A late caution at Richmond International Speedway threw everything up in the air as the race for The Chase for the Sprint Cup boiled down to a three-lap sprint to decide the twelve contenders for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Martin Truex, Jr. and Joey Logano were the winners of the late dash, beating Hendrick Motorsport’s Jeff Gordon, who had led the early part of the race and looked set to fill one of the top ten places come the chequered flag.
The late caution changed everything, however, as Gordon was shuffled back and missed the cut by just one point after Logano jumped up ahead of Gordon in the points, allowing Truex to take the final wild-card spot after being tied with Ryan Newman on points, but having a second-place finish to his name. Newman was leading the race going in to the final caution, but slipped back in the pit stops, ultimately ending his hopes of Sprint Cup glory.
“I got out of the car and I was speechless,” Truex said. “I thought at no point in this race tonight we had a chance. I knew the 22 (of Logano) was running really bad. He had a win. Newman had a win. We were only five points apart. He was running way better than we were. I’m shocked. We had such a rough night. Honestly, we came down pit road after the race, nobody knew what was going on.”
Victory on the night went to Carl Edwards after it looked like victory would be going to Newman, who would have then assured his place in the Chase. However, the late-race caution saw the field pit for one last time, with Edwards winning the race off pit road and Newman stuck down in sixth place. A final charge saw Newman move up to third, but it would not be enough for the Stewart-Haas driver, who is out of a drive for 2014, but was seen talking to Richard Childress before the race began.
“Winning would have changed everything,” said Newman. “That last caution definitely hurt us but we just got killed on pit road. Carl and those guys beat us on four tires. We should have been able to come down pit road first and come off pit road first. If we were a championship-contending team, we would have a championship-contending pit crew and we didn’t have that tonight.”
Kurt Busch also managed to race his way in to The Chase, putting the single-car Furniture Row Racing team in to the Chase for the first time in its history. Busch joined Furniture Row Racing after being dropped by Penske Racing after a controversial 2011 season.
“It’s been a journey to try to persevere and go up against the odds,” Busch said. “To make this Chase is an unbelievable feeling. It’s been an 18-month work in progress. I’ve been through a lot and learned a lot.”
After Richmond, the twelve drivers in The Chase and fighting for the Sprint Cup were Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Edwards, Logano, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex, Jr.
“We are going to win this championship. That’s our mission,” concluded race-winner Edwards. “That seemed like a crazy idea about a month and a half ago, but Jimmy and the guys have buckled down and everybody has rallied together. This championship would mean so much to me so the next 10 races we are going to be on them hard. They’re going to know we’re here.”