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
The Federated Auto Parts 400 covers a distance of 300 miles in 400 laps and first took place in 1958 as the Richmond 200. Last year’s winner was Carl Edwards driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Be sure to catch the action on September 6 to see who takes the checkered flag this year.
Date: 6 September 2014
Venue: Richmond International Raceway
County: Henrico County
NASCAR’s regular season came to a close Saturday night at Richmond International Speedway, but fans don’t seem too satisfied with the way things ended. Late race cautions and pit stops mixed up orders and saw many familiar faces now looking from the outside in at the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Fans took to social media in droves following a late caution caused by a spin out by the #15 car driven by Clint Bowyer, they were outraged, and they may have good reason to be.
Ryan Newman and his #39 battled to first place with 7 laps to go in a must win situation to be included in the Chase, all while Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano continued to struggle through the field to get and keep themselves in the Chase. This is when things got strange. Clint Bowyer was told by spotter Brett Griffin that Newman and the #39 were in first and were gonna win this race, inevitably knocking out Bowyer’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. Bowyer’s crew chief Brian Pattie then took to the radio saying to Bowyer, “Is your arm starting to hurt,” “I bet it’s getting hot in there. Itch it.” Shortly thereafter Bowyer had a well-placed spin out which brought the caution out. During this caution cars pitted, Ryan Newman lost first and eventually did not make the Chase, losing the tiebreaker with, you guessed it, Martin Truex Jr. “He just spun right out,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said afterward of Bowyer. “That’s the craziest thing I ever saw. …He was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know what was going on.”
Dale Jr. has been around racing his whole life, this isn’t his first big rodeo. He seemed shocked about what just occurred in front of him and appeared to not want to “dime out” Clint Bowyer. Clint Bowyer’s interview didn’t make matters any better. The usually jovial and sarcastic Bowyer was quite calm and and appeared to be the cat that ate the canary, denying any intentional spin out and suggested a flat tire may have caused the mishap. No evidence suggests this notion, and NASCAR made no official comments on the issue, leaving every analyst, whether in the box or on the couch, to come to their own conclusions. Rusty Wallace and Ray Everham came out of the box swinging, making their feelings known immediately with point blank answers. I appreciate and value their opinions and they didn’t dance around the issue at all, which I find to be rare for most analysts. As more information developed throughout the night on Twitter, more questions came to light about MWR, and why Brian Vickers was driving like my mother-in-law on the last lap. Was their team ordered to make moves to help Martin Truex Jr. get in the Chase for the Sprint Cup? The biggest question in my mind is, where do we go from here?
Cheating is certainly not a new idea to NASCAR. Since its inception teams continue to fight for the edge, seeking any gray area in the rule book to get an advantage over the other competitors. Some would say a crew chief isn’t worth his weight in salt if he wasn’t doing this. Crew Chiefs and engineers routinely test and push the envelope to get ahead. I would dare to say that this has what has advanced the sport and pushed the innovation level as far as it has. But this all happens behind the scenes and in the garage where everyone has a level playing field, where everyone can experiment if they choose to. This isn’t ripping first place from a seasoned veteran with seven laps to go in what was the hail mary of his season, albeit maybe his career.
I grew up loving sports and think there is nothing better than working with a team player. It was nice when we would let the little kid win when shooting hoops, but this isn’t shooting hoops in the mini park. People win because they deserve to win, not because the team created a win and changed the course of the game. NASCAR now faces a crossroads and has stated they are now investigating the end of the race. NASCAR continuously faces declining attendance, declining ratings, and has been fighting for its life for years. The governing body has done a great job to promote NASCAR and has taken many positive steps to elevate its game. Now the fans have spoken, and they’re angry, they want to watch a sport that cannot be changed by a team at the end of the game. This is not about cheating, it’s about the integrity of the sport. It is about being able to tamper with an entire season and losing the faith of the people whose backs you built this sport on.
