It was certainly going to be exciting at Richmond International Speedway on Saturday night with nine drivers vying for a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup spot and only five spots available. The race was fantastic and with seven laps to go finally it looked as if the 12-driver Chase field was set in stone.
What occurred on lap 394 of 400 in the race turned everything upside down though.
As they ran with seven laps to go Ryan Newman had courageously driven his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 39 Chevrolet to the front of the field by passing Carl Edwards for the lead on lap 391.That moved Newman into wild card number two position as he would have two wins and Kasey Kahne would have been wild card number one with two wins.
Martin Truex Jr, who was running seventh, was on the outside looking in at the Chase wild card picture due to Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, and even as they ran Joey Logano, all being ahead of him in the wild card standings between 11th and 20th in points. Jeff Gordon ran in eighth after making up two laps earlier in the race due to a loose wheel. He was two points ahead of Joey Logano for the tenth spot in the points and a Chase spot. Logano was struggling all night and was two laps down in 25th.
Clint Bowyer then changed the 2013 Chase picture.
His Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Truex needed help badly with only seven laps to go and that is when Bowyer spun his car out coming off of Turn 4. He wouldn't admit it was intentional after the race in an interview on ABC but every single analyst covering the race agreed that Bowyer did spin intentionally.
Dale Earnhardt Jr said after the race, not in the exact words but close, that Bowyer spun out on purpose from his perspective. He was following right behind the No. 15 car on the track at the time.
NASCAR threw the caution for Bowyer's spin which set up a round of pit stops and a restart with only three laps to go. Paul Menard took two tires and gained the lead while Carl Edwards took four and was second. Ryan Newman dropped to third with a slower four tire stop and with that he lost out on the Chase in his words.
Clearly ready to move on from Stewart-Haas Racing, Newman took his frustration out on his pit crew but the real blame is on Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing. Newman would have won the race and clinched a wild card had Bowyer not spun.
Joey Logano did not pit under the caution and took a wave around to get back to one lap down. That was important because on the final three laps of green flag racing he moved up from 25th to 22nd and from two points behind Gordon for tenth to one ahead of him. Gordon meanwhile dropped to tenth on the restart and fought back to eighth but that was still two positions short from jumping back ahead of Logano for the tenth spot in points and a Chase spot.
Newman would finish third and Truex in seventh which landed the two in dead heat for 12th in points. Martin Truex Jr was awarded the second wild card over Newman due to Truex's second place finish back at Texas Motor Speedway in April. That was the race that his car was found to be too low after the race for what that is worth. He was docked six points but maybe it should have been seven. Newman's team wishes anyway.
Carl Edwards won the race but might have jumped the final restart but that is an entirely different discussion for another time.
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