Matt Kenseth dominated, leading 352 of 400 laps, to win Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, as NASCAR ends the 26-race regular season and prepares for the start of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.
It was Kenseth’s third win in the last six races and his fourth of the season, putting him in a tie for the lead in the standings with Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch after the points were reset for the Chase after Saturday’s race.
There were no surprises in the 16-driver lineup for the Chase, as all of those who came into Richmond on the preliminary Chase grid successfully made it after the race ended.
Almirola and Kasey Kahne came into the race with the closest chance of potentially overtaking Clint Bowyer for the 16th and final spot for the Chase. Both tried hard, particularly Almirola, but fell short of making the Chase and Bowyer held on to earn the final Chase spot.
Chase seedings: Here’s how the Chase field looks:
* First place (three-way tie): Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth 2,012 points each).
* Fourth: Joey Logano (2,009 points).
* Fifth (four-way tie): Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards (2,006 points each).
* Ninth (three-way tie): Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin (2,003 points each).
* 12th (five-way tie): Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer (2,000 points each).
How Kenseth won: Kenseth had the best car of the field, without question. To dominate the way he did, and how he capitalized on restarts, Kenseth made it very clear that he wanted to go into the Chase with momentum – and did just that.
Who else had a good race: Despite failing to finish in the top 10 in the race, Jamie McMurray (finished 13th) and Paul Menard (26th) both made the Chase for first time in their careers. … Almirola ran an exceptional race and “drove my heart out,” but came up 17 points short of making the Chase. … Even though he remains winless in 2015, it’s a whole new season for Jeff Gordon in the Chase. … Coming into the race on the Chase bubble, Clint Bowyer was not to be denied from making the playoffs, finishing 10th.
Who had a bad race: Tony Stewart’s hopes of winning and making the Chase fell far short, as he finished 29th. This makes the third consecutive season Stewart has failed to qualify for the Chase. … Martin Truex Jr. is in the Chase, but his 32nd place finish (6 laps off the lead lap) was not the showing he was hoping for. … In one of the oddest scenes since Juan Pablo Montoya hit a track dryer in the 2012 Daytona 500, Michael McDowell suffered extensive damage to the right side and rear of his car after hitting the back of a safety truck under caution on Lap 293 that had been sent out to pick up prior debris on the racetrack. McDowell, crew chief Kevin Walter and spotter were ordered to the NASCAR hauler after the race.
Notable: In his first race driving with a torn ACL in his right knee, Denny Hamlin ignored any pain he might have been in to finish sixth. … A total of 20 drivers came into the race with a chance of making the Chase. … Toyota had four drivers finish in the top 10, while Ford and Chevrolet each had three top 10 finishers each.
How teams fared overall to make the Chase: Joe Gibbs Racing placed all four of its drivers into the Chase (Kenseth, Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards). Hendrick Motorsports placed three of its four Sprint Cup drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Richard Childress Racing (Ryan Newman and Paul Menard), Team Penske (Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski) and Stewart-Haas Racing (defending series champ Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch) placed two drivers each. And placing one driver each into the Chase were Furniture Row Racing (Martin Truex Jr.), Chip Ganassi Racing (Jamie McMurray) and Michael Waltrip Racing (Clint Bowyer). As for manufacturers, Chevrolet has nine Chase entries, Toyota has five and Ford has two.
Quote of the day: “Disappointed, for sure. I drove my heart out tonight, all year long, really. I feel like we’ve certainly overachieved this year. Our cars just haven’t the speed, but we’ve managed a way to get good results. I’m really proud of this team. … To come up short, it hurts. It just wasn’t meant to be.” – Aric Almirola, who finished fourth, but fell short of making the Chase for a second consecutive season.
What’s next: The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins next Sunday, Sept. 20, with the MyAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.