What will NASCAR do if they can even prove that anything was done intentionally? What future steps will they take to ensure this does not happen again and give the fans a sense of security that this isn’t a fixed sport and has not become professional wrestling? The worst part about this is some are elated that Bowyer is such a team player, and other MWR supporters are in such denial they are making fans feel like they are ignorant and just unintelligent spectators with no knowledge of the sport they love so much. Some classified this last night like it was a conspiracy of Kennedy proportions. The more radio transmissions I hear, the less of a conspiracy theorist I become. The more quotes from MWR crew members on pit road I read, the more disappointed I become. As much as so many wanted this to go away, it’s just getting worse. It’s time for NASCAR to put an end to this conspiracy and validate the feelings of its fans. Michael Waltrip needs to take reign of this situation he has created before his career as an owner spirals out of control faster than Bowyer’s car.
Article submitted by Mike Sanford – twitter: @msanford146
Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway was loaded with excitement as drivers battled it out on the track in a race that offered some a last chance for a spot to compete in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Starting off with engine trouble that looked set to put him out of the running, Jeff Gordon fought his way back to finish in second place and clinch one of the two wild card spots to compete in the Chase – the other spot going to Kasey Kahne. Clint Bowyer took first place in the 2012 Federated Auto Parts 400, with Mark Martin in third, Tony Stewart in fourth place and Matt Kenseth crossing the finish line in fifth place.
Conceding that he had been “pretty ticked off” to have fallen than far behind at the beginning of the race due to car trouble, Gordon was elated to have made it into the Chase. The problem with the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was reportedly the chain holding the read sway bar, which pit team boss Alan Gustafson ordered cut when Gordon made a pit stop just before rain halted the race on Lap 152. The difference in the car’s performance was immediately evident, and Gordon pulled out all the stops to regain lost ground – with impressive results. Saturday’s race was a particularly sweet victory for the #24 team which had experienced different issues during the season, keeping them just short of claiming a Chase position.
With all four Hendrick Motorsports teams in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, in-house rivalry is inevitable and will no doubt make the remaining races of the season even more exciting for both teams and spectators. With four contestants in the race – Kasey Kahn, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – owner Rick Hendrick stands a one-in-three chance of winning his 11th NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Current standings are as follows:
1. Denny Hamlin – 2012 points
2. Jimmie Johnson – 2009 points
3. Tony Stewart – 2009 points
4. Brad Keselowski – 2009 points
5. Greg Biffle – 2006 points
6. Clint Bowyer – 2006 points
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 2003 points
8. Matt Kenseth – 2003 points
9. Kevin Harvick – 2000 points
10. Martin Truex Jr. – 2000 points
11 Kasey Kahne – 2000 points
12. Jeff Gordon – 2000 points
The now very popular Richmond International Raceway started life as a little track known as ‘Strawberry Hill’. It was first used as a racetrack venue in 1946 when Ted Horn drove his champ car to victory on the 0.5-mile dirt track that came to be known as ‘Strawberry Hill Speedway’. These races were usually held once a year on the third Saturday of April. In the period that followed between 1953 and 2000, the track had three name changes and four configuration changes. The surface was changed from dirt to asphalt and lights were added to the facility in 1991. Ever since then, all races have been held ‘under the lights’ – something which helps make Richmond International Raceway somewhat unique.
Today the Richmond International Raceway is known for hosting some of the best NASCAR and IndyCar Series racing. The raceway features a D-shaped, 0.75 mile (1.2 km) asphalt track and is part of the 800-acre, multi-purpose Richmond Raceway Complex. Although the track is fairly short, it’s layout allows for excellent side-by-side racing and drivers are able to reach speeds similar to that of a superspeedway. This means that only the most skilled drivers can make their way to first place and there is plenty of action during the course of the average race. The Richmond International Raceway currently hosts the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series, the Indy Racing League, the United States Auto Club Silver Crown and National Sprint Car Series. The last 30 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races have been sold out and the track is known for producing some of the best racing in the sport.
In the past, Richmond International Raceway has been known as the ‘Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds’, the ‘Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds’, the ‘Virginia State Fairgrounds’ and the ‘Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway’. From these various names it is easy to tell that the Raceway complex is not only used to host racing events. It is also used to host a number of agricultural shows, expositions, sports and crafts shows and seasonal fairs. This means that the raceway complex is almost always busy with some major event but the most popular of these are the races.