RICHMOND, Va. -- NASCAR will have a new champion at the end of the season. For now, it has yet another conspiracy.

Reigning champion Brad Keselowski failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Saturday night when an ill-timed caution ruined his run at Richmond International Raceway. Same thing happened to Ryan Newman, who used a pass on eventual winner Carl Edwards with 10 laps to go to take the lead for what should have been enough to get him into the Chase.

Then Clint Bowyer spun three laps later to bring out a caution that ruined Newman's race. The benefactor? Martin Truex Jr., Bowyer's teammate at Michael Waltrip Racing, who struggled the entire race.

Newman and Truex were locked into a race for the second of two wild cards in the 12-driver Chase field, and the race win would give it to Newman. Only he lost the lead on pit road, wound up finishing third, and Truex grabbed the final spot in the Chase.

Conspiracy theorists immediately accused Bowyer of spinning on purpose to help his teammate.

A despondent Newman wasn't sure.

"They are teammates. I don't know if he looked at the scoring pylon, knew I was leading, it doesn't matter," Newman said. "If that was the case, I'll find out one way or the other. At the same time we still had the opportunity to make our own destiny and win it on pit road, and we didn't. That being said, we're out."

Truex, who broke his right wrist two weeks ago in a crash at Bristol and has been racing with a cast, said he had no idea who even caused the caution.

"I don't know. I don't have any thoughts on it. I raced my (butt) off all night long, that's all I can do. I didn't even know (Bowyer) brought out the caution until after the race."

Bowyer, who led 72 laps earlier in the race, denied any wrongdoing and said he simply lost the handling on his car. He said it was no different than Jimmie Johnson, who hit the wall earlier in the race to bring out the caution that jumbled the field and ultimately ruined Keselowski's Chase bid.

"I think we had something going wrong. We went from a car capable of winning the race, leading, to ... just went straight backwards," Bowyer said. "My car was tight as hell, (Johnson) blew a tire and hit the wall. I'm telling you, I was the next one. I know it's a lot of fun for you guys to write a lot of whacky things. Go ahead if you want to, get creative. But don't look too much into it."

Bowyer's explanation seemed suspicious, at least according to a replay ESPN showed of him immediately after the race. It was the view from the in-car camera in his Toyota, and included his team communications.

"Thirty-nine is going to win the race," Bowyer is told about Newman.

"Well, that kind of sucks," Bowyer replied.

"Is your arm starting to hurt?" crew chief Brian Pattie asked. After a pause, Pattie said, "I bet it's hot in there. Itch it."

Bowyer's car then spun.

"We had a flat tire or something," Bowyer said. "It just snapped around."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was right behind Bowyer when he spun, wasn't so sure.

"He just spun right out. That's the craziest thing I ever saw," Earnhardt said. "He just came around. I don't know if they can put up his brakes and his gas. We got all the technology. But he was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don't know what was going on."

Kasey Kahne claimed the first wild-card berth, and Joey Logano, Keselowski's teammate at Penske Racing, qualified for the Chase for the first time in his career, by rounding out the top 10 in points. Logano edged four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon for the final spot in the field.

Edwards darted past Paul Menard on a restart with three laps remaining. Kurt Busch finished second to make Furniture Row Racing the first single-car organization to make the Chase.

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