Starting the race from pole position in the Team Penske #2 Ford at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday, Brad Keselowski held onto the lead for all but 17 of the 400 laps of the Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 and crossed the finish line in first place, to claim his fourth win of the season and put him in the number one spot in the Sprint Cup Standings. As the last race for drivers to qualify for the Chase on the new win-and-in rules, fans were no doubt expecting a lot more action, but there appeared to be no serious challenger for Keselowski and the race ended with Jeff Gordon in second place, followed by Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick in third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
As the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Keselowski needed a strong finish at Richmond in order to make the Chase field. As it turned out he finished in 17th place and missed out on the opportunity to defend his title. This time around he is in a good position to reclaim the title. In a post-race interview Keselowski noted that when he pulled into Victory Lane, he had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, going on to say that “These are nights you don’t forget as a driver and you live for.” Describing the 2013 season as a “bit of a kick in the butt”, Keselowski concedes that it did motivate the Penske Team to “find another level”.
The race was fairly incident free apart from the fact that, with 71 laps of the race remaining, an apparently inebriated fan climbed to the top of the catch fence between the track and the grandstand resulting in a caution while he was removed. Most of the field used the caution as an opportunity for a pit stop, with Keselowski remaining ahead of the pack back into the race.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup standings are:
1. Brad Keselowski #2 – Ford
2. Jeff Gordon #24 – Chevrolet
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – #88 Chevrolet
4. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet
5. Joey Logano – #22 Ford
6. Kevin Harvick – #4 Chevrolet
7. Carl Edwards – #99 Ford
8. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota
9. Denny Hamlin – #11 Toyota
10. Kurt Busch – #41 Chevrolet
11. Kasey Kahne – #5 Chevrolet
12. Aric Almirola – #43 Ford
13. AJ Allmendinger – #47 Chevrolet
14. Matt Kenseth – #20 Toyota
15. Greg Biffle – #16 Ford
16. Ryan Newman – #31 Chevrolet
Joey Logano notched up his third win of the season and his first at Bristol Motor Speedway, when he took the checkered flag in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday. Following a late restart and with 45 laps to go, Logano took the lead from Matt Kenseth and held off teammate Brad Keselowski to win the race. Having finished in the top six in five consecutive races, Logano is firmly in the picture for the Chase for the Sprint Cup which starts on September 14 with the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Keselowski took second place in the Irwin Tools Night Race, with Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Kurt Busch taking third, fourth and fifth spots respectively.
In a post-race interview Logano was quoted as saying that the past six or seven races have been unbelievable and running up front has “been so much fun”. While acknowledging that he really wanted the victory, Keselowski note that a “Penske 1-2 is something to be proud of.”
There were two big crashes in the Irwin Tools Night Race, fortunately with no injuries. The first crash, between Brian Vickers and Aric Almirola, collected Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch, but the second crash is the one getting a lot of media attention as it raises the issue of how drivers should handle accidents. On lap 161 Kevin Harvick connected Denny Hamlin, sending him across the track to slam into the inside wall. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also became a casualty of the collision as he tried, and failed, to avoid Hamlin’s spinning car. When Hamlin got out of his car, he threw his HANS device at Harvick as the race continued. Although Hamlin remained in his car until safety crews arrived and was on the apron when he threw the device, it remains to be seen whether he will face a penalty for his action, particularly as on track safety and driver accountability remains under the spotlight following the altercation between Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. which led to Ward’s death.
With 845 points, Jeff Gordon is currently in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in second place with 818 points, with Brad Keselowski (776 points), Joey Logano (761 points) and Matt Kenseth (751 points) in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.