Carl Edwards won the Richmond NASCAR Sprint Cup race as the Chase field was set and Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski headlined those missing out.
Kurt Busch sealed his and the underdog Furniture Row’s Chase place with a battling runner-up spot, while Ryan Newman narrowly missed out on a title shot despite a storming late-race performance that ended with third place.
For most of the evening the lead fight was between Kurt Busch and Keselowski, in a fascinating contest that varied as their cars surged or slumped across stints and Furniture Row either had sublime or troubled pit stops. Keselowski dropped out of contention when the yellow came out midway through the penultimate pit stop sequence following a crash for Jimmie Johnson. The same misfortune also interrupted Kevin Harvick’s victory bid just as he had hit the front, with both having pitted and dropped back moments before the caution.
Into the closing stages Roush Fenway driver Edwards and Kurt Busch were making the running, until Newman suddenly began a blistering charge from seventh to first. A win would have cemented his Chase place, but when Clint Bowyer another earlier leader spun in the final laps, the leaders all pitted and Newman fell back again.
He could only get back to third, as Edwards beat Paul Menard (who took just two tires at the stops) away at the final restart and then held Busch at bay to clinch a win that made him top scorer of the “regular” season..
Jamie McMurray was competitive throughout on the way to fourth ahead of Menard and brief race leader Matt Kenseth. Martin Truex Jr. scapped to seventh place and therefore earned the final Chase wild card spot on a tie-break over Newman.
Polesitter Gordon led for the first 49 laps then began tumbling backwards with high tire wear. A loose wheel then left him two laps down and outside the top 20, before he fought back to an eighth place that was not quite sufficient for the Chase.
Keselowski’s hopes of a successful title defense faded away as he ultimately finished only 17th. His Penske teammate Joey Logano was off the pace all night and finished a distant 22nd, but clung on to a Chase spot.
It was a terrible race for erstwhile outright points leader Johnson. Having missed qualifying due to the birth of his second daughter, Johnson struggled to make any progress from the back. A pitlane speeding penalty and a battery problem delayed him further even before his tire-induced crash.
Results - 400 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 2h51m53.000s 2. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +0.669s 3. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +0.812s 4. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +1.766s 5. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +2.024s 6. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +2.124s 7. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +2.310s 8. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +2.520s 9. Mark Martin Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2.889s10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +2.925s11. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +3.027s12. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +3.103s13. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +3.363s14. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +3.520s15. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Toyota +3.643s16. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +3.694s17. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +3.745s18. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +4.011s19. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +4.907s20. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +5.241s21. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +1 lap22. Joey Logano Penske Ford +1 lap23. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +1 lap24. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota +1 lap25. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +2 laps26. Casey Mears Germain Ford +3 laps27. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +3 laps28. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +3 laps29. David Ragan Front Row Ford +3 laps30. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +4 laps31. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +4 laps32. David Reutimann BK Toyota +5 laps33. Tony Raines Circle Sport Chevrolet +5 laps34. Landon Cassill Hillman Chevrolet +5 laps35. Ryan Truex Phoenix Chevrolet +5 laps36. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +7 laps37. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford +7 laps38. David Stremme Swan Toyota +9 laps39. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota +12 laps40. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +28 lapsRetirements: Josh Wise Front Row Ford 142 laps Reed Sorenson Leavine Ford 126 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 76 laps