road.
“We did everything that we needed (racing his way from fifth to first) until that yellow. We just didn’t do the job on pit road.”