Edwards Sizzles While Gordon Fizzles At Richmond

Richmond, Va. – Carl Edwards sizzled when it counted as he closed out the regular season of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a victory in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at the Richmond International Raceway before a near-capacity crowd. Driving the colorful Frosted Flakes Ford, Edwards earned Sprint Cup victory number 21 and winning for the first time at Richmond.

In the battle to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, Jeff Gordon came up short, missing the field by a mere point due to a tire issue that occurred early in the race. Gordon, a former champion, missed the Chase field for the second time in his career.

“We haven’t had the kind of year that this team is capable of, and that’s where our focus is going to be for the next 10 races, just to now that we put in every bit of effort we possibly could,” said the dejected driver. “Our race wasn’t a pretty one, but we were getting it done until that caution came out, and then the restart didn’t go the way we needed it to, so that’s unfortunate. I’m just bummed for this team.”

Until the 345th lap, Edwards didn’t seem to be a factor in the race but moments before a caution flag came out? eight of front-runners pitted but Edwards and others did not do so. They did come in during the caution period and Edwards took over the lead on the 348th lap, leading 46 of the final 53 laps.

Said Edwards about the victory, “That’s my pit crew that won this race for us. It was just an awesome job by them. It was up at the beginning (of season) with Jimmy (Fennig) and our new team, and then we struggled for a little while, but the last three weeks have been great. We’ve led a bunch of laps and have had fast race cars and we’re having fun. Thanks to Jack Roush. We got Greg Biffle in the Chase, and we got Ford to victory lane. This is really cool. I’m sure I haven’t won a race here in the Cup car, so it’s a big night for us.”

Regarding his outlook for the upcoming Chase, Edwards spilled over with confidence, “We’re gonna win the championship. That’s our mission. That seemed like a crazy idea about a month-and-a-half ago, but Jimmy and these guys have buckled down. Everybody back at the shop, all the guys building these race cars, all of our Ford teammates – Brad, Joey and all the Penske guys – everybody has rallied together. I can’t say enough about Robbie Reiser, Bob Osborne, Chip Bolin, all the guys at the shop. We’ve got two guys in the Chase, and this championship would mean the world to me. The next 10 weeks, we’re gonna be on them hard. They’re gonna know we’re here.”

Said crew chief Fennig, “It was big to get the win tonight because that momentum going into the Chase means a lot to everybody. A win here is very special.”

Added co-owner Jack Roush, “The last couple of races, the pit stops on the No. 99 team have been spectacular. There’s more to racing than just making horsepower or making a good reliable car that won’t have it brakes fall off. You’ve got to have the athletic performance aspect of it as well.”

Second place went to Kurt Busch in the Furniture Row/Beautyrest Chevrolet.

Said the controversial driver, “When the race started, I knew I had my work cut out for us. If Gordon was going to win, we had to finish second. As the race progressed, I didn’t see the No. 24 (Gordon) as often, so I was able to relax a bit. But still, the nerves, feelings and emotions were all there, and I had to make sure I hit my marks and not slip any tires, trying to protect the car and stay out of trouble. It feels unbelievable to make the Chase, and it is an amazing feeling. We achieved something very special tonight. I am very proud to have driven the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy into the Chase.”

He led 73 laps.

Ryan Newman checked in third in the Quicken Loans Chevrolet.

Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard were the fourth and fifth place finishers.

The second five had Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Gordon, Mark Martin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

For the all-important Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, the field has been set with 12 drivers ready for the run.

Going into the race, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kenseth were locked into the Chase field with Kasey Kahne having nailed down one of the two Wild Card slots.

When the Federated Auto Parts 400 ended, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch had made the Chase, finishing in the top-10 in points, and Truex joined Kahne in the Wild Card category.

In addition to Gordon, reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Newman missed out.

With six to go, Newman had the lead and was close to locking himself into the Chase, only to have Bowyer spin on the front-stretch. As a result, the front-runners pitted for tires and Newman came out fifth and was only able to gain two spots, losing out on a tie-breaker with Truex for the final Chase spot.

Asked whether the Bowyer spin was intentional to allow teammate Truex to gain a more favorable finish Newman didn’t want to be drawn into the discussion. Bowyer also refused to be drawn in.

Keselowski had an outside shot at making the Chase, and he gave it his all, leading 142 laps, only to finish 17th.

Going into the Chase, Kenseth leads the reseeded points with 2,015 points, three ahead of Johnson and Kyle Busch. Harvick and Edwards are next up followed by Logano and Biffle. They are trailed by Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kahne and Truex, all with 2,000 points.

Johnson had a miserable night after starting last due to missing qualifications because of the birth of his second daughter early Friday morning. He was never in contention and during the race, he was caught speeding on pit road, had to come in for a battery replacement and subsequently hit a wall after a tire went down. He ended up 40th, completing 372 laps.

The 10-race Chase kicks off next Sunday at the Chicagoland Speedway.

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