Keselowski Routs Richmond Field To Grab Top Seed In The Chase
RICHMOND, Va. -- Brad Keselowski routed the field Saturday night for his fourth win of the season, a victory that gives him the top seed in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Keselowski led all but 17 of the 400 laps at Richmond International Raceway, where the last race of the regular season never shaped up to be the thriller NASCAR hoped. A new win-and-in format this year could have created a dramatic final push for a driver to make the Chase, but nobody had anything for Keselowski.
Keselowski came to Richmond a year ago needing a strong finish to make the Chase field, but failed and was not eligible to defend his title. Now he'll try to give Team Penske a season sweep -- Will Power gave the organization the IndyCar championship a week ago.
There were two spots up for grab in the 16-driver Chase field, but Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle pretty much entered the race in control of their own fate. Newman never left anything to chance with a strong ninth-place finish, and Biffle slid into the final spot with a 19-place finish.
Jeff Gordon, the points leader for much of the regular season, finished second. Clint Bowyer, who needed to win to guarantee his Chase berth, was a disappointing third.
Bowyer was caught in the middle of a scandal at this race a year ago when his late-race spin set in motion a chain of events that helped then-teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the Chase at the expense of Newman. NASCAR eventually threw Truex out of the Chase, put Newman in and added Gordon as an additional driver.
Defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson finished eighth but was apparently suffering from dehydration when he exited the car. He first laid down next to his car, then had to be helped to a cart by his Hendrick Motorsports crew. He was taken to the infield care center.
Johnson was scheduled to compete Sunday in a sprint triathlon for his foundation.
Tony Stewart, in his second race back since he sat out three after his sprint car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a New York dirt track, finished 15th. He would have been eligible to compete in the Chase if he won Saturday night's race based on a waiver NASCAR gave him upon his return last week. The three-time champion had cracked the top 10 but his crew missed a lug nut on a late pit stop that took him out of contention.
NASCAR was forced to call a caution with 71 laps remaining because a fan had climbed to the top of the catchfence that separates the track and grandstands. Most of the field used the break to pit and Keselowski remained in control.
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