Clint Bowyer scored a dramatic victory in Saturday night’s marathon Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway, a race delayed nearly three hours by two major rain storms.
Bowyer passed Ryan Newman on Lap 314, taking his first lead of the evening, and then held on to win his second race of the season. Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. will compete in the 10-race, season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is the first time MWR has placed any of its drivers in the Chase.
Jeff Gordon finished second to clinch a spot in the Chase along with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne. Mark Martin was third, followed by Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth.
Kyle Busch, meanwhile, came up short and will miss NASCAR’s playoff round this year, as will Carl Edwards, who finished a close second to Tony Stewart in last year's championship battle.
Denny Hamlin, winner of the previous two Cup races, led 202 of the first 300 laps, but bad pit strategy cost him dearly after a caution came out for rain on Lap 277. Hamlin initially stayed out when the pits opened, while other leaders pitted. He came on Lap 281, but lost valuable track position he was unable to make up.
Halfway through the race, Hamlin was out front and in charge, leading Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin, who came into the race with two straight victories, was looking to give Joe Gibbs Racing its sixth victory in the last eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races at RIR.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon started from the pole, with the track yellow for the first six laps. Gordon led the first two green-flag laps, with Earnhardt then moving to the front on Lap 9. Gordon quickly fell deep in the field, his hopes for a wild-card spot in the Chase ending early.
Hamlin, a two-time Richmond winner, took over the top spot on Lap 59, after a caution for David Ragan’s frontstretch spin.
By Lap 130, wild-card hopefuls Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Paul Menard were all a lap down and seemingly out of contention.
Just seven laps later, rain started again at the track, with NASCAR red-flagging the race at Lap 152. The red flag lasted 52 minutes, which combined with the initial rain delay put the race nearly three hours behind schedule.
NOTES: The start of the race was delayed nearly two hours by rain. The rain delay meant that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney left before giving the command to start engines as scheduled. … Multiple media outlets are reporting that Richard Petty Motorsports could become a Chevrolet team next year and partner with Richard Childress Racing. … Brad Keselowski said he lobbied hard to have Penske Racing sign Joey Logano, who will join the team next year.