It came down to a late race restart but Carl Edwards held off Kurt Busch to win the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway. It's Edwards' 21st career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and the second of his 2013 season. Edwards won the battle off pit road to get to the front row for the last restart and gave all the credit to his crew.
"Pit crew won this race for us. Awesome job by them," Edwards said about his pit crew. "Next few weeks we're gonna be good. They're gonna know we're here."
Edwards was second on the final restart with Paul Menard in the lead on the inside. Menard and Edwards made contact coming to get the green but Edwards beat Menard to the line. NASCAR ruled that since contact was made, that's why Edwards beat him to the line, therefore, there was no penalty.
Finishing in the second position was Kurt Busch. Busch made the Chase in his #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet for the first time in the teams' young history. Busch finished the season in the eighth position. Ryan Newman finished third, Jamie McMurray fourth and Paul Menard finished fifth. Finishing in the sixth position was Matt Kenseth. Martin Truex Jr finished in the seventh position. Truex made the Chase for the third time in his career. He beat Ryan Newman by a tie breaker for the second wildcard position. Jeff Gordon finished eighth, Mark Martin ninth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr finished in the tenth position.
Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch led the field to the green when the Federated Auto Parts 400 began. Gordon led and had Brad Keselowski follow behind in the second position. Gordon had the dominate car early and led the races' first 49 laps until Brad Keselowski closed in on the #24 Chevrolet and took the lead. Gordon quickly fell to the third position when Kurt Busch took the second position from Gordon.
Gordon would quickly fade as the first green flag run of the race continued to stretch and Gordon's car continued to fade. He was seventh by lap 65. On lap 66 Kurt Busch passed Brad Keselowski for the lead and he began to pull away from the field. On lap 71 Jimmie Johnson fell a lap down. Johnson had to go to the back of the field for the start of the race because he missed qualifying. The #48 car struggled all night long.
Johnson wasn't the only big named driver having problems. Joey Logano was dropping like a rock. Logano was in the 23rd position and it wasn't looking too good for Joey Logano as far as Chase circumstances go. Meanwhile in the front of the field Kurt Busch had a 1.2 second lead over second place driver Brad Keselowski.
A round of green flag pit stops began on lap 87. Jimmie Johnson pitted on lap 92 but was caught speeding coming off of pit road. When the pit stops cycled around on lap 98 Brad Keselowski found himself in the lead. Keselowski led until lap 105 when Matt Kenseth passed Brad Keselowski for the lead. Keselowski lost the second position to Kurt Busch and Busch put his eyes on Kenseth for the lead. Busch would take the lead on lap 110 and begin to pull away from the field.
Busch's lead would continue to grow. On lap 133 Busch's lead was 1.8 seconds over Matt Kenseth. On lap 136 the races' first caution of the night fell when debris was found in turn three.
The leaders pitted and Jamie McMurray's team got him off of pit road first and he led on the lap 141 restart. Brad Keselowski was on the outside and put pressure on McMurray as soon as the green flag fell. Keselowski got by McMurray for the lead a lap later and he led by over two seconds on lap 153. On lap 171 Kurt Busch began to show his muscle again. He would pass Clint Bowyer for third and on lap 180 Busch got McMurray for the second position.
Busch continued to be strong. When the halfway sign fell on the Federated Auto Parts 400 Keselowski's lead was trimmed to just under a half of a second. On lap 206 David Stremme would spin causing the races' second caution of the night. Stremme didn't hit anything and would continue. He finished 38th.
On the lap 215 restart Kurt Busch led the field to green as his team fought back from an earlier blunder to get him off pit road first and in the lead. Busch would pull away on the restart.
Meanwhile Jimmie Johnson's tough night would continue. Johnson would pit again on lap 218 and it was discovered that the #48 Chevrolet lost power. Johnson brought the car behind pit wall to fix the issue.
On lap 220 Brad Keselowski took the lead from Busch and Keselowski made easy work pulling away form the #78 Chevrolet. On lap 225 Jeff Gordon would have trouble. He had a bad vibration on the restart and thought it was a loose right front wheel. Gordon was right as the team discovered it was a loose wheel. Gordon would lose two laps and all Chase hopes for the #24 team were all but dead.
On lap 243 Keselowski's lead was 0.8 seconds over Kurt Busch. On lap 267 the races' third caution flag flew when debris was found on the backstretch. It was a huge break for Jeff Gordon as Gordon drove back to one lap down and then to the first car of the one lap down cars. That earned him the free pass car under the caution. That let Gordon back on the lead lap and back into contention.
Clint Bowyer's team got him off pit road first and he led the field to the restart on lap 274. Bowyer began to pull away from the field and had a second and a half lead over Keselowski by lap 298. On lap 307 Kevin Harvick began to become a player. Harvick worked his way through the field and was chasing down the leaders. Harvick moved to second passing Brad Keselowski with some contact and driving him up the track. He began to chase down Clint Bowyer for the lead.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 338 and it appeared that it was going to be a usual round of green flag stops. However, Jimmie Johnson's luck continued to run out and he blew a right front tire on lap 342 and hit the outside wall causing the races' fourth caution. Johnson made severe contact with the wall and he would finish 40th. Several cars had stopped already and had to take the wave around on the following restart. Other drivers stayed out and caught a huge break and would pit under the caution. Carl Edwards and Paul Menard won the race off pit road and led the field to green on the lap 350 restart.
Kurt Busch passed Menard for second and set his sights on Carl Edwards. Edwards' lead though would stay neutral. He led by 1.27 seconds over Busch and Busch began to back pedal. He would lose the second position to Ryan Newman who was coming on strong. Newman had cut Edwards' lead to just one car length by lap 385 and on lap 391 he moved high on Edwards and passed him coming off of turn four.
On lap 394 the races' fifth and final caution fell when Clint Bowyer spun coming off of turn two. Bowyer's teammate at Michael Waltrip Racing was competing for the last wild card spot with the new leader Newman. Truex had one win as did Newman but Newman was well on his way to his second victory until the caution flew due to Bowyer's spin. That led to a lot of conspiracy theories that Bowyer spun on purpose, to help his teammate Truex. The leaders would pit under the caution to get fresh rubber for the final restart.
Paul Menard took two tires and won the battle off of pit road. Menard had Carl Edwards alongside of him on the final restart on lap 398. When they came to get the green Edwards had beaten Menard to the line but NASCAR had ruled that contact was made, making it okay for Edwards to beat Menard to the line.
Edwards pulled away and won his 21st career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It also gives Edwards three extra bonus points heading into the Chase which starts next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Other notables in the field included Kevin Harvick in 11th, Greg Biffle in 12th, Dale Earnhardt Jr in 13th, Kasey Kahne in 14th and Brad Keselowski in 17th. Denny Hamlin finished 21st with Joey Logano coming home 22nd. Clint Bowyer finished in the 25th position and Danica Patrick finished 30th.
The points standings will reset after Richmond but Carl Edwards won the regular season point standings. Jeff Gordon, who finished eighth, missed the Chase by one point as he finished 11th in the standings. Ryan Newman missed the chase due to a tire breaker with Martin Truex Jr. The points heading into the Geico 400 next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway are as follows.
Matt Kenseth leads the points by three points over Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch who are tied for second. Carl Edwards is nine points back of Kenseth tied with Kevin Harvick. Greg Biffle and Joey Logano follow, both 12 points behind Kenseth. The following drivers made the chase and are all 15 points behind Kenseth entering the chase. They are Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. Kahne and Truex were the wild cards.
The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois on Sunday September 15th at 2:00 p.m. ET.
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